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Germany team will not miss Mesut Ozil: Lothar Matthaus

Taking time out of his busy schedule, Matthaus talked on various topics in an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times.

football Updated: Dec 05, 2018 22:06 IST
Bhargab Sarmah
Bhargab Sarmah
Hindustan Times, Kochi
Mesut Ozil,Lothar Matthaus,Germany
File image of Mesut Ozil.(AFP)

At his prime, Lothar Matthaus led his country to one of the greatest football conquests. A couple of months before the official reunification of Germany, the midfield maestro lifted the 1990 World Cup in Italy after his West Germany side subdued Diego Maradona’s Argentina in the final. Once described by the Argentine legend as his toughest opponent, Matthaus won seven Bundesliga titles with Bayern Munich and one Serie A crown with Inter Milan, among other honours.

This week, the German great is in India to promote the Bundesliga, which recently penned an agreement with IMG-Reliance. Taking time out of his busy schedule, Matthaus talked on various topics in an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times.

Excerpts:

The Premier League and the La Liga have built huge audiences in India. How can Bundesliga make up the gap with the two leagues?

I think the first and most important step is that we have come to India. We know we were not the first in China; we were not the first in many other countries. In the last 10 years, we have taken many steps in Asia, North America and South America. Sure, we are not the first in India but I think we have to come here and present the Bundesliga.

Is there something that India can try and replicate from the Bundesliga?

It’s not just Bundesliga you can learn from. You can learn from everywhere. If you don’t like to learn from others, you will stay at the same level. But as the U-17 World Cup showed, Indians like football; they go to the stadium to support. The kids like to play football. India has a lot of potential; football is not the number one sport but slowly it is coming up and things will change in the next five years.

What are your thoughts on Bayern not hitting the top gear yet in Bundesliga?

Bayern won the championship clean for six seasons, like Juventus in Italy. As an ex-player, I am of course not very happy but this is good for football.

In contrast, Dortmund have had quite a start and Jadon Sancho has been at the thick of things, your thoughts on the player?

I remember watching in my gym England played Norway at the U-17 European Championships last year. There was a very good player on the left wing. I stopped running after a few minutes and I called my agent to ask who this kid was. He told me it was a player from Manchester City named Jadon Sancho. I joked to him that if you sign this boy, you are going to do some great business. A few months later he was in Dortmund. Now he is a big star in Bundesliga. This is what the Bundesliga can do. It does not happen in the Premier League because young players don’t get the chance to play. Why is Sancho playing in Dortmund and not anymore with Guardiola at Man City? Because in England they like to work only with stars. That’s okay, because they have more money. But we make stars.

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Can Bundesliga clubs, apart from Bayern and Dortmund, compete with Premier League financially?

We have clubs who can make money in a different way. We don’t have an oligarch like Chelsea, we don’t have a sheikh like Man City but in Germany the business is different from other countries. We have the club culture. For someone who has money, a club is like a toy. But we like our roots and we like a traditional style.

Documents released by Football Leaks claimed that City were circumventing financial fair play rules. Do you think UEFA has not been stringent on clubs like City?

For some clubs in Europe, they have special rules, special treatment. When you drive fast and cross the speed limit, you get a penalty. I think FIFA and UEFA are sometimes closing their eyes to the over-speeding.

What are your thoughts on Bayern coach Niko Kovac’s tenure so far?

I still believe in Kovac. He is not (Arsene) Wenger; he is not (Jupp) Heynckes, (Pep) Guardiola, (Carlo) Ancelotti or (Louis) Van Gaal. But he is Germany-born, knows the club well and is very professional. I think he has the potential. Bayern have to support him. This season, there are many players for whom the highest level of football is over and there have also been injuries. The coach can only work with what he has.

Your advice to Bayern president Uli Hoeness

Uli is not a normal president. Normally a president has to present the club, not talk so much about football. But Uli has almost been at the club for 50 years now, so he is more than a president. Sometimes I feel he is talking a bit too much about the football, the results. This is not good in this moment. It’s better not to talk so much about football because there are so many stories by journalists on the sport, it disturbs the concentration of the players and the coach.

What did you make of Germany’s World Cup debacle?

For me, it was an accident. Maybe the players weren’t motivated enough; maybe the coach believed too much on players who had won the title four years back. I hope the players and the coach will learn from it.

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What did you make of Mesut Ozil’s retirement and claims of racism?

The (German) fans were very angry because he didn’t answer then why he was getting his picture clicked (with Turkey president Recep Tayyip Erdogan). When you don’t answer, you leave things open. This story is now over. Now he is playing better than before at Arsenal. But he wasn’t playing well for Germany in the last two years. Nobody will miss him in the national team because now we are coming back with our young generation.

What have you made of the Nations League?

I like the Nations League. This is different than friendly games, so the coach has to present his best team. When Germany play a friendly against Hungary, Slovakia or San Marino, the coach can play his second team and the fans don’t like that.

Your West Germany team played against Maradona’s Argentina in two straight finals. What was that rivalry like?

We had different styles of football. But they had Maradona, the best player in the world, in their team and it was more about Maradona than Argentina. We played two very close finals. I think in both occasions the best team of the tournament ended up winning the World Cup.

Is the 1999 Champions League final loss to Manchester United the biggest regret of your career?

Absolutely. But this is football and I have to respect the result. We were not focused and we didn’t score the second goal. We dominated the game for 90 minutes but ended up losing it in injury time.

First Published: Dec 05, 2018 16:41 IST