By Chris Wright
He played for what felt like 40 years, won all there was to win both domestically and internationally, captained club and country, made well over 100 appearances for three different teams (including two separate centurion stints with Bayern Munich) and yet still Lothar Matthaus – the most German of all German midfielders – always seems to go under the radar somewhat in discussions about the game’s true greats.
Matthaus wasn’t just a terrifically talented midfielder in a bygone era when central midfielders were expected to dabble in both defensive and offensive graft (can you even imagine?) – he also had presence, tons of the stuff.
Matthaus was imposing, dominant, fiercely competitive, tireless. He was arguably the best (or perhaps most influential) player at Italia ’90, quashing entire teams – including a very handy Yugoslavian side – on his lonesome.
He was nuts and bolts, but world class nuts and bolts.
Such was his influence, Matthaus retired aged 40 following a brief stint in the US having won more caps for Germany than any other player (150) and having appeared at nine major international tournaments over the course of two entire decades with Die Mannschaft.
And boy howdy, did the man know how to volley a dipping ball when push came to shove!
So why so underrated? Perhaps because he was a bit….well, soulless.
If you’ll excuse us flirting with a national stereotype for a moment, Mattaus was mechanical, methodical, productive, a bit robotic. He was the stern, ageless face of German midfield efficiency.
He was also infamously pompous and self-regarding during his playing days, hardly endearing himself to neutral parties by constantly referring to Lothar Matthaus in the third-person:
“A Lotthar Matthaus will not be defeated by his body.”
“A Lothar Matthaus will decide his fate himself.”
“A Lothar Matthaus speaks no French.”
And so on and so forth.
Even when he was celebrating winning European Championships and World Cups he seemed animatronic.
His post-game sweat looked like it was being secreted by sensors located just beneath his skin. He wasn’t tired, but his inner-machinery needed coolant. You could almost hear his circuitry bleeping and whirring from the upper tier.
He did have a playful, easy-going side though – look…
He’s also been reported dead (prematurely, as it happens) at least once. So there’s that too.
Any road up, maybe the lack of charisma and natural panache has stymied Matthaus’ legacy, but thankfully there is a whole pantheon of footage out there to remind us all just what a special player he truly was.
Here is but a five-minute sliver of it. Enjoy…
More in the Criminally Underrated series…