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German football legend Franz Beckenbauer dies aged 78

By David Close and George Ramsay, CNN

(CNN) — Soccer icon Franz Beckenbauer, widely considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game, has died aged 78, according to the German football federation (DFB).

The DFB called Beckenbauer “one of the best players this sport has seen and a natural leader” and said that he passed away on Sunday in Munich. No cause of death has been revealed.

Beckenbauer led West Germany to two World Cup triumphs, first as a player in 1974, then as a head coach in 1990.

As a player, he starred with German Bundesliga side Bayern Munich from 1965 to 1977, winning five league titles and three European Cups over the course of his 582 appearances.

“The Bundesliga family is devastated to learn of the death of Franz Beckenbauer. A true icon, then, now, and always. RIP, Der Kaiser,” the Bundesliga wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Monday,

Known by his nickname “Der Kaiser” (“The Emperor”), Beckenbauer left an indelible mark on the game as a commanding, attacking defender who transformed the role of the sweeper.

He played in 103 international matches for Germany, serving as team captain on 50 occasions, according to the federation.

Beckenbauer also successfully headed his country’s bid to stage the 2006 World Cup.

“‘Der Kaiser’ was an extraordinary player, successful coach and popular pundit who shaped German football like no other,” European soccer governing body UEFA wrote on X, while the Premier League said that he was “as elegant as he was dominant.”

Beckenbauer won the Ballon d’Or, awarded to the best player in the men’s game, in 1972 and 1976, becoming the only defender ever to win the award twice.

He is also one of only three men to win the World Cup as both a player and a manager.

In a statement, Bayern said that the world is “suddenly darker, quieter, poorer” following Beckenbauer’s death, adding that, without him, “FC Bayern would never have become the club that it is today.”

The club’s president, Herbert Hainer, said: “There are no words to express how great our grief is, and the gap that Franz Beckenbauer leaves behind. As a player, he brought a sense of effortlessness, elegance and magic to the pitch. Franz Beckenbauer brought the glamour.”

After his time at Bayern Munich, Beckenbauer had two stints in the United States with the New York Cosmos, winning the “Soccer Bowl” on three occasions and briefly playing alongside Brazilian great Pelé.

He also won a final Bundesliga title of his career with Hamburger SV in 1982.

“Very sorry to hear that Franz Beckenbauer has died,” former England international Gary Lineker wrote on X. “One of the absolute greats of our game. Der Kaiser was the most beautiful of footballers who won it all with grace and charm.”

This story has been updated with additional information.

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