Paul Breitner won five Bundesliga titles and a European Cup with Bayern. - © DFL
Paul Breitner won five Bundesliga titles and a European Cup with Bayern. - © DFL
60 years of Bundesliga

Paul Breitner: an on- and off-field Bundesliga revolutionary


With his trademark beard and swashbuckling style, long-time Bayern Munich midfielder Paul Breitner was one of the world's best in the late 1970s and early '80s, having been an early attacking full-back before that.


As the Bundesliga turns 60, looks back at some of the league's greatest protagonists, and few can hold a light to Paul Breitner.

He won five Bundesliga titles across two spells with Bayern between 1972 and 1981, helped them to European Cup glory in 1974, and was a FIFA World Cup winner with West Germany that same summer - which included a goal in the 2-1 win over the Netherlands in the final in Munich.

"I wasn't supposed to take the spot-kick but I was nearest to the ball," Breitner later admitted about his 25th-minute penalty, despatched expertly beyond Jan Jongbloed. He ended up scoring 31 of his 93 Bundesliga goals from the spot.

Watch: Paul Breitner - more than a style icon

Golden generation

Breitner was born in Kolbermoor, a small town an hour's drive south of Munich that Bastian Schweinsteiger would later call home, in 1951, and he was still with local side ESV Freilassing when he first turned out for West Germany youth, where he met future club and international teammate Uli Hoeneß.

Udo Lattek had been their coach at the time, and when he took the Bayern job in 1969, his star pupils soon followed. For club and country, they then had Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Sepp Maier for company for much of the next decade - making the aforementioned trophy haul perhaps unsurprising. 

Breitner makes this series as a midfielder, from where he dominated later in his career, but he broke through as a left-back playing alongside Beckenbauer rather than ahead of him.

Hoeneß, Breitner and Beckenbauer (l-r.) won it all with Bayern and Germany. - imago/Horstmüller

Breaking the mould

Breitner wouldn't be contained off the field either. He was part of the 68ers - the counter-culture protest movement of the time protesting against state militaries - but he relaxed his leftist tendencies to sign for Real Madrid, the club associated with General Franco, in 1974.

Three seasons and two La Liga titles later and Breitner, by this time a midfielder who partnered compatriot Günter Netzer at the Santiago Bernabeu, returned to the Bundesliga with Eintracht Braunschweig. After one short season there, he returned to Bayern in 1978.

"At Real I came to recognise how important it is to be seen and respected as a human being," he later recalled of his stay in Spain.

Bossing it back in the Bundesliga

Breitner captained Bayern to the Bundesliga title in 1980 - their first triumph since he had left six years earlier - earning the German Footballer of the Year award in the process.

Breitner had boycotted the 1978 World Cup in Argentina - a military junta was in power in the country at the time - but he was back in the international set-up in 1981, and a year later became the second player after Pele to score in two World Cup finals, although Germany lost 3-1 to Italy.

His career finally came to an end in 1983 after a challenge from Hamburg's Wolfgang Rolff, but not before his testimonial for Bayern against a World XI which the Bavarians won 3-2.

Related news