There is a sense that the cultural change of late sixties early seventies produced some of the greatest flair players football has seen. The freedom to express themselves, to show their artistry coupled with a streak of rebelliousness. Each of those players are worthy to be chosen as a World Cup bet by the people whom they represent. These are the players that made people love football and to that, World Cup and other major leagues became popular worldwide. Netzer with his mane of long blond hair was arguably such a player and in his Borussia Möenchengladbach team he had the perfect vehicle to express himself.
Born on the 14th September 1944 in Möenchengladbach, Netzer spent much of his youth from the age of nine at 1. FC Möenchengladbach before at 19 signing for Die Fohlen then a second division team. Scoring on his debut against Rot-Weiss Oberhausen, Netzer soon established himself in the team. The following season under Coach Hennes Weisweiler, the team’s average age was just 21 and half. Perhaps it was the freedom of youth that they played in such a cavalier style but Die Fohlen and Netzer seemed a perfect fit. Weisweiler fostered an air of originality and expression on the pitch and in Netzer he had the embodiment of his philosophy – genius, artist, a playmaker with extravagant skills.
Die Fohlen would go onto win back to back Bundesliga titles in 1969-70, 70-71 with Netzer the heart of the team. Netzer’s final season saw Die Fohlen runners-up in the UEFA Cup and the DFB-Ligapokal but is the final of the DFB Pokal against 1. FC Köln that arguably defines the character of Netzer. Dropped to the bench due to lack of fitness, with the match tied at 1-1 and in extra time, Netzer brought himself on simply saying:
I’ll go on and play now.
Three minutes later he scored the winner. It was his final match. After 108 goals and nearly 300 matches, Netzer moved to Real Madrid.
Netzer was Madrid’s response to Barcelona’s signing of Johan Cruyff. It appeared to work. In his three years in Madrid Netzer won La Liga and the Copa del Rey twice, before in 1976 he moved to Grasshoppers of Zürich for a final season before retiring.
At international level, Netzer was a European Cup winner in 1972 and a World Cup winner in 1974, yet in a ten-year international career he made only 37 appearances. Partly due to injury and timing but perhaps also – away from Weisweiler there was doubt how to accommodate him in to a less free-flowing national team.
Netzer was and remains for many an icon. A product of his time [like George Best] – a footballer with abundant personality and extravagant skill.
GREATEST SQUAD – STARTING XI [4-3-3]
KARLHEINZ FŐRSTER FRANZ BECKENBAUER
BERTI VOGTS KARL-HEINZ SCHNELLINGER
WOLFGANG OVERATH LOTHAR MATTHÄUS
HELMUT RAHN HANS SCHÄFER
GREATEST SQUAD – RESERVES
GK: OLIVER KAHN
GK: JÜRGEN CROY
RB: MANFRED KALTZ
LB: ANDREAS BREHME
CB: WILLI SCHULZ
SWP: MATTHIAS SAMMER
CDM: HORST SZYMANIAK
CM: PAUL BREITNER
AM: BERND SCHUSTER
AM: FRITZ WALTER
ST: HELMUT HALLER
ST: KARL-HEINZ RUMMENIGGE
Created by Alan Robins Images by Jorge Manuel Martins