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Franz Beckenbauer redefined what a defender could be

Late German hero who, at the age of 20, lost the 1966 World Cup final to England beneath Wembley’s twin towers, spent a lifetime exacting his revenge

The Times

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Narrated by Martin Samuel

It was a resemblance to Kaiser Ludwig II of Bavaria that first gave Franz Beckenbauer his nickname. An unfortunate juxtaposition with a bust of Emperor Franz-Josef after a friendly international in Vienna helped, too. Yet by the time he retired, regal doppelgangers had been long forgotten. There was only one Kaiser Franz and that title and reputation rested on his talent alone.

Football historians still debate whether Beckenbauer invented the modern position of sweeper — there were certainly antecedents in an attacking sense, not least Ernst Ocwirk of the great Austria side — but what is undeniable is that he made the position uniquely his own.

Beckenbauer, more than any player before and quite possibly since, was both the last line of defence and first