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Difficult to develop special personality today

If ever a sportsman captured the essence of his era, it was West Germany's former left-back turned midfield general Paul Breitner. With his frizzy Afro, mutton-chop sideburns and total football swagger, none better typified the 1970s than Der Afro. Know Breitner

india Updated: Dec 12, 2011 15:30 IST
Rohit Bhaskar
Rohit Bhaskar
Hindustan Times

If ever a sportsman captured the essence of his era, it was West Germany's former left-back turned midfield general Paul Breitner. With his frizzy Afro, mutton-chop sideburns and total football swagger, none better typified the 1970s than Der Afro.

The former Bayern Munich and Real Madrid legend was in town on Friday to formally announce the Audi Football Summit, which will see Bayern Munich face India at the JLN Stadium in Bhaichung Bhutia's farewell match on January 10. He spoke to HT.


Talk us through your spur-of-the-moment equalising penalty against Holland in the 1974 World Cup final?
It wasn't decided (who would take the spot-kick). As I was standing closest, I took the ball without thinking. I just wanted to equalise, I was convinced I would do it. I wouldn't become a hero, I'd become a world champion.

Holland and Germany are the most remembered teams from the 1974 World Cup. Were they best?
The best team in the 1974 wasn't Holland or Germany. It was Poland, they had many great players… (Grezegorg) Lato, (Kazimierz) Deyna. However, in the World Cup they couldn't play the way they had played even a month before the event. We beat them in the semis, but they were the best team there.

What went wrong in the 1982 World Cup final against Italy (3-1)?
Italy played on Wednesday and won easily (2-0 over Poland). We played on Thursday at Sevilla (5-4 penalty win over France after 3-3 final score), we played 90 minutes, then extra-time. On Friday morning, we reached Madrid with no food or drinks in our hotel room. So, two days before the final we knew we would have only a 20-25 % chance.

You were once pictured with a poster of chairman Mao in the background and regularly gave your opinion on matters off the field? Is there a place for a cerebral and opinionated footballers now, say a character like Socrates?
I see how difficult it is to develop a special personality today. I could develop as a person till I was 18. Today, when you're 13-14 you have to follow a fixed, step-by-step path, where it's all about football.

Your many talents include acting. You featured in the 1976 western Potato Fritz. How different was a film studio from the football field?
It wasn't all the different. The reason I acted in this film was because it was being filmed near Madrid (when he was playing for Real) and I knew many of the actors and the producers, who were from Munich. They called me to ask 'Paul we are shooting a western in Madrid, if you have the time could come to the studio'… It was great fun.

In 1977, you stunned the football world by leaving Spanish giants Real Madrid for the relative obscurity of German provincial outfit Eintracht Braunschweig. Why?
I would have liked to transfer to the New York Cosmos or Paris, but my wife wanted to return to Germany… our daughters were now 5 and 6 years old and were about to enter school. My wife wanted them to be schooled in Germany. At the time there were only two clubs who could pay Real Madrid the huge transfer fee, and one was this small provincial club, which had the right backers. As so often, it was just a case of money.

Can Bayern Munich win a fifth Champions League crown when the host this year's final at the Allianz Arena in May?
We started the season in great form, had a slight dip after that but now the team is playing very good. I just hope we don't play Barcelona in the quarter-final or semis, but the final. It gives a us a great chance to beat them in a one-off game, and not over two legs, because Barcelona, like Spain, are the best team in the world. But, Germany is a close second.

What plagued German football in the decade following the win at Italia '90?
In the 1990s, we made a big mistake. We thought we were the best, and played the same old way, while the rest of the world and football evolved. Around 2000, we accepted that we had to change. So, we saw how world football had developed, and importantly there was a change in the thought process. Earlier, we taught our kids to be football workers, no we tell them to be football players! After 6-8 years we now have the first generation educated the new way and they are now almost at the highest level, at Spain's level. In a couple of years we should even topple them.

What do you make of Germany's chance in next year's Euro (they've been grouped alongside Holland, Portugal and Denmark)?
I said after the draw, 'don't talk to me about it'. We say we are the second-best team in the world, behind Spain, we are convinced. If so, what's the need to think about the Netherlands, Portugal or Denmark? We must think about our game, not the opposition. Reach the final, and beat Spain.

Manchester United failed to make the last-16 after six years. Anything wrong at Old Trafford?
In the last three-four years Manchester United maybe made the same mistake that Germany made during the 1990s. They thought they are the best and don't have to learn, don't have to look at others. They finished first or second in the EPL, but now it's not enough as the others have caught up. All the English clubs should look at the situation. They need to re-look their football year after year, not play the football of 2005. Also many of the high-class players in England like (Didier) Drogba, (Frank) Lampard and (Steven) Gerrard are now older and the younger guys have failed to step up on a day-to-day basis.

Manchester City also failed to advance to the last16 despite splurging in the transfer market. How would you rate the Man City-Chelsea-PSG business model?
It's not a successful model. A successful business model is the Bayern Munich business model. We win titles, and, we earn money. They (Man City/Chelsea) don't win anything and loose money. For example Mr (Roman) Abramovich (Chelsea owner) spent 1.6 billion euros with an aim to win the Champions League from scratch in six years and failed. Instead of loosing 1.6 billion Bayern (Rs 11096 crore) has posted a net profit of 20 million euros (Rs 138 crore) in the last six years and have won many titles.

Man City…they play in the Europa League. The way they operate is having a critical effect on the way football is played because nobody knows where it's going to end.

UEFA president Michel Platini has vocally advocated the financial fairplay rules. Do you think they will work?
I don't believe in Platini's financial fairplay because I believe clubs will still function the way they always have… they will continue to spend money lavishly in the transfer market, they will keep posting losses. So, no, I don't think financial fairplay is feasible.

You've played six El Clasicos (winning 4) during your time at Real. Can you expand on the thrill of playing in a Clasico?
To play for Madrid in the Clasico, back when over 150,000 fans would throng to the old Bernabeu, was indescribable. It was spectacular. Playing in these Clasicos has been one of the greatest moments in my life, alongside winning the World Cup. For Barcelona and Real Madrid fans, the outcome of the season is irrelevant. For Real the only objective is to finish ahead of Barcelona, and vice versa. This is the only important thing for both clubs.

Your thoughts on Saturday's El Clasico?
Barcelona are still the best club in the world, but their form has dipped of late. This is a great chance for Real Madrid. Jose Mourinho has changed the way Real are playing football. When he first came, he asked the players to use a controlled game. But, this season they have been very attacking and played very attractive football.

First Published: Dec 10, 2011 00:03 IST