With England facing up to their most formidable of football rivals in Euro 2020’s Round-of-16, what better time to take a trip into German football and discover more about some of its stars, past and present, with a five-a-side line-up of German autobiographies already published, and a five-a-side of those that would make for a good read. Hopefully, they’ll share a thing or two about penalty shoot-outs…
Five already published
Lutz Pfannenstiel – Oliver Kahn and Jens Lehmann are two stalwarts of the German goalkeepers’ union who have published their autobiographies and you may be forgiven for wondering why they’ve been overlooked for a man who only represented Germany at U17 level, but The Unstoppable Goalkeeper by Lutz Pfannenstiel is heralded as one of the best football autobiographies around, in no large part because of Pfannenstiel’s, let’s say, colourful life. Across three decades, he achieved the feat of being the only footballer to play professionally in all six FIFA confederations, but his antics aren’t confined to the football pitch.
Philipp Lahm – When Philipp Lahm’s first autobiography Der Feine Unterschied (The Subtle Difference) was published in 2011, it caused something of a stir for its outspoken views, so a second autobiography, published earlier this year (Das Spiel), is surely something to look out for – although, sadly, as yet I don’t believe either book has been translated into English. As a player, Lahm largely won it all, including the Bundesliga, Champions League and World Cup, and was considered one of the best full-backs of all time. He represented Germany 113 times across a ten-year period and led Germany to the 2014 World Cup as captain.
Lothar Matthaus – Another autobiography that sadly hasn’t yet been translated from its native German, Lothar Matthaus’s Ganz oder gar nicht (All or Nothing) was published in 2012, giving an insight into the career of a player who was named the first ever FIFA World Player of the Year. In his twenty years as a German international, Matthaus won both a UEFA European Championship in 1980 and the World Cup in 1990, setting the record of having played in five world cups (from 1982 to 1998), the most World Cup matches played (25) and is Germany’s most capped player (150). On the domestic front, he starred both in the Bundesliga and Serie A, winning titles in both Germany and Italy.
Mesut Ozil – A divisive figure in his time in England at Arsenal, despite winning three FA Cups and a Community Shield, Mesut Ozil’s international record speaks for itself, with 23 goals in 92 appearances and a World Cup to boot. On top of that he holds the record for winning the German Player of the Year award five times and was top of the assist charts at both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012. Still plying his trade in Fenerbahce, Ozil’s domestic career has taken in three of the biggest European leagues, in the Bundesliga, La Liga and the Premier League, winning eight trophies across the board. His autobiography, Gunning for Greatness, was published in 2017.
Miroslav Klose – Although Ronald Reng’s Miro (published in German) is technically a biography, it is hard to leave Germany’s top goalscorer off the list. With 71 goals in 137 appearances for Die Mannschaft from 2001 to 2014, Klose was instrumental to Germany’s 2014 World Cup win, as well as being runner-up in both the 2002 World Cup and 2008 Euros. He remains the top goalscorer at the World Cup with 16 goals in total, whilst his record of 19 goals at Euros and World Cups has just been surpassed by Cristiano Ronaldo. Domestically, he has represented FC 08 Homburg, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich and Lazio.
Five to be published
Manuel Neuer – There is a history of dominant German goalkeepers, but Die Mannschaft’s current incumbent may just be the best yet. Named as the Best goalkeeper of the Decade by IFFHS, Neuer has cemented his legacy by winning the Golden Glove as Germany were victorious in Brazil 2014. A stalwart at Bayern Munich for the last decade, Neuer has 282 appearances to his name for Die Roten, as well as scooping nine Bundesliga titles, two Champions League, two Super Cups and two Club World Cups. He will surely be looking to add a Euro title to that impressive list this summer.
Franz Beckenbauer – Whilst a number of books have been written about the man nicknamed Der Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer hasn’t penned an autobiography. Although there have been some off-field dramas in more recent years, there is little question of Beckenbauer’s on-field reputation. Representing his national side between 1965 and 1977, he featured in three World Cups and two Euros, winning the former in 1974 and the latter in 1972, as well as managing Germany to World Cup triumph in 1990. Individually, he holds a number of accolades, including being the only defender to win the Ballon d’Or twice, as well as being named in the World Team of the 20th Century, the FIFA World Cup Dream Team and the Ballon d’Or Dream Team.
Ilkay Gundogan – After taking the Premier League by storm last season, in his fourth year in English football, Ilkay Gundogan was suddenly on everyone’s radar, despite already having won the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund, two previous Premier League titles with Man City, as well as an FA Cup, EFL Cups and Community Shields. Whilst Man City were disappointed in the Champions League, Gundogan was named in both the UEFA Champions League Squad of the Season and the PFA Premier League Team of the Year. Should he feature against England, Gundogan will receive his 50th cap for Germany, but as yet has no trophies to show for his tenure. Triumph at Euro 2020 would round off an impressive campaign by the man from Gelsenkirchen.
Michael Ballack – Despite being only a runner-up in both the World Cup and Euros, Michael Ballack was one of the mainstays of German football for over a decade, representing his nation 98 times and scoring some 42 goals. He won the German Footballer of the Year three times and was also named in both the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cup All-star teams. Domestically, he made his mark with both Bayern Munich, where he won three league titles, and Chelsea, where he won the Premier League title, three FA Cups, the Football League Cup and the Community Shield.
Gerd Muller – Surprisingly, Germany’s Footballer of the Year in 1967 and 1969 and a striker largely considered to be one of the best of all time, Gerd Muller has not brought out an autobiography. A World Cup winner in 1974, scoring the winning goal in the final, and European Championship winner in 1972, Muller played some 62 times for West Germany scoring a remarkable 68 goals. He won the Ballon d’Or in 1970 and the Golden Boot at the World Cup in the same year. On the domestic front, in fifteen years at Bayern Munich, he scored a record 365 goals, as well as 66 goals in 74 European games, winning the Bundesliga four times, the European Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup.