?Karl-HeinzRummenigge is number 33 in 90min’s Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time series.
Karl-Heinz Rummenigge already had quite the career under his belt by the time Bayern Munich finally started to challenge for the Bundesliga title again, following their longest run without the Meisterschalle since the competition’s inception.
He moved to Bavaria in 1974 just after Bayern lifted the league title. The Reds finished just one point ahead of Borussia Mönchengladbach, inspired by Germany’s best striker of all time, Gerd Müller.
In his first few years at the club, Rummenigge was still playing second fiddle to Müller. Der Bomber spent 13 consecutive seasons as Bayern’s top goalscorer, but eventually, the mantle had to be passed on and that came in 1978.
Rummenigge only scored 14 goals that season – the lowest tally for Bayern’s top goalscorer since before the introduction of the Bundesliga – but his place as the club’s top marksman was cemented in place.
In 1979, he was already one of the best players in the world. But after missing out only to Hamburg’s Kevin Keegan in the rankings for the Ballon d’Or that year, Rummenigge went on to reach incredible heights over the next five seasons.
Rummenigge’s figures at Bayern were special. From the start to the 1979/80 season until his move to Inter, he was directly involved in 199 goals in 224 appearances.
Together with Dieter Hoeness – the brother of former club president Uli, who retired as a player at Bayern in 1979 – Rummenigge inspired the club to their first league title since his arrival, going on to win another before leaving for Italy too.
Bayern also ended an 11-year wait for the DFB-Pokal during that time, and Rummenigge became just the third player of his time to ever win back-to-back Ballon d’Or trophies, following in the footsteps of Keegan and Johan Cruyff.
To this day, Rummenigge remains the most recent Bayern player who won the Ballon d’Or during their time at the club.
Rummenigge really stood out on the international stage too, even going on to form one of the most recognisable partnerships in German football history as a midfielder.
Rummenigge wasn’t a midfielder by trade, and Paul Breitner – number 44 in 90min’s Greatest Footballers of all Time series – certainly wasn’t either.
Their partnership was aptly nicknamed Breitnigge and it dominated the early 1980s for Bayern, but Rummenigge was on his own in West Germany’s midfield when it came to the European Championships at the start of that decade – owing to Breitner’s international retirement in 1975, which he would reverse two years later to play in the World Cup.
It largely was a tournament to forget for most fans across the world due to fan troubles in Italy. But for West Germany’s new generation of young players, it was a competition that they would never forget.
Rummenigge and co eventually got their hands on the trophy after beating an impressive Belgium side in the final, lifting the same trophy that just eight years earlier saw West Germany’s golden generation do the same.
It was the first taste of international success for Rummenigge, and despite reaching back-to-back World Cup finals in the years to come, it would also be the last.
In 1982, Paolo Rossi’s Italy proved to be a hurdle too many for Jupp Derwall’s side.
Rossi scored the opening goal of that final, but it was second-half strikes from Marco Tardelli and Alessandro Altobelli which put the game out of sight. Breitner did score late on for West Germany, but the damage had already been done.
The World Cup in Spain was tough to take. But West Germany would lose in even more devastating circumstances four years later in Mexico.
With Franz Beckenbauer taking over managerial duties, it looked like déjà vu when Argentina’s José Luis Brown and Jorge Valdano scored either side of half time. For fans who could remember the final against Italy, it seemed only a matter of time before West Germany conceded a third.
But that wasn’t the case. In fact, Rummenigge started the comeback and just eight minutes later, substitute Rudi Völler completed it. From 2-0 down against Diego Maradona’s Argentina, they were level at the Estadio Azteca.
But their joy was short-lived. Jorge Burruchaga put Argentina back into the lead with a few minutes left on the clock and West Germany left empty-handed in a World Cup final again.
For Rummenigge, it was a cruel end to an otherwise immortal career.
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