Lothar Matthaus: Without good teammates, you can't win Ballon d’Or

German football legend Lothar Matthaus feels that Croatian Luka Modric as the winner of the Ballon d’Or award, breaking the 10-year monopoly of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, was a good choice.

Lothar Matthaus celebrates with the winners of the Reliance Foundation Youth Sports football tournament winners in Kochi on Tuesday.   -  H. Vibhu

His first taste of India was through hockey when Munich hosted the Olympic Games in 1972. That was the first time German football legend Lothar Matthaus found India’s name frequently popping up. Incidentally, West Germany won the Olympic hockey title then, beating Pakistan by a lone goal in the final.

That hockey tournament, where India won the bronze, perhaps stays fresh in Matthaus’ mind for it ended in controversy with the Pakistan fans and officials invading the pitch and assaulting tournament officials and stadium security personnel after the final.

“India is a young football country. You have a different national sport here; you play hockey. Thirty-forty years ago, my first contact with India was because of hockey. I think it was the 1972 Olympics,” said Matthaus as he watched a bit of the Reliance Foundation Youth Series football tournament’s Kochi final at the Panampilly Nagar Sports Academy ground on Tuesday evening.

He said football was gaining in popularity in India, but one should be patient with the sport and give it time to develop.

Matthaus, the captain of the German team that won the 1990 World Cup, felt that Croatian Luka Modric as the winner of the Ballon d’Or award in Paris on Monday, breaking the 10-year monopoly of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, was a good choice.

“I think it was a good decision from the people who decide on it. Luka had a great season with Real Madrid. He played a great World Cup,” said Matthaus, a former FIFA Player of the Year.

“We have a lot of good players and it is nice that after 10 years there is no Messi or Ronaldo. They are still the best in the world, but Modric had great results with Real Madrid and Croatia.

“I had the honour to win this title 27 years ago, but I think without good teammates, without good results with the team, you cannot win a title like Modric has won. I think he played in good teams like Croatia and Real Madrid and the teams have had good results too. Congratulations from my side. He is not only a good player, he is a nice guy. I know him personally and am happy for him.”

He felt that an overdependence on old stars turned out to be a problem for the 2014 champion Germany at the FIFA World Cup earlier this year in Russia.

“I think Bayern Munich and Germany are missing something in the last six months.

“During the World Cup, the German coach (Joachim Low) believed that the players who won the World Cup four years earlier, and Bayern Munich believed that the players who won the last six titles in Germany, were good enough for the future. No!” said the 57-year-old who played in five World Cups.

“Sometimes you have to make the change, even when you have a good result. I think that was the problem for Germany in the World Cup.”