Timeless class of Matthaeus

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BERLIN, May 12- Lothar Matthaeus became one of Germany's most inspirational footballers in a world record-breaking international career that spanned 20 years and 150 caps.When Matthaeus finally decided to call time on his international playing days in 2000, he had completed tours of duty at five World Cups, and holds the record for appearances at the tournament with 25.

Born in Erlangen in 1961, he first came to prominence after moving to Borussia Moenchengladbach aged 18 in 1979.

Quickly becoming an established star in what was then one of the Bundesliga’s strongest sides, the teenage Matthaeus was propelled into West Germany’s victorious squad for the 1980 European Championship.

Though unable to command a regular place in the ‘Mannschaft’, the youngster’s talent was clear.

In back-to-back friendlies against Brazil and Argentina in the build-up to the 1982 World Cup finals, he man-marked both Zico and Diego Maradona superbly in two masterful performances.

Yet his contribution to West Germany’s campaign at the World Cup was limited to just two appearances as a substitute, and he did not feature in the team beaten 3-1 by Italy in the final.

At club level, Matthaeus’ career was burgeoning. In 1984 he made the inevitable move to Bayern Munich, helping them win the league twice as well as the cup.

By the time of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, Matthaeus was part of the furniture. Though Germany were less than dazzling en route to their second final in a row, where they met Argentina, Matthaeus had been outstanding.

In the final he was given the awesome job of man-marking Maradona once more. Matthaus proved equal to the task, though could do nothing about the Argentinian’s wonderful first-time pass that set up the winning goal.

Two years later, Matthaeus was transferred from Bayern to Inter Milan, where he was the key figure in a German spine to the Serie A side that also featured Jurgen Klinsmann and Andreas Brehme. The team lifted the Italian title in 1989.

The following year was to bring greater glory for Matthaeus, however, when he captained West Germany to their 1990 World Cup win.

The tournament marked Matthaeus’ highpoint as a player. As an all-action, goalscoring midfielder he was without equal. Unsurprisingly he was European Player of the Year in 1990, and FIFA World Player of the Year in 1991.

He helped Inter to victory in the UEFA Cup, before returning to Bayern in 1992 after four successful seasons in Italy.

In 1994 he was back at the World Cup as Germany sought to defend their title. With his ageing legs no longer allowing him to perform the role of midfield dynamo, Matthaeus had been converted into a sweeper.

His presence could not stop Germany from making a quarter-final exit against Bulgaria however, in a game that saw him pull level with Uwe Seeler, Wladislav Zmuda and Maradona on 21 World Cup finals appearances.

Matthaeus made an improbable return to international colours at the 1998 World Cup, taking his record tally of appearances to 25.

He was still around at Euro 2000, but his presence was a source of discontent in the German squad, with several players reportedly lobbying for his exclusion.

In the event, Matthaeus played as Germany tumbled out in the first round, an unhappy end to a glittering career. After a short stint in the United States, he retired in 2000.

A nomadic coaching career has since taken in spells with Partizan Belgrade, the Hungarian national team, Atletico Paranaense of Brazil, Austrian side Red Bull Salzburg and Israelis Maccabi Netanya, who he left in 2009.

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