"Like winning the lottery": When Matthäus cheated his way to FC Bayern

The fans have already described him as the "biggest mistake" and Uli Hoeneß mocked him as a "press spokesman".

"Like winning the lottery": When Matthäus cheated his way to FC Bayern

The fans have already described him as the "biggest mistake" and Uli Hoeneß mocked him as a "press spokesman". But then Lothar Matthäus scored a dream goal and all his efforts were rewarded. Because the return of the world champion to FC Bayern in 1992 was not entirely correct!

Uli Hoeneß was angry. In the late summer of thirty years ago, the media were still celebrating Bayern's spectacular return of the world champion - but now there was no longer any trace of all the beautiful euphoria. When Matthäus wasn't playing yet, things were going well for the record champions. Although goalkeeper Raimond Aumann indirectly sensed that there could soon be a problem. But at that point, everyone was still laughing at his subtle saying: "Lothar does the PR work, we get the points."

Because after Matthäus made his debut in the home game against SG Wattenscheid 09 on September 19, the carefree, beautiful atmosphere was over. The game against Bochum 6 ended 1:1 - and only weeks later the fans at the annual general meeting were already talking about the "biggest bad buy" in the club's history. And Hoeness? He also had his doubts about Matthäus: "His performance is only first-rate when he speaks. Sometimes I think he's FC Bayern's spokesman."

Almost everyone admitted afterwards that all the criticism in those autumn days of 1992 wasn't entirely fair. After all, Matthäus suffered a cruciate ligament rupture just five months before his comeback against Wattenscheid. And only this injury alone had put the world champion in a position to consider a return to Bayern. But since his then club Inter Milan had not exactly behaved in an exemplary manner in these difficult times ("They never took care of me"), Matthäus took the initiative and called his former coach in the national team, Franz Beckenbauer - and himself brought up for discussion. Beckenbauer reacted enthusiastically to Matthäus' thoughts of returning: "Lothar, that would be like winning the lottery!"

And when Uli Hoeneß found out from Matthäus that he was available for a fee of five million marks, the "big bluff" began, as a magazine called it at the time. Because the Bavarians were through their club doctor Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt was well informed about how far Matthew's healing process had progressed. While his current club Inter Milan still assumed that the world champion would be out for weeks and months, Bayern knew that Matthäus was secretly preparing for his return at a small village club not far from where he lived: "I signed up for Bayern Munich hidden, didn't want to show how far I've come."

And Hoeneß also played along. When Matthäus was supposed to train at Müller-Wohlfahrt for a check on the club's premises on Säbener Straße, the Bayern manager forbade the world champion. Together they tricked the Italians. Matthäus: "I don't want to say that I fooled them, but I'm a little happy that they're annoyed when they see me running."

But first of all, the supporters of FC Bayern were annoyed about the transfer. But then came November 21, 1992. A legendary day in the history of the Bundesliga and a date that football fans have collectively saved. Two months after his first game for Munich at home against SG Wattenscheid 09, FC Bayern took on Bayer Leverkusen in the Ulrich Haberland Stadium.

It was just before 5 p.m. when 26,900 spectators caught their breath. They watched intently as Mehmet Scholl adjusted the ball at the corner flag when the score was 1:1 - and then crossed the ball in a wide arc in front of the sixteen. Lothar Matthäus remembers: "I see the ball coming. I see that the ball comes well. And I hit it. Just towards the goal. Because nobody can aim so precisely that it flies into the left triangle." As sober as the words of the German record national player sound, the goal on this typical November afternoon in Leverkusen was just as spectacular and unforgettable.

And it was the "sticking point", according to Lothar Matthäus weeks later in an interview, for a change for the better. Because from that moment on, the 1990 World Champion was finally able to mentally shake off his serious injury. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said at the time: "Lothar reacted like a wounded bear. He bit his way through. Respect!" And Bayern's second vice-president, Franz Beckenbauer, was all the more enthusiastic about the initially controversial newcomer: "Even if the team is 14-0 up, Lothar can still strengthen it."

(This article was first published on Tuesday, September 20, 2022.)

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