He was the sensational transfer in the Bundesliga 30 years ago. When Bernd Schuster returned from Spain to Bayer Leverkusen in Germany, the media and fans took a close look. Because not only his departure from the national team ten years earlier had made headlines.
“He has the intelligence of an East Frisian teabag.” Karl-Heinz Rummenigge’s words about his former team-mate in the German national team, Bernd Schuster, resonated for a long time. But now, when the “blonde angel” returned to the Bundesliga in the summer of 1993, the media naturally wanted to know what he would think of about this Karl-Heinz Rummenigge – and Schuster answered wisely and diplomatically: “One of the really great strikers, who had his best time in the Bundesliga.” The journalists immediately noticed that the man had matured significantly at the age of 33. But the stories from earlier times were far from forgotten in Germany.
It all started so promisingly when young German hopeful Bernd Schuster became European champion with the national team in Italy in 1980. But immediately after the tournament, the native of Augsburg switched from 1. FC Köln to FC Barcelona. The world of football was now wide open to the blond young star – but the press soon called him “arrogant and moody”. The media actually loved Bernd Schuster. Not least because of his dazzling wife Gaby at his side, who also acted as his manager.
However, not everyone was enthusiastic about the relationship – especially Schuster’s mother Gisela suffered from the relationship and at the beginning of the 1980s didn’t know what else to do but to write an open letter to her own son in the magazine “Bunte”: “Dear Berndi, what I know about you, I know from the newspapers. I don’t even have your phone number. Do you just want to be left alone? Has the hustle and bustle changed you so much? I trembled and feared for you, I cheered with you and cried for you. Kind regards and all the best, your mom.”
Schuster teases below the belt
Shortly before the 1982 World Cup in Spain, the two great experts of German football, Paul Breitner and Bernd Schuster, engaged in a power struggle through the media that had never existed before in this form. The 22-year-old Bernd Schuster attacked his Bayern Munich colleague from a safe distance in Spain with a polarizing sharpness that meant that he had to put his national team career on hold for a while.
While Paul Breitner acted old-fashioned and good-natured, Bernd Schuster teased below the belt: “Paule is a cunning dog. He’s not yet holding the team meetings in person. He’s still passing on his orders through Derwall. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day Breitner pushed Derwall the list under the crack in the door.”
The Bayern captain replied calmly: “He behaves like I did at his age. But who is the playmaker is decided anew in every international match. Whoever is in the best shape should do it, sometimes it can be Magath from Hamburg, sometimes the miller from Stuttgart, me, and that could also be Bernd Schuster at any time.”
Schuster doesn’t need his Gaby on the soccer field
Schuster gratefully picked up the ball: “If Breitner doesn’t make it – physically he’s at the last minute – then I’ll be there if the need arises.” And he added smugly: “Breitner’s problem will be dealt with biologically.”
But then the verbal battle became even hotter. National coach Jupp Derwall got involved and, after a few schnapps at Hansi Müller’s housewarming party, called Gaby Schuster at 2.30 a.m. and reproached her for the bad influence she had on her husband. Shortly thereafter, Breitner sent another poisoned arrow in the direction of Schuster’s wife: “Bernd is a lovely young guy, but it makes a huge difference whether you meet him without his wife or with her. In the first case, he’s like a little boy, says neither moo nor moo nor gick and gack; in the second case, however, he quickly becomes a raging wild boar.”
The battle seemed indeed won. Schuster countered sheepishly: “I can still get by without my wife on the soccer field.” And then the star of FC Barcelona withdrew and left the stage to his wife Gaby: “I only go public when I see that he should be ripped off because of his good nature and carelessness.”
A year later, Bernd Schuster returned to the national team for a few months. Paul Breitner had ended his career. But Schuster also played his last international match in February 1984. What exactly led to his resignation at the time could never be finally clarified. But the quarrels were far from forgotten.
Bernd Schuster, the German Frank Sinatra?
And so it was clear that when the “blonde angel” returned to Germany in the summer of 1993, the media naturally wanted to know what Schuster’s wife Gaby would say about the return home. The new-Leverkusen native didn’t mince his words when he first made it clear who was to blame for the situation at the time: “It was due to the macho attitude of the journalists. There was no place for a woman in football.” And he also admitted: “Of course she keeps an eye on whether the old negative stories come up again.”
But in the summer of 1993, the mood was kind to the Schusters. Because the returned world star not only delighted the fans, his coach Dragoslav Stepanovic was also a big fan of footballer Bernd Schuster after just a few days. He said to his players: “If you don’t know where to put the ball – then go to Bernd.”
And in the weeks and months that followed, sporting headlines alone about Bernd Schuster attracted attention. Bayer manager Reiner Calmund was also really excited: “The shoemaker has a PR value like Frank Sinatra.” And then there was the national coach. Berti Vogts sat down in the stands in Leverkusen to watch the returnee from Spain. Afterwards he enthused: “It’s amazing how Schuster set the pace. It’s impressive what he’s done. And his passes are top-class. Without a doubt: Bernd Schuster is the best libero there has ever been after Franz Beckenbauer.”
It was those days in the summer of 1993 when the Schusters were reconciled with Germany. At the end of a crazy first half of the year in Leverkusen, Bernd Schuster even said: “I’m available if Vogts needs me.” The fact that it didn’t (anymore) come about in the end is perhaps one of those typical stories from the Augsburger’s career. But first of all, the world of the Schusters was completely fine in the summer thirty years ago after their return to Germany.