Football mourns Beckenbauer's death. GETTY IMAGES

The German football legend, who won World Cups as both a player and a coach, has died aged 78 after a battle with an illness that kept him away from public life.

The news of Franz Beckenbauer's death has shocked the footballing world. The German legend, who won the World Cup as a player and captain in 1974 and as a coach in Italy '90 against Maradona and Bilardo's mighty Argentina after avenging the defeat in Mexico four years earlier, has died at the age of 78, his family announced in a statement on Monday. 

Franz Anton Beckenbauer, affectionately known as 'The Kaiser', was regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time and was the first defender to win the Ballon d'Or twice. His history as what many consider to be the best defender in history earned him the title of World Player of the Year in 1972 and 1976 (with the caveat that only Europeans were eligible at the time). 

Born in Munich in 1945, he spent 14 seasons with FC Bayern and became the greatest legend of the German giants and, for many, of football in a country that has won four FIFA World Cups.

Franz Beckenbauer lifts the World Cup trophy as captain of West Germany in 1972. GETTY IMAGES
Franz Beckenbauer lifts the World Cup trophy as captain of West Germany in 1972. GETTY IMAGES

"The Kaiser" (German for "Emperor") was famous for his elegant defensive style and for playing the ball with finesse and a style reminiscent of an attacking player. He won a European Championship (1972) and a World Cup (1974) with West Germany, as well as a European Cup Winners' Cup, three European Cups (now the Champions League), an Intercontinental Cup, four Bundesliga titles and four German Cups with FC Bayern. 

He wasn't just a brilliant player, he was also a brilliant coach. Along with Mario Zagallo (who recently died in Brazil) and Didier Claude Deschamps, he is the only man to have won the World Cup as both a player and a coach.

As a coach, Beckenbauer led West Germany to victory over Argentina in the 1972 World Cup final. GETTY IMAGES
As a coach, Beckenbauer led West Germany to victory over Argentina in the 1972 World Cup final. GETTY IMAGES

According to the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS), he is the third best footballer of the 20th century. He made his debut for TSV 1860 Munich (a team he supported despite his strong association with Bayern) and was signed by the Bavarians at the age of fourteen, where his performances brought him worldwide fame. 

He made his Bundesliga debut in 1964 and his international debut in 1965. He shone at the 1966 World Cup in England, scoring four goals as a defender and helping his side to a runners-up finish after the controversial 'phantom goal' in the final, which the hosts won. 

This World Cup went down in history as the only one won by the inventors of the game, but above all, because "The Kaiser" surprised everyone by playing in a new position, that of sweeper, to the extent that he was credited with inventing the position. A brilliant and elegant central midfielder who had started as a left midfielder and winger, he now appeared behind his team's defensive line, sweeping away rival attacks and catching opponents off guard.

After retiring as a player and coach, he became an executive at FC Bayern and was the head of the organising committee for the 2006 World Cup. He handed over the club presidency to Rummenigge in 2003, while retaining a diplomatic role. During his presidency, the Bavarians won six Bundesliga titles, the Champions League (2001), the Intercontinental Cup (2001) and the UEFA Cup (1996), and lost the 1999 Champions League final to Manchester United in Barcelona.

Franz Beckenbauer joins a list of football legends who have died in recent times. This list includes some of the greatest players of their era and, for many, of football history, such as Diego Maradona (who passed away on 25 November 2020 in Buenos Aires, Argentina) and "O Rei" Pelé (who died on 29 December 2022 in São Paulo, Brazil). These legends, who were rivals of the German in different eras, will undoubtedly welcome him with open arms to play a friendly match in heaven.