German football is remarkable in terms of its player education and development beyond the realms of “merely” kicking a ball about.
Franz Beckenbauer glided from player to club captain, to national captain, to national coach, to federation vice-president, to World Cup bid leader, to World Cup organising president, and then on to executive delegate with both UEFA and FIFA.
Meanwhile, the Hoeness brothers both evolved from successful players into general managers, and the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann and Matthias Sammer have also crossed the technical/administrative touchline with enormous success.
Another impressive example of the German method is Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who has re-emerged at 54 onto the international stage in his role as chairman of the increasingly influential European Club Association (ECA) – a role he is perfectly qualified for by virtue of his successful work as chief executive of Bayern Munich.
As a young, pacy right-winger, Rummenigge cost Bayern a mere £4,500 when he signed from his home-town, lower-league club Borussia Lippstadt in 1974.
A decade later he was sold to Internazionale for £2million, which was a huge fee for the time.
By this point in his career he had won the World Club Cup and the Champions Cup twice, and been hailed as European Footballer of the Year as well as captaining West Germany to the runners-up spot at the 1982 World Cup.
The story was told of Rummenigge, to illustrate his focus and determination, that when he was involved in transfer talks in the spring with Inter, he told the Italians’ sports director Sandro Mazzola: “When I come for pre-season training then I will be speaking Italian.”
In due course he returned to Bayern and began working off the field with old on-field team-mates such as Beckenbauer, Hoeness and Paul Breitner, and he has now graduated to international status by picking up and building the clubs’ forum which had been launched initially by UEFA as a counter to the G-14 and was then discarded by Michel Platini.
After becoming UEFA president, Platini had decided that a club association had no place within the federation and that it should sink or swim by its own volition. Possibly he hoped it
However, Rummenigge and a core of dedicated directors – including Peter Kenyon, during
his Chelsea days, and Manchester United’s David Gill – have ensured quite the reverse, which led to Rummenigge emerging from a recent ECA congress in Manchester to lay down the clubs’ own law in response to UEFA’s financial fair play proposals.
Platini may yet come to regret his profligacy.