Franz Beckenbauer is Germany's greatest-ever football player and one of the game's biggest icons of all time, a World Cup winner as player and manager. The Three Lives of The Kaiser is the first English-language account of a truly remarkable existence.
Known everywhere as 'the Kaiser', Beckenbauer's compatriots even referred to him as 'the Shining Light'. Not anymore, though. Because what is often described as a blessed life has really been an emotional roller-coaster ride with stunning highs and bitter lows. He rose to fame at the 1966 World Cup in England, where after the final defeat the British press marvelled at the grace of a 'beaten but proud Prussian officer'.
However, there was nothing Prussian about the Bavarian boy who flouted authority, disregarded rules and viewed the traditional German work ethic with the disdain of someone to whom everything comes naturally. Beckenbauer grew into one of the game's first truly global stars and transcended sport. He was painted by Andy Warhol and discussed the merits of Wagner with Aga Khan's wife at the Bayreuth Festival. He gently warded off overtures from Rudolf Nureyev and danced with Mick Jagger at Studio 54 in New York.
Back home, though, people often wondered what to make of this most famous German athlete who was so un-German. It took his country three decades to learn to love Franz Beckenbauer – but shenanigans surrounding his greatest off-the-field triumph, bringing the 2006 World Cup to Germany, have made him a controversial figure all over again. Uli Hesse assesses his achievements and his legacy in this definitive insight into the life of a sporting icon.
Uli Hesse is the author of ten football books. Two of them were nominated as German Football Book of the Year, while the first of his four English-language publications – Tor!: The Story of German Football (2002) – was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, and Building the Yellow Wall: The Incredible Rise and Cult Appeal of Borussia Dortmund won Football Book of the Year in 2019. He works at 11Freunde magazine, Germany’s biggest football monthly, and lives in Berlin and Dortmund.