Over the next month, across what would have been Euro 2020, we will be running a series on the players who defined each of the European Championships from 1972-2016 – and beyond that, left their imprint on modern football. Next up, it’s Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Euro 1980.
Eras are difficult to define. In terms of international football, there is an argument to say that German pre-eminence in this field began with the Miracle of Bern in 1954 and has never ended. Even in their supposed fallow period, between winning Euro 96 and their triumph in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, they still managed to score a runners-up medal and two third-placed finishes in three World Cups in a row, and reach a European Championship final. If they hadn’t seen such riches, they could live with being comfortably well-off.
Most observers however would nail the German imperial phase to the years 1966-1996, a 30-year span that contained some hurt but plenty of jubilation. In sixteen tournaments they reached the final on ten occasions, winning two World Cups and three European Championships along the way. That success was essentially bookended by two generations – the Ramba Zamba team of the early 70s and a new era of players at the turn of 90’s spearheaded by Lothar Matthaus, Rudi Voller and Jurgen Klinsmann, the latter of which would captain Germany to their first title as a unified nation at Euro 96.
Paul Pogba still has a future in red
Almost right in the middle of that run is a largely forgotten victory. At the 1980 European Championship in Italy, a vibrant and dynamic young team took West Germany to their third final in a row and ultimately to victory in Rome. For a variety of reasons including the climate of the time, the ennui of constant success and a team composed of spiky characters, that winning team has become the problem child of family reunions in German international football, awkwardly folded out of all the photographs.
Banking on success
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in training
Image credit: Getty Images
When West Germany began racking up international titles on the abacus in the mid-seventies, they nearly lost the captain of that 1980 triumph to a career in number-crunching. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s career started in the youth system of his local amateur side Borussia Lippstadt. At 18 there was no guarantee that a career in football was going to work out, so Rummenigge pursued a career as a bank clerk at the same time. In 1974, Bayern Munich spotted his talent and signed him up immediately, nixing his alternative career in the same breath. The Bundesbank’s loss was the Bundesliga’s gain.
Rummenigge joined a team of ruthless professionals including Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, Uli Hoeness and Gerd Muller. Learning the ropes in banking had been traded in for a crash course in serial winning. “I had massive respect for the players,” Rummenigge said in an interview with the Bayern website, “and for the first two weeks…