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Team boss Franz Beckenbauer in 1984



Franz Beckenbauer sat with a good glass of wine at the Hotel Henry IV in Saint-Germain-en-Laye near Paris, the next day he had an appointment on the golf course. A peaceful, beautiful life that the emperor led there – and was ended that evening in June 1984 when he was reached by telephone in the restaurant.

It was the evening on which Franz Beckenbauer was made the national coach of the German national football team.

A temporary national coach: This is the experiment that the German Football Association wants to tackle with Julian Nagelsmann. Until the European Championship tournament in nine months, the 36-year-old will be in charge of the team. For the association, which is rather shy about experiments and likes to provide its coaches with long-term contracts, this is an almost revolutionary act.

Beckenbauer as a placeholder

Only once has there been something similar: in 1984, Beckenbauer, like Nagelsmann today, was only supposed to be a coach for a short time. Placeholder for one year until the then champion coach of VfB Stuttgart, Helmut Benthaus, had fulfilled his contract with VfB.

Benthaus was the declared favorite of the association. The coach had led VfB to the title in a heart-stopping final. The team around the iron-hard Förster brothers Karlheinz and Bernd in defence, with the delicate midfielder Ásgeir Sigurvinsson and the VfB icons Hermann Ohlicher and Karl Allgöwer, had left the favoured clubs Hamburger SV, FC Bayern and Borussia Mönchengladbach behind.

Benthaus was considered the new coaching star. As if made for the succession of the hapless national coach Jupp Derwall, who was no longer sustainable after the preliminary round exit at the European Championship. In the media, Derwall has long been considered difficult to convey.

Until then, always an association coach

Since the war, the DFB had always relied on coaches who had come from their own association: Sepp Herberger, Helmut Schön, Jupp Derwall. After half a century, this principle had been exhausted with Derwall's failure. Now the association was looking for a club coach, that alone was unheard of.

However, Benthaus was still under contract with VfB for one year, and transfer fees for coaches were unthinkable at the time. Loyalty to the contract was one more word. While the association, under its president Hermann Neuberger, was still considering how to solve this problem, elsewhere it was already getting down to business: in the editorial office of the "Bild" newspaper.

The editors quickly agreed: Franz has to do it now. Even then, he was a shining light in the making. Beckenbauer had ended his active career the year before, at 38 he was only slightly older than Nagelsmann is today and hired himself out as an eloquent columnist – at the "Bild" newspaper. Your own columnist as national coach: why not? That would not be to the detriment of the newspaper.

"Are you insane?"

As the »Süddeutsche Zeitung« later reported, the then Bild sports director Jörg F. Hüls is said to have gone through possible candidates with the emperor on the phone, while the emperor sipped his wine in France. It is said to have sounded something like this: Erich Ribbeck? Beckenbauer replied: "Oh, go!" Berti Vogts? "Are you insane?" Helmut Benthaus? "That's where everyone with a high school diploma does, only football spuins ned."

So there was only one thing left: "Then you'll have to do it yourself, Franz." So it was about the same as with the DFB's famous task force this year, when Rudi Völler was chosen for the job of DFB sporting director because the spokesman in German football, Hans-Joachim Watzke, turned to him and said: "Rudi, that would actually be something for you."

Like Rudi Völler, Beckenbauer also had to be persuaded, which was taken over by the »Bild«, in which she created a fait accompli the next day and simply headlined: »Franz – I'm ready.« After that, there was no turning back. Not even for the surprised DFB. An offer he couldn't refuse. Meanwhile, Benthaus, the preferred candidate, was vacationing in Canada in a log cabin and could not be reached by phone.

No trainer's license, no license

So the commitment should only last one year. A transition that was already marked as such by the fact that Beckenbauer had no coaching training at all. Although he was a world champion and the most famous footballer Germany had, he did not have a coaching license, no certificate, nothing, not even participation in a coach crash course in DFB training at the Sport University in Cologne.

As Beckenbauer was, he showed no inclination to make up for it. "What are they trying to teach me in Cologne?" he asked in typical Beckenbauer nonchalance. Someone who had 103 caps, more than anyone before him, someone who played through the match of the century against Italy with a noose in his arm, who was on the field at the Wembley final, should sit down at the school desk and learn again how to explain the libero to young people?

He didn't do anything like that. So Beckenbauer was appointed team boss without a license, without a national coach contract, the official bread and butter business was done by his assistant Horst Köppel, who had the necessary papers.

Own goal Falkenmayer

The start went wrong at that time, the first international match against Argentina in Düsseldorf's Rheinstadion was lost 1:3. Beckenbauer had named Michael Frontzeck and Ralf Falkenmayer as debutants, Hans-Günter Bruns and Christian Schreier played. Falkenmayer scored an own goal. But what the heck? It was only supposed to be for a year anyway.

But things developed differently: Benthaus got into a downward spiral at VfB: the team failed in the first round of the European Cup of Champions, in the Bundesliga the team sank into midfield, and the less VfB shone, the quieter the Benthaus calls at the DFB became. The association slowly let the issue die.

In the end, he was world champion

Beckenbauer initially agreed to add another year until the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, "Well, I'll do it for two years, but then you'll have to look for someone else." Germany finished runners-up in Mexico, and the 1988 European Championships on home soil were just around the corner.

You know what happened next: In the end, Beckenbauer strutted across the pitch of Rome as World Cup winning coach in 1990 and then praised Berti Vogts into office, an idea he had described as insane in 1984.

The temporary coach Beckenbauer, who was only supposed to do it for one year, became the world champion team boss Beckenbauer, who was in charge for six years. In the end, he was in charge of 66 international matches, his last being the World Cup final against Argentina.

The young Rudi Völler was also present at Beckenbauer's first international match as team boss, and Völler was crowned world champion in Beckenbauer's last international match. The current DFB sporting director knows from his own experience how it can happen when you only hire a national coach for a short time.