Lothar Matthäus is a name known by any devoted football follower, with his exploits and pedigree famous across the world. During his exalted career, he was the most capped German player of all time, retiring with a total of 150 appearances (83 for West Germany) in 20 years, and 23 goals. In 1991, he was named the first ever FIFA World Player of the Year and remains the only German to have received the award. He currently holds the record for the most World Cup matches played by a single player (25 games). He has also won the German Championship seven times with Bayern Munich and can count three DFB-Cup wins as well as the UEFA Cup with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan amongst his successes.
Football Chronicle were able to ask the legendary captain a few questions on Bayern Munich, the Bundesliga and the league’s growth in Asia. We express gratitude towards Bundesliga International for facilitating the interview.
Considering Bayern’s new coach and lack of new signings, could this be the season when their recent dominance of the Bundesliga comes to an end? Which team can realistically challenge them?
All great team goes through cycles of success and failure, and Bayern has seen a lot of success in recent years thanks to Jupp Heynckes, Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola, so it will be interesting to see if Bayern, who are undergoing a transition, with new coach Niko Kovač, can defend its title. This season, Bayern have increasingly relied on young talents. An example of this is the departure of Arturo Vidal and the commitment of Leon Goretzka. As the first season games have shown, this strategy seems to work and Bayern is currently the league leader. But they can ́t rest, because the newly established Borussia Dortmund and revived VfL Wolfsburg are close to the heels of Bayern Munich. I expect an exciting season.
The last two decades of Germany have always been successful in player regeneration. In your opinion, who is the youngest player who has the potential to become the future star of Die Mannschaft?
Die Mannschaft is undoubtedly home of one of the world’s top young talents, and there is a long pipeline of exciting young, wonderkids to watch: Julian Brandt, Kai Havertz and Jonathan Tah (Bayer Leverkusen), Timo Werner (RB Leipzig), Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund) and Joshua Kimmich, Serge Gnabry, Leon Goretzka (Bayern) and the list goes on. It is very difficult to name the youngest player with the highest potential.
The Bundesliga clubs are an inexhaustible source of talent – and player skill levels are rising by the year. If you look at the [recent results of the] U19s and U21s – it is a clear result of this talent development strategy.
- – U21: European champion (2014)
- – U19: European champion (2016)
- – Olympics 2016: 2nd place
The Bundesliga has grown massively all over the world including Singapore, what do you think has been the unique selling point of the league?
The start of the Bundesliga season is always exciting as it’s a fresh start for all teams fighting for the title. Bundesliga matches are always exciting – low ticket prices and standing terraces means all matches are played before the highest average attendances of any professional football league and creates a thrilling and breath-taking atmosphere. Other than packed stadiums, the Bundesliga also has the most goals scored amongst top European leagues.
How do you think the league can do better to popularize German football in South East Asia?
For the local physical fan connect in Asia, there have been and will be some legends tours as well as friendly matches and other marketing activities of the clubs and the Bundesliga.
Additionally, the Bundesliga has a strong focus on digital consumer connect in Asia. Some successes have already been seen, such as winning the Red Card Award for the most successful digital football league campaign in Asia.
For example, the Bundesliga engagement per fan in Asia is the highest as compared to our competitors on social media channels. On Weibo in China, the Bundesliga have more than 2.6 million followers. In 2018, the Bundesliga was awarded as the #1 European League in China for the fourth consecutive year.
Do you think there will be any German players who will consider South East Asia (e.g. Thai League) as a destination, before they retire from playing professional football?
We can already see from players like Lukas Podolski or Björn Lindemann that Asian leagues have become increasingly attractive and ever more stars are coming to Asia to experience their second spring there. The quality of the Asia leagues has also increased in recent years, which makes the players more attractive to German clubs. The examples of Yuya Osako (SV Werder Bremen) or Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund) show that the Asian leagues has very good and talented players.
How do you think German teams will fare in Europe this season?
Teams who win this year can be out of the game very early the next year. Looking forward, we are positive that German teams like Bayern or Dortmund will come back even stronger. In the seasons from 2002 to 2009, there was no Champions League final with German participation, but in the next four years there were three finals with at least one German team and in 2012/13 even a pure German final with FC Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund playing the final in Wembley.