West Germany's pre-eminence on the European stage came to be taken for granted but, going into EURO 1972, they had made scant impression in the UEFA European Championship. In Belgium, a team built on Bayern München foundations were just too good, Gerd Müller scoring twice in both the semi-final and the final. The day after beating the Soviet Union in the decider, the players showed off the trophy to fans in Brussels.
1 Uli Hoeness
Hoeness was forced into retirement aged 27 yet if his playing career was short, it was certainly sweet. Between 1971 and 1976 he crammed in three Bundesliga titles and three European Cups with Bayern, also helping West Germany to glory in the 1972 EURO and the 1974 FIFA World Cup. There might even have been a second EURO in '76 had the forward not fired his penalty over the bar in the final shoot-out. Hoeness became Bayern's general manager but, in 2014, was jailed for tax evasion.
2 Gerd Müller
Marksman supreme Müller scored 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga games for Bayern, 66 in 74 European club matches and, astonishingly, 68 in 62 internationals. Eleven came across the 1972 EURO campaign, including two in the final against the USSR. Both were classic opportunist efforts, or "kleine tore" as coach Helmut Schön labelled Müller's predatory strikes. He received the 1970 Ballon d'Or after plundering ten goals at the World Cup, and added four more at the 1974 tournament, including the clincher in the final against the Netherlands. It was Der Bomber's last goal for his country. Aged 28, he announced his retirement from international football "for personal reasons".
3 Jupp Heynckes
A prolific goalscorer for Borussia Mönchengladbach, with whom he collected four German titles and the 1975 UEFA Cup, Heynckes was unlucky to be around at the same time as Müller. However in 1972, unlike at the World Cups before and after, Schön decided to pair the deadly duo. Heynckes notched 14 goals in 39 appearances for West Germany, 220 in 365 Bundesliga matches and 51 in 64 European club games. He became a coach, guiding Real Madrid and Bayern to UEFA Champions League glory before retiring in 2013.
4 Herbert Wimmer
Often branded Günter Netzer's midfield minder, Wimmer protected his playmaking club-mate by doing much of his running and ball-winning. He spent his entire career with Mönchengladbach, lifting five championships as well as the 1975 UEFA Cup. At the 1972 EURO he, for once, stole some of Netzer's thunder by registering West Germany's second goal in the final. He was used only sparingly at the 1974 World Cup, though. He retired in 1978 and ended up running a lottery stall before selling up in 2000.
5 Paul Breitner
Never afraid to make his opinions known off the field, Breitner let his football do the talking on it. The 1972 EURO brought him, his beard and his frizzy hair into the public eye and the attack-minded left-back was still a regular when Schön's side won the World Cup two years later. He quit Bayern for Real Madrid in 1974 but returned in 1978 and, now a midfielder, earned his 48th and last cap in the 1982 World Cup final against Italy. As in the 1974 decider he scored; this time it was just a consolation.
6 Franz Beckenbauer
One of the all-time greats. Der Kaiser captained West Germany to their first EURO, commanding matters from his new role of sweeper, and two years later they added the World Cup on home soil. Beckenbauer is forever associated with Bayern, where he landed a hat-trick of European Cups – yet he so nearly joined 1860 München until he was slapped in the face during a friendly against them. Since retiring he has also had success as a coach (guiding West Germany to the 1990 World Cup) and administrator (leading the bid to host the 2006 World Cup).
7 Helmut Schön
Perhaps Germany's finest coach, Schön managed West Germany from 1964 to 1978, overseeing four World Cup campaigns. A shrewd tactician and man-manager, he remains one of only two coaches alongside Vicente del Bosque to steer teams to victory in both the UEFA European Championship and the World Cup. Not bad for a man who had defied his art-dealer father to play football to an international standard, then fled East Germany in 1950 to further his coaching ambitions. He died in 1996.
8 Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck
The tough, physical counterpoint to the elegant Beckenbauer in the Bayern and West Germany defence during the 1970s, Schwarzenbeck amassed 44 caps between 1971 and 1978. Famously described as "half-man, half-beast" by one Dutch journalist, Schwarzenbeck was ever-present at the 1972 EURO and 1974 World Cup. His rugged physique and low profile made him a cult figure among Bayern and Germany fans. After hanging up his boots he ran a tiny stationery shop in Munich until retirement in 2009.
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