A member of the Bayern Munich board since 1991, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge steps down in the summer of 2021. - © Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
A member of the Bayern Munich board since 1991, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge steps down in the summer of 2021. - © Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: A Bayern Munich and Germany legend on and off the pitch


After previously serving as both a player with the club and as its vice-president, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has handed over the reins as Bayern Munich CEO to Oliver Kahn. bundesliga.com looks back on the remarkable influence the former West Germany captain has had across six decades…

When in 1974 Rummenigge moved from his home town of Lippstadt, an hour east of Dortmund, to Munich, some 350 miles south, he could hardly have envisaged how successful the decision would prove.

As a talented attacker for Bayern, he won the Bundesliga and the European Cup twice each. Since he became CEO in 2002, the club have won 14 Bundesliga titles, the DFB Cup 10 times, and the treble twice. Late in his reign they even lifted an incredible sextuple of trophies.

But that only tells part of the story.

A big jump to Bayern

Rummenigge's father was a toolmaker who was actively involved in local amateur club Borussia Lippstadt. That's where Rummenigge first caught the eye with his pace and a glut of goals at youth level, and from where he joined Bayern in July 1974.

While playing for Bayern Munich in 1980, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge won both the Bundesliga top-scorer award and the German Footballer of the Year prize. - imago sportfotodienst via www.imago-images.de/imago images/WEREK

The meagre sum Bayern handed over was well worth it - the record German champions would sell him to Inter Milan for over 600 times that fee 10 years later.

Initially, though, the former banking apprentice took time to impose himself. That was understandable, given that the team he had joined were both reigning German and European champions as well as featuring eight players from the starting XI that had won the FIFA World Cup that summer. Among them were Franz Beckenbauer and Uli Hoeneß, two men who Rummenigge would work closely with on and off the field for years to come.

In his first year Rummenigge scored five goals in 21 Bundesliga matches and got European Cup experience too, although he was an unused substitute for the final which Bayern won 2-0 against Leeds United. He started the following year's decider, however, netting 13 goals in all competitions and helping the Bavarians become European champions for a third year in a row thanks to a 1-0 success against Saint-Etienne in May 1976.

Watch: Rummenigge's top 5 Bundesliga goals

A star for club and country

Bayern's complete dominance came to an end as the likes of Beckenbauer, Hoeneß, goalkeeper Sepp Maier and record Bundesliga goalscorer Gerd Müller grew older, moved on or retired, but Rummenigge's star was on the rise. He finished as the league's leading goalscorer in 1979/80 (26 goals) and 1980/81 (29 goals), and his team were crowned German champions in both years.

The versatile forward was named European Football of the Year in 1980 and 1981 as a result, emulating fellow Bayern legend Beckenbauer who twice won the award in the 1970s. He also became a European champion at international level, playing as West Germany beat Belgium 2-1 in the final of UEFA Euro 1980.

His younger brother Michael followed him to Bayern in 1981, and Rummenigge continued to impress. Aged 26 when he captained West Germany at the FIFA 1982 World Cup, he got five goals in the tournament - including a hat-trick against Chile - as they finished as runners-up to Italy.

Strong with both feet, a good dribbler and capable of playing as a wide attacker or through the middle, Rummenigge suggested in 2010 that he might well have been earning a similar wage to Cristiano Ronaldo had he been playing now.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was in the West Germany team that didn't take their eye off the ball in the 1980 European Championship final against Belgium in Rome. - Pressefoto Rudel/Herbert Rudel via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Sportfoto Rudel

"In my best days I was European Footballer of the Year, the top scorer in the league, and captain of my national team - so I would have been one of the top five players in the world," he told Wirtschaftswoche when asked how much he would be worth in modern times.

Out on a high

After finishing with a second DFB Cup trophy and as the Bundesliga's leading goalscorer for the third time in his career - getting 26 goals in 1983/84 - Rummenigge decided it was time for a new experience. More goals followed with Inter in Serie A, and with West Germany. With Beckenbauer as head coach and Rummenigge as captain, they narrowly lost out to Argentina in the 1986 World Cup final.

Rummenigge came into the tournament carrying an injury, and after the 3-2 defeat against Argentina - who were inspired by the late, great Diego Maradona - he retired from international football. He skippered his country in 51 of his 95 games, and got his 45th and last international goal in his final match.

Injuries severely restricted Rummenigge later in his playing career, which he finished - approaching his 34th birthday - with Servette in Geneva. True to form, the veteran bowed out top of the Swiss scoring charts in the 1988/89 campaign.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge captained West Germany against Diego Maradona's Argentina in the 1986 FIFA World Cup final in Mexico. - Laci Perenyi, via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Laci Perenyi

It wouldn't be long, though, until Rummenigge returned to the club for whom he scored 217 goals in 422 games across all competitions.

Answering Bayern's SOS

With Bayern having an unusually difficult campaign, Hoeneß - who had become the club's general manager at the age of 27 - turned to two of his former teammates for help. Rummenigge and Beckenbauer - bringing an experience of how things were done in other countries - were elected as vice-presidents of Bayern in November 1991.

Bayern finished 10th in that 1991-92 season, missing out on the riches that TV broadcasting was starting to bring to teams that qualified for European competition. Both transfer dealings and form proved hit and miss over the next few years, with Beckenbauer required to return to the bench and coach the team to 1993/94 Bundesliga and 1995/96 UEFA Cup success.

The Bavarians were German champions just twice between 1990 and 1997, however, and it wasn't until they appointed Ottmar Hitzfeld - who led Borussia Dortmund to UEFA Champions League glory in 1997 - that they began to dominate again. They won three Bundesliga titles in a row between 1998 and 2001, and lifted the Champions League trophy for a fourth time in 2001.

It had taken time for Bayern to adapt to the way modern football clubs were going but Rummenigge said he, Beckenbauer and Hoeneß had worked "like mad" to make it happen and "lived football day and night."

After first starring for Bayern Munich as players, Uli Hoeneß (l.), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (c.) and Franz Beckenbauer (r.) also played key roles off the pitch to maintain the club's success. - /

This included trips to Manchester to learn about sponsorship, and to Amsterdam where they studied the renowned Ajax academy.

"We travelled the world to make FC Bayern a leading European club," Rummenigge told the Bayern website in 2019. "And to this day, during a match Uli and I discuss football from the first to the 90th minute."

A world-class CEO at a world-class club

It would have been fascinating to listen in on their conversations during the 2001 Champions League final, when Bayern - with successor as CEO Kahn in goal - beat Valencia on penalties in Milan. Discussions afterwards no doubt centred on how to keep Bayern at the top of the tree in Germany, and perhaps even on Rummenigge's future.

He took over as CEO in February 2002 when the men's team was split off into a subsidiary company, helping to oversee Bayern's move from the Olympiastadion to the state-of-the-art Allianz Arena. Their new home, which can hold 75,000 fans for Bundesliga matches, was built at a cost of €340 million and opened in 2005.

Bayern would see VfB Stuttgart and Wolfsburg beat them to the title before the end of the decade, before they lost out twice to a thrilling Dortmund side led by Jürgen Klopp between 2010 and 2012.

After becoming CEO in 2002, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge helped oversee the development of Bayern Munich's state-of-the-art Allianz Arena. - imago sportfotodienst/imago/HJS

But they soon came roaring back. The record German champions were runners-up in the Champions League in both 2009/10 and 2011/12, before winning the treble in 2012/13.

"For a few years now, we've experienced possibly the best-ever era in FC Bayern's 115-year history," Rummenigge told the club's Annual General Meeting in November 2015.

The days of FC Hollywood were over, he said, and that was a good thing.

"We make headlines out on the pitch now," Rummenigge declared.

The team have continued to do so, enjoying great success under the likes of Jupp Heynckes and Pep Guardiola. With Hansi Flick as head coach they won the treble again in 2019/20, before going even further by claiming a staggering six major trophies in succession.

His best signings

Another league title followed in 2020/21 as well, meaning that in 20 years with Rummenigge as CEO, Bayern won the Champions League and FIFA Club World Cup twice, as well as the Bundesliga and DFB Cup a whopping 24 times combined.

With the third-highest goalscorer in Bayern's history heavily involved, the club made some incredible signings during that time. Two, in particular, stood out for the outgoing board member.

Speaking shortly before Bayern secured the league title for a record-extending ninth consecutive time in 2021, Rummenigge said that appointing "seminal coach" Louis van Gaal in 2009 was an important moment. He said the two best decisions he made in terms of player recruitment, however, were to bring in Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and world player of the year Robert Lewandowski.

Neuer, a 2014 FIFA World Cup winner, arrived from Schalke in 2011, while Polish star Lewandowski joined from Dortmund on a free transfer three years later.

"We got the world's best goalkeeper and the world's best centre-forward - that has been the foundation of our success in the last six, seven years," Rummenigge told The Athletic.

Robert Lewandowski (l.) and Manuel Neuer (r.) have had plenty to celebrate since Karl-Heinz Rummenigge brought them both to Bayern Munich by 2014. - getty images

Future Bayern success has been all-but-guaranteed on Rummenigge's watch as well. The FC Bayern Campus, where the six-time European champions oversee the progress of their academy players, was opened in August 2017. The striking facility, which features living quarters and several pitches with undersoil heating, spans over 30 hectares and cost €70 million.

Big boots to fill

Rummenigge, though, can observe that progress from afar, having decided to make way for Kahn six months early in July 2021.

"Bayern Munich will next year lose a man that has guided their fortunes and is recognised in world football as an expert," then-Bayern coach Flick said in December 2020. "He'll certainly leave a void behind him."

Hansi Flick, the final coach of the Rummenigge era at Bayern, led the club to victory over Paris Saint-Germain in the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League final. - Frank Hoermann/ SVEN SIMON/SVEN SIMON/ Frank Hoermann/ Pool

"Together with Uli Hoeneß, he turned Bayern into one of the best addresses in international football, both in a sporting and economical sense," Bayern president Herbert Hainer said of Rummenigge in June 2021.

Bayern will miss Rummenigge but - into his mid 60s - he deserves to step off the gas. He will still be a prominent figure serving German football, however, since he remains a member of the UEFA Executive Committee until 2024.

Mark Rodden