German great Lothar Matthaus responded in interesting fashion when he was asked to name the greatest footballer of all time. The former Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder is one of the most respected footballers of his generation and is a former Ballon d'Or winner, having picked up the prized accolade in 1990 after spearheading his country to World Cup glory.
In a Bundesliga round table ahead of the hugely-anticipated clash between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich at Signal Iduna Park, Matthaus addressed Sportskeeda, along with a handful of other publications, and spoke candidly on a wide range of topics.
"It's a difficult question because football has changed a lot over the years. How can we compare someone like Pele, who was playing 40-50 years ago, to the ones who play today? Maybe Messi, in the last 10-15 years, has been the best. In my time, Diego Maradona was the best. There were others like Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Gary Lineker, maybe even myself!"
"Before my time, Pele was the best. We've had so many great players over the years, Ronaldo played very well and now there's Robert Lewandowski. There were others like Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Eusebio - so many great players!"
"I've named a lot of players and each of them have made football interesting over the years. When we speak purely based on numbers, Pele won the World Cup three times! Messi has never won the World Cup, while Maradona has won it once. This means, when you take numbers into your mind and say just one name - I have to say Pele!"
"Bundesliga is not just about Bayern Munich" - Matthaus talks up competitive nature of German top-flight ahead of Der Klassiker
Lothar Matthaus dismissed claims that Bayern Munich's dominance in recent years has affected the nature of competition in the Bundesliga by citing an example involving Juventus and Serie A.
"I wish another team could win the Bundesliga title but it's not just about Bayern Munich. We had a similar situation in Italy when Juventus were winning Serie A. The Bundesliga has competition everywhere, maybe not always for first place but for the UEFA Champions League and Europa League spots."
"Sometimes relegation and European qualification come down to matchday 34, so the Bundesliga is very interesting. Saturday [Der Klassiker] is Bayern Munich in first place versus Borussia Dortmund in second place and if the home side wins, they could go two points clear at the top of the table!"
Bayern Munich's trip to Signal Iduna Park to take on an exciting Borussia Dortmund side is undoubtedly one of the standout fixtures of the 2021-22 Bundesliga campaign so far, with the stakes at the top of the table making the clash all the more intriguing.
The game also pits two world-class attackers in Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland against one another, with the former being named Striker of the Year at the Ballon d'Or gala earlier this week. However, Bayern Munich could be without Leon Goretzka in midfield, while Joshua Kimmich is also unavailable after testing positive for COVID-19.
When asked about Bayern Munich being a bit short in midfield, Matthaus indicated that the away side's loss could be Dortmund's gain.
"I have to say it could turn out to be a big plus for Dortmund. Kimmich and Goretzka are the 'best double #6' in the world - the balance between both of them is very good. Kimmich keeps his position, plays good chipped balls into the offence and has scored some important goals against Dortmund in the last two years."
"Goretzka is a box-to-box player with a lot of power and is a good scorer. If both can't play, then it's a big plus for Dortmund. When it's a game like this, you like to see the best players. We have another 48 hours to go, so I hope the medical staff from Bayern Munich can give their best to get Goretzka fit."
Finally, Matthaus was quizzed by Sportskeeda on the current crop of German coaches taking European football by storm, with Thomas Tuchel, Jurgen Klopp, Julian Nagelsmann and Hansi Flick at the peak of their powers currently, among others. The 60-year-old explained that while the likes of Klopp and Tuchel are currently thriving in the Premier League, their respective coaching journeys began in the Bundesliga many years ago.
"The coaches who are currently in the Premier League have a lot of experience because they worked really hard in the Bundesliga before. They built a base for clubs like Hoffenheim, RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund and gained a lot of experience in doing so."
"Only Julian Nagelsmann is a young coach, but he started his coaching career when he was 27. He made his players and his team better in each of the clubs he worked for and in the end, he coached Leipzig to a UEFA Champions League semi-final and finished second in the league before joining Bayern Munich."
"I wish he would sign one more time after his contract with Bayern Munich expires, but all these managers are coaching teams, who are for me, the best teams in world football along with Manchester City."
Watch the LIVE coverage of Der Klassiker – Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Dortmund on SONY TEN 2 channels from 11:00 pm (IST) on December 4, 2021