Happy Birthday to… Berti Vogts

German football legend Berti Vogts is celebrating his 77th birthday today. Known as a force to reckon with as a defender during his playing days, Vogts is described in the Treccani Encyclopedia as “the prototype of the defensive ‘mastiff’: short and quick, inexorable on the opposing striker”.

Certainly, Vogts produced some remarkable feats in his career. He is especially lauded for his performance in the 1974 World Cup final when he successfully marked Dutch superstar Johan Cruijff. This was a battle that Germany, considered the underdogs at the time, ultimately won.

Vogts spent his entire club career with Borussia Mönchengladbach. He made 419 league appearances, scoring 33 goals, and played 64 European cup matches, netting eight times. With teammates like Netzer, Bonhof, and Heynckes, he won five West Germany titles and two UEFA Cups.

However, it was not just his playing prowess that earned him recognition in the football community. Vogts was described by striker Gerd Muller as “having one mission: to stay attached to Cruijff”. He carried this mission out successfully, earning praise from Muller who scored in that final match.

Vogts’ latter career ventured into coaching, where he experienced an array of successes and challenges. One of his significant achievements came in 1996 when he led the German side to win the European Championship. This was a journey that culminated with a surprising decision to field striker Oliver Bierhoff, who repaid his faith by scoring two goals in the final against the Czech Republic.

Vogts went on to coach various national teams – Kuwait, Scotland, Nigeria and Azerbaijan – with varying levels of success. His coaching approach has often been critiqued by the media, a stance he once warded off with a witty response: “If I walked on water, my detractors would say it’s because I can’t swim.”

The legendary defender is also infamous for his hard-nosed style of play. Even to this day, his name brings chill to those who had to face him on the pitch, including former Torino striker Paolo Pulici, who once dubbed Vogts “the nastiest” player he ever met in a football match.

Despite his reputation, Vogts has contributed immensely to football both as a player and as a coach. His tenure as a coach is noteworthy, given the unique challenges he faced and the innovative solutions he came up with. His birthday today is a reminder of the rich legacy he has left behind in the world of football.

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