Lothar Matthäus is number 27 in 90min's Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time series


It's fair to say that you'd expect someone nicknamed 'der panzer' - the tank - and 'der terminator'  - pretty self-explanatory - to be a half-decent footballer.


And in Lothar Matthäus' case, there's little doubting that he lived up to the aforementioned tags, as the German was one of the most dominant central midfielders to ever play the game.


Simply put, Matthäus was a gargantuan footballer. He was one of the very few in history who could be defined as the ‘complete player’, someone who could play the number six, eight and ten roles to a world class standard.

Generally, however, Matthäus was an efficient box-to-box machine; a dynamic midfielder who glided past opponents with frightening ease. And boy, could he strike a ball.


Following his rise as a talented teen at Borussia Monchengladbach - a club for whom he played for five years between 1979 and 1984 - Matthäus signed for Bavarian giants ​Bayern Munich in the summer of 1984, making an immediate impact.


The midfielder won his first career trophy in his debut season at the club, helping his side to the Bundesliga crown in 1984/85 with 16 goals in 33 league appearances. Matthäus would go on to make 33 goal contributions over the following two ​Bundesliga campaigns as Bayern won back-to-back-to-back Meisterschales.


By the time he switched Bavaria for Milan in 1988, Matthäus had already established himself as an inspirational leader, a captain fronting others into battle. In 1987 he'd skippered Bayern to the European Cup final - only to lose 2-1 late on to Porto - and the summer before his ​Inter move, he led West Germany at Euro '88 - already Matthäus' fourth major tournament for Die Mannschaft after being part of the Euro-winning squad in 1980.


Matthäus' move to the Nerazzurri came during the golden age of Italian football, when Serie A was home to the crème de la crème of players, coaches and teams in Europe. The challenge of Italy's top flight, the ultimate proving ground, was too enticing for him to turn down.

Amid high expectations among the Nerazzurri faithful, Matthäus and West German teammate Andreas Brehme swiftly delivered under Giovanni Trapattoni at San Siro. The signing of der panzer had an obvious galvanising effect on the Inter squad, with Matthäus having the knack of raising the performance levels of those around him.


In a notoriously organised and tactically stringent league, the need for a maverick was paramount for any side with title ambitions. Juventus had Michel Platini, Milan had Ruud Gullit, Napoli had Diego Maradona, and Inter now had Matthäus. 


He transitioned into a more advanced, athletic and creative midfielder in his first season at the club, as he scored nine times in Serie A. It was Matthäus' genius that helped striker Aldo Serena to the Capocannoniere that season and ultimately led Inter to their first Scudetto in eight years by a hefty 11-point margin over Napoli.


Following an equally impressive individual 1989/90 campaign but one that ended in disappointment for the Nerazzurri, Italia '90 rolled around - a tournament that certainly had a homely feel to it for the Inter man.


Leading his country for the second time at a major tournament, Matthäus led from the front - scoring three times in the group stages as his side comfortably progressed to the knockout phases.


His spot-kick against Czechoslovakia was enough to see West Germany through the semi finals against Sir Bobby Robson's England and after an enthralling battle with Paul Gascoigne in the middle of the park, Matthäus' side eventually secured passage to the World Cup final following Chris Waddle's infamous penalty miss - Matthäus, of course, showing off his reliability from 12 yards in the shootout victory.

In the final against Argentina, der panzer was at his all-encompassing best. Manager Franz Beckenbauer - as he did in the final in 1986 - assigned Matthäus with the role of nullifying Maradona.


And like a captain's innings in cricket, Matthäus put in a true captain's performance on the biggest stage, with his intelligence and underrated defensive ability ultimately leading his side to glory, as he almost single-handedly stifled La Albicelestes by shutting out their talisman.


It was his Inter teammate Brehme, however, who would claim the glory, as the full back scored the winning goal from the spot just five minutes from time as West Germany ran out 1-0 victors.


"Lothar Matthäus was a fantastic footballer, a real complete footballer. He was definitely the best opponent I've had throughout my career, I just think this is enough to define him."


Diego Maradona


Continued individual brilliance at a domestic level ensued, as the now World Cup-winning skipper rounded off a sensational 1990/91 campaign, arguably the finest of his career, by guiding Inter to UEFA Cup glory over Roma - scoring from the spot in a 2-1 victory over two legs.


As a 29-year-old, Matthäus was defying those who thought his best years were behind him. His remarkable World Cup campaign helped him to the Ballon d'Or in 1990 while his impressive form for the Nerazzurri saw him take home the inaugural FIFA World Player of the Year prize the following year.


Trapattoni's departure in the summer of 1991, however, was ultimately the beginning of the end of the 'German Revolution' at Inter, with Matthäus opting for a return to Bayern in 1992.


Despite his physical attributes dwindling, his tactical nous allowed him to convert into an outstanding sweeper during his second stint in Bavaria - winning a further four Bundesliga titles before completing his international career at Euro 2000, retiring with a German record of 150 caps and being just one of four players to play at five World Cup finals.

Lothar Matthaus

The only stain on what was a 21-year career spent almost solely in the elite echelons of the game was the fact he never got his hands on a Champions League title - with United's stoppage-time comeback in 1999 crushing Matthäus' dream at the final hurdle for the second time. 


90min's 'Top 50 Greatest Footballers of All Time' can be found here


Number 50: Luka Modric

Number 49: John Charles

Number 48: Hugo Sanchez

Number 47: Jairzinho

Number 46: Omar Sivori

Number 45: Paolo Rossi

Number 44: Paul Breitner

Number 43: George Weah

Number 42: Kaka

Number 41: Lev Yashin

Number 40: Gunnar Nordahl

Number 39: Kevin Keegan

Number 38: Hristo Stoichkov

Number 37: Gianluigi Buffon

Number 36: Johan Neeskens

Number 35: Xavi Hernandez

Number 34: Luis Suarez

Number 33: Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

Number 32: Andres Iniesta

Number 31: Rivelino

Number 30: Bobby Moore

Number 29: Socrates

Number 28: Sandor Kocsis