To help mark UEFA's Jubilee in 2004, each national association was asked to nominate its most outstanding player of the past 50 years. Liechtenstein chose Rainer Hasler as their Golden Player.
The choice of Rainer Hasler as Liechtenstein's Golden Player was no surprise. Who can forget the UEFA Cup run that he enjoyed with Swiss side Neuchâtel Xamax FC in the 1980s?
Hasler's reaction was typically modest. "It is a great joy to receive this accolade. It is 15 years since I ended my career, many youngsters have never seen me play, but my name has obviously stayed in some people's minds," the former defender said in 2004.
Hasler's best days came with Xamax (1979-83) and Servette FC (1983-89). Yet although he won the Swiss Cup (1984) and league championship (1985) with Servette, perhaps his greatest adventure came with Xamax's journey to the UEFA Cup quarter-finals in 1981/82 when he played in every minute of the victories over AC Sparta Praha, Malmö FF and Sporting Clube de Portugal.
Hamburger SV ended their run, with Xamax unable to overturn a 3-2 away defeat in a goalless second leg back in Switzerland. "I seem to remember it was Franz Beckenbauer's last game for Hamburg. A 1-0 win would have been enough to take us into the semi-finals," Hasler recalled.
Despite being a German-speaking Liechtensteiner, Hasler felt at ease in Francophone western Switzerland. "The mentality suited me, I was very much at home. The style of football also suited me. I made a lot of friends," he said. Indeed, he lined up alongside many talented players at Xamax, including Philippe Perret, Don Givens, Peter Küffer and Serge Trinchero. "It was a fantastic time, which I wouldn't have missed for the world."
Servette were no different to Xamax, in that the team contained many top internationals, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (West Germany), Michel Renquin (Belgium) and Jean-François Larios (France) among them. "It's amazing to think what extraordinary personalities Servette had in those days," Hasler said.
An attacking right-back, spent two years in Geneva as club captain – which was tribute not only to his popularity but also the way he integrated himself into what was a cosmopolitan squad. "I was amazed that I was accepted by the team, as a non-Swiss," he admitted.
However, in a ten-year professional career during which he avoided serious injury, Hasler, despite having been a youth international, never played for his country at senior level. His club coaches were sceptical of the organisational ability of the Liechtenstein Football Association (LFV), as Hasler explained: "My clubs weren't sure that I would be properly insured playing international matches. The LFV went to a lot of trouble on my behalf, but was not equipped to deal with those issues."
Hasler retired from playing at the age of 31 in 1989, and is now works in an office in Switzerland. He follows the national team and is encouraged by their performances. "I am surprised how much progress Liechtenstein have made. However, I wish there was more emphasis on attacking play," he said.
Last updated: 28 January 2011
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