Lothar Matthaus, 28, the midfield ace and captain of the West German national side looks back on a splendid year. In his first season with Italy's lnternazionale he won the league championship, and with the national team he is on course for the World Cup finals next year.
As an Italian-based player he will be a key figure in the West German set-up. Matthaus has not developed into the playmaker the Germans have been seeking ever since the heydays of Wolfgang Overath and Gunter Netzer had passed. But he is a midfield dynamo with a lethal shot, a grafter and ball winner. His move from Bayern Munich in the summer of 1988 cost Inter £2.5 million, which makes him the third most expensive footballer in German history, after Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Rudi Voller who were also transferred to Italian clubs. He insists his venture to Italy was "100 per cent right". He admits that the big money did play an important role, but was not the decisive factor. Strongest "I have improved my game because the Italian league is the strongest in the world and with Maradona, Gullit and Van Basten; the world's best players are here".
Lothar Herbert Matthaus was born on March 21, 1961. His first club was the local regional league side FC Herzogenaurach. Contacts to football were forged early thanks to family commitments. His father Heinz has worked for the sports equipment manufacturers Puma for over 30 years as a caretaker. Mother Katharina has been employed there for 18 years, brother Wolfgang for eight years. Only Lothar trained in another occupation-he became, after three years apprenticeship, an interior designer and decorator because his parents insisted that he learnt "a proper job", not just play football.
He was always something of a rebel but now claims he has calmed down. But in his junior career he never played for a Bavarian representative side because he often picked up bookings for dissent. At 18 Matthaus signed for Borussia Monchenladbach, but the escapades continued. Once, caught driving with excess alcohol, his licence was withdrawn for eight months. On another occasion he broke curfew at the national team's quarters and fell foul of the national manager Jupp Derwall. In 1984 Bayern Munich paid £700,000 for the midfielder whose penalty miss for Gladbach had just helped Bayern to win the cup. Matthaus never won anything with Borussia Monchengladbach, but in Munich he gained three championship and one cup-winners medal. In the national side he played 69 times, won a winners medal in the European Championship 1980 and was a World Cup runner up in 1982 and 1986.
Matthaus and wife Silvia, a nursery nurse who is a year older, have two small daughters. Silvia and a couple of business friends look after all Matthaus's financial affairs. Only once did he put his foot down. That was when Bayern demanded that he change his shoe supplier. He refused to give up Puma because "it symbolises the family ties”. As one of his greatest games he describes the World Cup final in Mexico City in 1986 with Argentina. Matthaus was detailed to mark the great Maradona and did the job superbly until Karl Heinz Forster took over the role when the Germans threw everything into attack. What nobody, apart from a couple of German officials knew - Matthaus played with a broken wrist. The match was lost 3-2, but Matthaus can claim to be one of the few to have shackled the Argentine superstar.
To the critics who complain that he is not the playmaker, he retorts: "In modern football it is not necessary to have one 'general' in midfield. It is better to spread the responsibility between two or three players.” His greatest assets are physical engagement and determination especially in tackling. His speed off the mark and technique are exemplary; his shooting from long range and goal instinct outstanding and so is his vision. Only his heading could be improved.
This article originally appeared in the August 1989 edition of World Soccer Magazine. You can subscribe for a ridiculously low sum by clicking here.