Legendary German footballer Karl-Heinz Schnellinger has shared fond memories of his compatriot Franz Beckenbauer, describing him as an exemplary figure in football history, saying that he would have been able to play football today given his advanced understanding of the game. Schnellinger made these remarks in an interview with Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Schnellinger, a former Milan full-back and teammate of Beckenbauer on West Germany’s national team, described Beckenbauer as a versatile player who could have fitted in any role on the pitch. He said, “Franz could have played anywhere. He had such technique and class that he could have filled any role in any part of the field.” He added that while people often classified Beckenbauer as a classic libero (sweeper), aspects of his game, coupled with his goalscoring prowess, could have easily set him up as a forward.
Further recalling the now historic 4-3 Italian victory over Germany, in which he scored the equalising goal to push the game into extra time, Schnellinger said, “Who would have imagined that this game would become such a wonderful piece of history?” He candidly admitted that even after the goal his team had struggled for at least an hour, there were scenes of joyful chaos and confusion among the players.
On the question of where Beckenbauer ranks among the all-time greats, Schnellinger expressed his reluctance to draw comparisons across eras. However, he endorsed Beckenbauer as one of the greatest figures in football. He opined, “Franz could have played even today because he had an advanced understanding of the game and he never shied away from new developments.”
Recalling their encounters during their team’s clashes in Milan-Bayern matches, he depicted Beckenbauer as a tough opponent who carried no sentimentality onto the pitch.
Schnellinger concluded his tribute by asserting that Beckenbauer leaves behind a significant legacy in football. “A great football lesson,” he called it, urging younger generations unfamiliar with Beckenbauer’s prowess to watch old footage and learn from his immortal model. “If one tries to imitate him, they surely will not go wrong,” he added.