World Soccer: People outside Germany will findit inconceivable that you want to take Bayern out of one of the world’s great stadia.
Franz Beckenbauer: The Olympic stadium may have been built only in the early 1970s but it was clear for a long time it had no future. For many reasons it is not good enough for modern football and today’s fans. Clearly the vast majority of the people of Munich agree with us. Without a new stadium Munich would not have been able to host any games in the 2006 World Cup. The rest of the world would have laughed at us – and Bavarians would have been able to watch the Cup only on television. If the vote had gone against us we were prepared to move out of Munich altogether and just call ourselves FC Bayern. That’s how serious it was.
Back to fall-out from the World Cup qualifiers – should Rudi Voller stay as national coach?
I have great faith in Rudi Voller – despite the problems. Voller has a contract through to the summer of next year and it is imperative he sees it through. We have already come a long way since Euro 2000. But our biggest problem is we don’t have enough players of international class. We should not fool ourselves. We are not one of the world’s top teams any more. I think we can give anyone a reasonable game but we are not anywhere near good enough to win the top prizes. You cannot blame Rudi Voller – he can work only with the players he has.
Ottmar Hitzfeld, your coach at Bayern, has been tipped as a future national coach. Is that a possibility?
I am always being asked this. Ottmar and I want to grow old together at Bayern. That is why I have already offered him a new role when he no longer wants the day-to-day responsibility of being first-team coach. We want him, in the long term, to manage the entire coaching staff of the club, in the British style.
Has Oliver Bierhoff been the right national captain?
Bierhoff has a good record as a centre-forward but I don’t understand why Voller wanted to keep him as captain. The captain has to have authority and the respect of his team-mates. Bierhoff doesn’t have any of that because he’s too much of an individualist. At least six Bayern players, who have won almost everything, are in the national squad. What can he tell them about football? Personally, I would prefer to see our Bayern goalkeeper, Oliver Kahn, as Germany’s captain.
Do players earn too much money now, compared with your day?
Certainly it is a different world for players nowadays. But it depends on the individual. For example, Michael Jordan earns $100million a year but continues to play basketball and remains a modest human being. The trouble for today’s footballers is they have too many distractions. We used to get our old players coming to watch training with football magazines in their hands. Now, more often than not, they are checking the share prices.
How do you rate England?
Since Sven Goran Eriksson took over, England have been fantastic. The great thing about England is that they have so many talented young players which means they will be a top team for many years to come. England will be contenders next summer, and by the 2006 World Cup they could be the best team in the world. I have never seen England play better than they did in Munich. They had pace, aggression, movement and skill. Michael Owen was unstoppable. His finishing was unbelievable. It will not be easy for any European side in Japan and South Korea, but if England maintain the form they showed against us, they have as good a chance as anyone.
Bayern qualified for the second group stage of the Champions League and are challenging again at the top of the Bundesliga. Did you expect that?
Honestly, no. I have been pleasantly surprised with our form and results this season. I was afraid after winning the Champions League and the Bundesliga last season that our players would be complacent. But they recognised that danger and have worked to overcome it. We’re probably playing even better now than we were at the end of last season, even though we’ve had injuries to Mehmet Scholl, Stefan Effenberg and Jens Jeremies. Maybe we play the most attractive football when our German players are injured and we use all our Brazilians, Paraguayans and Peruvians. You have to be impressed by their artistic approach to the game.
Is it your ambition to become president of FIFA?
That does not interest me at all. Once the 2006 World Cup finals are over I’ll go and do something completely different – like climbing mountains.
This interview appeared in the November 2001 issue of World Soccer