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Breitner looks back and forward

Paul Breitner, a European and world champion with West Germany in the 1970s, looked back on his career and forward to Germany-Italy as he answered users' tweets.

Paul Breitner knows what it is like to win the UEFA European Championship
Paul Breitner knows what it is like to win the UEFA European Championship ©Sportsfile

The 1972 UEFA European Championship was the competition that first brought Paul Breitner, his beard and frizzy hair, into the public eye. He went on to score in two FIFA World Cup finals, beating the Netherlands in 1974 and losing to Italy in 1982, so there was slighly less pressure on as the former FC Bayern München and Real Madrid CF player sat down to answer UEFA.com users' Twitter questions in our latest #Ask session.

@FCBFI_Malang: What is your prediction for the Germany v Italy semi-final?

Paul Breitner: Let's see. It's very difficult to predict. As a Germany fan I'm not going to tell you we are going to lose. An Italy fan would say the same – no one would back the opposition. I've always answered questions about guessing the result of a game in the same way, which is that I don't care as long as we win.

@val3riob: Is Andrea Pirlo a candidate to be voted the best player at UEFA EURO 2012?

Breitner: If Italy win the tournament then definitely, because you need to take one thing into consideration: that the superstar of a World Cup or EURO can only be a player who plays in the final and wins. A player who is eliminated in the quarter-finals or semi-finals will not become a superstar or win the Ballon d'Or, no matter what his name is. If the Netherlands had beaten us in the final in 1974 then the superstar would have been Johan Cruyff. 

@seifeldinelalfy: Do you have a favourite game you played in?

Breitner: Yes. It was the return leg of the quarter-final in the 1975/76 European Cup against the English champions at the time, Derby County. We lost the first leg 4-1 in Derby, but in the return we won 5-1 after extra time. For me, it was the match during which we had the environment, the atmosphere and all the right ingredients for a football game.

This is my best memory. It has nothing to do with the best victory I experienced, however, which was the 1974 World Cup final, that's obvious. But at the time, before the renovation of the Santiago Bernabéu, there were 160,000-170,000 spectators and it was simply gigantic.

@to8ay: Is there a specific goal from your career that you remember particularly well?

Breitner: There's a goal, the most important in my career, and I cannot remember it at all. It was the penalty in the 1974 World Cup final. I am missing two minutes of that final. There's a cut in the movie for me. The scene stops when the referee whistles for the penalty, and the movie resumes again two minutes later when the referee restarts the game. I have no memories about it, but, on the other hand, it's the most important penalty in my life and without it we probably wouldn't be speaking to one another today.

@EyeBlinks: What position did you prefer to play? Left-back or in midfield?

Breitner: It's very easy. I was, until February or March 1971, light years away from being able, knowing, or even wanting to play as a defender. All of a sudden I became a defender. Before a game in Hanover we had two or three players missing and our coach at the time, Udo Lattek, asked me if I could play as a full-back to help the team. Then, for the first time in my life, I played in defence and later I enjoyed my first international cap as a left-back.

In 1974, when I went to Real Madrid after the World Cup, I became a midfielder again, under Miljan Miljanić. From 1968 until 1970 he coached Yugoslavia's national youth team and I played a couple of games against them as a midfielder. During one of them I scored two or three goals and he knew me as an offensive midfielder – that's how he wanted me to play at Real Madrid. And then this transition period of Paul Breitner as a defender was over, thank God!

@chrisberry86: What was the best stadium in which you played?

Breitner: The Olympiastadion. It is the most beautiful stadium in the world. Today is an era of arenas, which are being built for the comfort of the fans. They are electrifying and fascinating in their appearance, but the most beautiful stadium, by miles, is the Olympiastadion in the wonderful Olympiapark. Every time I have the opportunity, which is a few times a year, to do something in that stadium, it is always a great pleasure.