Full Name: Lothar Herbert Matthäus
Date of Birth: 21/3/1961
Born on 21st March 1961, Lothar Matthäus will go down as one of Germany’s finest players after a highly successful playing career with both club and country. In 21 years as a player, Matthäus picked up winners medals in the World Cup and European Championship in international football, along with 7 German Bundesliga titles, 3 German Cups, 2 UEFA Cups and a Serie A Championship at club level.
His accomplishments as part of a team were matched by individual accolades, being twice named German Footballer of the Year and the first ever FIFA World Player of the Year in 1991. Indeed, Matthäus’ name is steeped in football history and he holds the record for the most World Cup Finals appearances (25) and is the most capped German player of all time, having pulled on the famous white shirts of West Germany and then a united Germany 150 times.
Matthäus began his professional career with German side Borussia Mönchengladbach in 1979. During his five years with the club he made 162 appearances, scoring 36 goals, and quickly gained international recognition. Playing as a midfielder at this stage of his career, Matthäus was part of the successful West Germany squad at the 1980 European Championship and was also involved when the side finished runners up to Italy in the World Cup two years later.
Following two more years with Borussia Mönchengladbach, Matthäus attracted the attention of Bayern Munich, who he joined in 1984 for the first of two spells with the club. Matthäus achieved instant success with his new club, winning the German Bundesliga in his first two seasons as well as the German Cup in 1986.
After an impressive two years with Bayern, Matthäus had established himself as a regular feature of the national team who went into the 1986 World Cup looking to improve on their runners up place four years earlier. Unfortunately, history was to repeat itself as West Germany again lost out in the final – this time to a Maradona-inspired Argentina.
The next major international tournament, Euro 88, saw more disappointment for Matthäus, who had been named as captain of West Germany, as they lost out to Holland in the semi-finals 2-1. A Matthäus penalty had put the Germans ahead but goals from Ronald Koeman and Marco Van Basten put the Dutch team through to the final. The pain of defeat was somewhat mitigated when the Dutch side went on to triumph in the final.
The Italian Job
It was just after the European Championships in 1988 that Matthäus left Bayern Munich for Italy and Inter Milan. Again, Matthäus found instant success with his new club, winning the Serie A league title and the Italian Supercup in his first season. Matthäus went on to make 115 appearances for Inter over four years, scoring 40 goals.
World Cup 1990
While an Inter Milan player, Matthäus achieved the greatest prize in international football as captain of West Germany. The World Cup of 1990 in Italy finally saw the West Germans overcome the disappointment of previous tournaments by winning in their third consecutive final appearance.
Matthäus led his team by example from midfield throughout the tournament scoring, four goals along the way. The final was made all the sweeter for Matthäus and West Germany as they overcame Argentina 1-0, who they had lost out to four years previous. More importantly though, Matthäus had the honour of lifting the famous Jules Rimet trophy as captain and was unsurprisingly named German Footballer of the Year shortly after.
He returned to club football with Inter and just a year later had his hands on yet more silverware, as the Milanese side picked up the 1991 UEFA Cup. This glorious period was rounded off when, in the same year, the inspirational captain won the newly introduced award for FIFA World Player of the Year.
Back To Bayern
The following season Matthäus headed back to Germany for a second spell with Bayern Munich. While his domestic success continued, at international level it seemed that his best days were behind him. After being ruled out of Euro 1992 with injury, Matthäus returned two years later for (the now unified) Germany’s defence of the World Cup in the United States. Still captain but now operating in a sweeper position, Matthäus could only lead his side to the quarter-finals, where they were knocked out by Bulgaria, despite Matthäus scoring.
This disappointment was followed by ongoing disagreements with Germany coach Berti Vogts and Jurgen Klinsmann, his replacement as captain. As a result, Matthäus was left out of the squad for Euro 1996 in England, which Germany went on to win.
However, four Bundesliga titles and two German Cups later, Matthäus earned a recall to the national squad for the 1998 World Cup in France. It was in Germany’s second game of the tournament that Matthäus surpassed the record for World Cup finals appearances and extended the record to 25 as Germany were again defeated at the quarterfinal stage. This time it was Croatia who put the Germans out.
1999 ended in disappointment for Matthäus as he and his club Bayern Munich lost out in the dying stages of the Champions League final. Controversially, Matthäus was substituted in the 86th minute, at which stage Bayern were leading 1-0. Two late goals from Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer turned the tie around and Matthäus was to finish his career without ever lifting the Champions League trophy, this would be the only major competition he was to play in and never win.
Defeat also signaled the end of his Bayern Munich career as the football veteran sealed a move to Major League Soccer side MetroStars the following season. During that summer of 2000 at the European Championships in Holland and Belgium, Matthäus made his last three appearances for his country to take his tally to 150 caps. Germany failed to qualify for the quarter-finals and were sent home at the earliest stage of the competition.
His time in the United States was largely unsuccessful and just six months later, having made 16 appearances, Matthäus retired from professional football.
Having retired at the age of 39, Matthäus quickly found employment and has taken on a number of managerial positions with varied degrees of success.
His first role was as head coach of Rapid Vienna. However, just a year later, Matthäus was asked to fill the vacant role at Partizan Belgrade. It was here that the former Germany captain picked up his first trophy as a manager, leading Partizan to the Serbian League title in 2003. The following season, Matthäus took his side to the Champions League, overcoming Newcastle United in the qualifying round. Despite failing to qualify from the group stages, both manager and team alike were praised for their efforts in the competition.
Yet again, Matthäus made a swift exit from his managerial position and went on to take on brief roles with the Hungarian national team, Atletico Paranaense of Brazil and finally Red Bull Salzburg in 2006. Despite winning the Austrian league, Matthäus was sacked as manager in June 2007. The football world awaits his next move.
- German Footballer of the Year: 1990, 1999
- FIFA World Player of the Year: 1991