Beckenbauer’s heirs: Scirea, Baresi and today’s football

Italian footballing legends Gaetano Scirea and Franco Baresi have been likened to German superstar Franz Beckenbauer, culminating in a surge of interviews and articles detailing the comparisons. However, it seems the Italian duo had their distinct styles and did not merely imitate the German icon.

The parallels to Beckenbauer had started as early as Scirea’s promising career at Atalanta, leading the club’s Paraguayan coach, Heriberto Herrera, to clarify, “I don’t really like these comparisons. Beckenbauer is an experienced player who plays a different kind of football. There are no comparisons in my view. It’s like taking away credit from this young man who has not imitated anyone. Scirea is simply Scirea.”

Despite this, both the German and Argentine press acknowledged that during the 1978 World Cup, Scirea, who was the sweeper for the Italian national team, displayed a style, class, and vision that legitimately likened him to the ‘Kaiser’. Scirea remained humble, however. Concerning the comparisons, he stated they were “dangerous” and that he had done “my duty so as to have a clean conscience”.

Franco Baresi, on the other hand, always regarded himself as similar to ‘Kaiser Franz.’ He stated that it was a matter of shared initials ‘FB’ and saw his German counterpart as a legend whom he admired. However, Baresi himself was known to exhibit a certain level of aggression on the field distinct from Beckenbauer.

When asked to define Beckenbauer by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, Baresi placed him as a key figure in the evolution of the sport. “I would say elegant, but there’s another word that suits him perfectly: courageous. Because it took guts in those days to reinterpret the role of the sweeper, pushing it into the future. Before him, the job was only to defend, halt the opponent and pass the ball to team-mates. But with Beckenbauer, the first defender also became the first attacker. If you think about it, that’s how football is today,” Baresi said.

Despite the shared roles and skill sets, it appears that each of these footballing legends charted their own distinctive courses and made their mark on the sport in their respective ways.

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