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The Three Lives of the Kaiser

By Uli Hesse


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Franz Beckenbauer is Germany’s greatest ever footballer, a World Cup winner as player and manager. But what is often described as a blessed life has in fact been a rollercoaster ride with stunning highs and bitter lows.

He rose to fame at the 1966 World Cup in England, and after a glittering early career at Bayern Munich – captaining them to three European Cup victories and pioneering the playmaking libero role in central defence – Beckenbauer made a controversial move to the recently formed New York Cosmos in 1977. Praised as “the greatest” by none other than Muhammad Ali, he warded off overtures from Rudolf Nureyev and partied the night away with Mick Jagger and Grace Jones at Studio 54.

But back home, people often wondered what to make of this most famous German athlete who was so un-German. Beckenbauer’s country had finally learned to love him by the time he managed the national side to World Cup glory in 1990, but allegations of corruption surrounding Germany’s successful bid to host the 2006 World Cup made him a controversial figure all over again. WSC contributor Uli Hesse has written the definitive biography of a remarkable player.

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Hardback, 312 pages

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