Skill, a never-say-die attitude, passion and a bit of luck at an opportune time are pre-requisites for footballing success.
But popularity, well, that’s a completely different ball game, especially in Germany where any such list will always be highly subjective.
Playing at club level for Bayern Munich, for example, is a double-edged sword in the popularity stakes. Half of this list polarised the masses and could easily make their way onto any least popular list!
Despite that conflict and the subjectivity involved, we attempt to showcase Germany’s most popular players since 1990—a pivotal date in German football history as it remains the last occasion (West) Germany won the World Cup.
Charisma, courage, flair and perhaps a suspect haircut all help that star live long in the memory of a fascinated German public.
In order to compile a list of the ten most popular, I recently conducted a straw poll of my extended (German) family and friends (aged 16-86), asking them for their six favourite German World Cup stars since 1990 in reverse order.
With the 2014 tournament already well under way, the inclination would surely be to predominantly name those etched in recent memory, so it is interesting to note that every single player has been rewarded for outstanding performances on the world’s highest stage.
The final selection confirms that the Germans fondly remember the success stories and hold these winners in long-lasting affection.
We can conclude that Lothar Matthaus, the winning captain 24 long years ago, is all but forgiven some of his flaws and is arguably not only Germany’s greatest-ever player but also the most popular.
One thing is certain: Jurgen Klinsmann would struggle to maintain his popularity if his USA side had knocked Germany out of the 2014 World Cup.
Ultimately, three “Italia 90” heroes make the grade, along with record goalscorer Miroslav Klose, 2002 Player of the Tournament Oliver Kahn and today’s shooting star Thomas Mueller.
All stats are correct up to and including Germany’s draw with Ghana as per the football association website.
Click “Begin slideshow” to reveal the final results. Interaction is always welcome via the comments.