The Talking Game returns to Germany, and this time we’ve got one of the most celebrated German stars ever, Rainer Bonhof. The current Borussia Mönchengladbach vice president tells us about his favorites for the Champions League, the World Cup and his past laurels.
Rainer Bonhof started his career with Gladbach in 1970 and enjoyed eight hugely fruitful years with the Foals. As a part of the club’s greatest side ever, he won four Bundesliga titles, the DFB Pokal and the UEFA Cup once, and also reached a UEFA Champions League final. Bonhof also managed to win silverware with FC Köln and Valencia.
The defensive midfielder’s success wasn’t just limited to club football as he won the European Championships twice and the 1974 World Cup with Germany. Bonhof’s managerial career has spanned roles with the German national team, Gladbach, Al Kuwait and the Scottish U-21 team. We caught up with Bonhof, as he spoke about the glory days of Gladbach, the Champions League final to be held in Lisbon, the 2014 World Cup and more.
Q: The Gladbach side of the 70’s was probably the greatest the club has produced. What do you think was the one standout feature of that particular side?
Bonhof: During the 70s our squad was formed and strongly affected by our coach Hennes Weisweiler. It was his spirit and daily work during the training sessions which made us develop a winning-mentality that was essential for our success over an entire decade.
Q: Do you think that the current Gladbach side has the potential to go on to do well in Europe?
Bonhof: Naturally, you cannot compare the former times to nowadays. But, I believe our squad has what it takes to perform very well in Europe next season.
Q: You have been in three continental cup finals ( once in the European Cup and twice in the UEFA Cup). Which was your most memorable of the lot?
Bonhof: Obviously, it is more likely to think back on games you won. Therefore, the UEFA Cup Final against Twente Enschede in 1975 is one of the games I like to remember the most.
Q: The final of the Champions League is right around the corner. Who are your favorites? If you had to give the players one piece of advice, what would it be?
Bonhof: Real Madrid is going to win the Champions League trophy in my opinion. If I had to give the players one piece of advice, I would tell them the following: Who defends best, wins.
Q: Are you surprised that not a single German club has made it to the finals of both the Champions League and the Europa League? Why has this been the case this season?
Bonhof: I am not surprised that no German club has made it to the finals. The draws in the K.O. round have been tough for each team as they had to face strong opponents at an early stage. However, I am very surprised that Real Madrid has been able to succeed against three German clubs in a row in the Champions League.
Q: You are no stranger to winning trophies for your country either. On a personal note, which triumph (72’, 74’, 80’) did you enjoy the most? Why?
Bonhof: Winning a title for your country is always something special and each tournament is stored well in my memory. I like to think back to every success I had in my career but it is hard to say which triumph I enjoyed the most. Regarding the enormous significance of the title, I would say winning the World Cup in 1974 on home turf meant the most to me if I was forced to point out one of these triumphs.
Q: Do you think the current German side has what it takes to go all the way and win the World Cup?
Bonhof: Actually, Germany has a very talented squad that will surely perform well in Brazil. Nevertheless, even the group stage will be a tough challenge for the team as they are going to face strong opponents who will give their best to make us struggle. However, I think Germany can make it at least to the semi-finals.
Q: You won the World Cup when it was played in Germany and it seemed to make a major difference. How much of an effect will playing on home turf have on Brazil?
Bonhof: The advantage of playing on home turf will definitely have an impact on the tournament in Brazil and its performance as a national team. The fact that they have already won the Confederations Cup last summer supports this argument.
Q: If you had to make an unbiased prediction for the winner of the World Cup, who would it be?
Bonhof: I would say Brazil is going to be the world champion this year.