A key member of the first FC Bayern München side to become European champions in 1974, Paul Breitner is better qualified than most to judge the merits of the newly-crowned Bundesliga champions ahead of Saturday's UEFA Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.
The 1972 UEFA European Championship and 1974 FIFA World Cup winner, who works as an ambassador for Bayern, delighted fans at the UEFA Champions Festival in Stratford, London, on Friday as he appeared for an autograph session. In anticipation of his visit, UEFA.com asked users to send in their questions for him using #AskBreitner and, on his way back to Wembley, the former defender provided some insightful replies.
UEFA.com: How does it feel to be in London and to take part in the UEFA Champions Festival?
Paul Breitner: I always like coming to London to see my family. One of my stepsons is a Londoner – a Tottenham fan – so I have been here quite a lot over the last ten years. As for the festival, I was involved in 2010 in Madrid and then again last year in Munich. I would like to have stayed longer, and it would have been nice if it was not raining, but it is snowing in Munich, so it could have been worse!
@Jay2013Henry: What has made the German teams so strong in this season's competition?
Breitner: We are in the final because we are playing the football of today. Both teams have adopted the approach of the successful Barcelona and Spain sides of recent years and developed it further.
'Tiki-Taka' is all about keeping hold of the ball, but Bayern München and Borussia Dortmund have taken it to another level, increased the tempo and, crucially, both teams have players who can finish moves off. We have Mario Mandžukić and Mario Gomez, and Dortmund have Robert Lewandowski.
@knlutd01: How big a loss is Mario Götze to Dortmund?
Breitner: If Bayern play as they normally do and perform at the level they have been throughout the second half of the season, it would not make a blind bit of difference whether Mario Götze played or not. Dortmund would not have a chance.
@Massie_Mphela: Bayern have lost two of the last three finals. What would your advice be to the team and coach Jupp Heynckes if they want to make it third time lucky?
Breitner: I would never be so presumptuous as to advise a coach. It is not necessary, just as it is not necessary to give the team any advice. I am quite sure the team will win. The current side is a lot more stable and a lot stronger than the team which lost the two finals. I am not nervous at all. They are clearly stronger than Borussia Dortmund. In the past, we began to wobble in certain games and made mistakes we should not have, but the current side make hardly any mistakes.
They beat their opponents into a corner is like a boxer – then they knock them out.
@BayernPal19: What will be the key to victory for Bayern at Wembley?
Breitner: The key for Bayern is to play their normal game. Every player needs to perform as they usually do. That is the way to victory. If the team plays as they can, they will not just win, they will win comfortably.
@persie14: Is this the best Bayern side of all time?
Breitner: If the team can reproduce what they have already shown us then they are on track to achieving that. They are not there yet, though. They need to maintain it over the next two or three years. They do not have to win the Champions League final every year, but they need to do it again over the next few seasons. Then maybe we could talk about this being the best ever Bayern side.
@efraaiin14: What was your finest moment for Bayern?
Breitner: The finest moment was when 'Katsche' (Hans-Georg) Schwarzenbeck scored the equaliser in the 119th minute against Atlético Madrid in Bayern's first final in 1974. It earned us a replay two days later, which we won 4-0. It was the first time Bayern München won the European Cup and that goal in the dying minutes of extra-time was the most intense and most beautiful moment I ever experienced with Bayern.
@EbayP: What was the best game of your career?
Breitner: My best game ever was one where I missed a penalty against Brazil. It was 1981, with the German national team in Stuttgart. We had played 70 minutes and Brazil were leading 2-1, but it was the only game ever where I was on course to fulfil a dream of mine – to play a full 90 minutes without making a single mistake. In about the 70th minute the referee gave us a penalty and as the regular taker, I took the ball and for the first and last time in my life, I became arrogant.
I suddenly started to think: 'Man, I am great'. I thought I could have scored from 40 yards with my eyes closed. Everything was going my way and now I had the chance to crown this unique performance.
In my head I thought I would score and then be carried off on a sedan chair.
When I took penalties, I always used to wait until the goalkeeper moved and then I would just roll it the other way. To do that you have to be completely focused, but I did not think I needed to focus. So I stepped up to take the kick and the goalkeeper waited – and went the right way! What does the referee do? He thought the keeper moved to early, so I got another chance. But I did exactly the same again – and we lost 2-1!
However, I soon realised it was a good thing because if I had gone through the game without making a single error, I would have had to retire there and then. I would have achieved my ultimate goal – to play the perfect game.
@McdonoughKeely: What was the best goal you ever scored?
Breitner: I could say the penalty in the World Cup final, but it is not that, because before the final I had already scored two goals at the tournament, and without those two goals we would never have reached the final, so you have to ask yourself which was the most important. There is another, when I won my third cap for Germany against Hungary.
I was 20 years old and we had a very young side, including Gerd Müller, Günter Netzer, Franz Beckenbauer and a debutant Uli Hoeness. This relatively new team won 2-0 in Budapest. I scored the first and Uli Hoeness the second. It was a decisive goal in my career because without those goals, we never would have become the team we later became.
@WillWatson2: Which stadium has the best atmosphere in your experience?
Breitner: Always in England. Liverpool in particular – Anfield. I still love going to Liverpool when I get the chance because it is still fascinating for me how the fans seem to sing 'into' the game. When they start singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone' around 15 minutes before kick-off, it is like a choir. It is a wonderful show. Then they sing it again during the opening minutes of the match – for me, as a player, it was the ultimate.
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