x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

He was a player of nonpareil

With seven days to go until kick off, we pick our all-time XI.

Trying to attach a positional label to Franz Beckenbauer to mould this fantasy XI of all-time all-stars into a traditional 4-4-2 formation goes against the grain, such were the ground-breaking talents of this extraordinary German. "Der Kaiser", as Beckenbauer became known, was the original "libero", an exciting free agent whose defensive sweeping role many sought to emulate but none surpassed. The dangerous deployment of this goal-scoring anchor man on a roving commission revolutionised coaching methods worldwide.

Even as an emerging international player helping West Germany reach the 1966 World Cup final in which they were beaten by England, his sharp football brain was the envy of those who played with him and cursed by those who came up against him. By the time he fulfilled his schoolboy dream of captaining his country to glory on home soil eight years later, Beckenbauer, who went on to coach West Germany to their third and last triumph at Italia '90, was the finished article.

Beckenbauer, who won 103 international caps for his country, spent the majority of his club career at Bayern Munich, leading them to three European Cups and earning himself European Player of the Year honours on two occasions. @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae Tomorrow: an interview with Beckenbauer