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"I always kept ploughing on regardless."

This quote neatly encapsulates the exact characteristic that has always made Thomas Berthold such a unique figure. The former world-class German defender has never protected himself nor spared others both during and after his playing career. He was and remains a plain-speaking man.

This trait fits perfectly with the playing style that earned him the most important title in world football as he helped Germany to FIFA World Cup? glory in 1990. “I either do something properly or not at all; with me there are no compromises,” Berthold explains in an interview with FIFA.

“I always wanted to win. You could even see that in training. I was one of those guys who pushed themselves to the limit.” He came from a family of sporting enthusiasts: his father Gunter was a ski jumper, swimmer and - naturally – a footballer, his mother Inge was a handball player and gymnast, and his sister Christine was a German field hockey champion.

Wrong place at the wrong time
Berthold’s pursuit of silverware began at a very early age, when he became a German champion with Eintracht Frankfurt at the age of 15. At 18, he made his Bundesliga debut for the Hessian side under legendary coach Branko Zebec, who praised his young charge as an “exceptionally gifted footballer”.

He stuck resolutely to this path in the years that followed. Initially deployed as a midfielder, he became a decent attack-minded right-back in his final year with Frankfurt. In 1987, the 22-year-old became the youngest German international to seek a fresh challenge in Italy; neither Rummenigge, Voller, Briegel nor Haller had dared to make such a bold move at that age. When he arrived in Verona for contractual negotiations, he got off to a great start by impressing club officials with his command of the language.


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