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1972 Ballon d’Or Winner: Franz Beckenbauer. The German Three Horse Race

The 1972 Ballon d’Or saw a trio of Germans vying for football’s ultimate individual prize.

In the process, Franz Beckenbauer became only the second West German national and Bayern Munich player to win the trophy following Gerd Müller in 1970.

He was also the first defender to claim the Ballon d’Or since its inception in 1956 with no other defensive player taking the accolade again until Matthias Sammer a full 24 years later.

In 1972, the Ballon d’Or was a German three-horse race.

German Domination 

Only two points separated the top three finishers in the 1972 Ballon d’Or with the award’s ‘podium’ being dominated by three West German players.

In joint second was their prolific striker Gerd Muller and creative playmaker Gunter Netzer who both received 79 points.

Yet the accolade’s voting was subject to a fiercely disputed procedure with many questioning how Beckenbauer beat his fellow countryman Muller to the honour and also Netzer’s ousting of the majestic Johan Cruyff who finished two points behind him in fourth.

Netzer won German Footballer of the Year but achieved little else domestically or in Europe’s club competitions.

However, Muller was in the form of his life, scoring a remarkable 50 goals for Bayern Munich during the 1971/72 season, on the way to their latest Bundesliga title.

Beckenbauer’s campaign was also sensational. The defender was pivotal during their league title and even contributed a joint-best goal tally of seven.

The Sweeper saw off the challenge of two international teammates to win his first Ballon d’Or with immense performances at the 1972 European Championships to thank for it.

Euro 1972

The 1972 European Championship belonged to West Germany.

Having never won a major international tournament before, their victory was a deeply significant moment for the country on the game’s global stage.

Their stocky and clinical forward Gerd Muller had been scoring international goals for fun in recent seasons, netting 43 times for West Germany since his debut six years earlier. The striker was even crowned best player across the entirety of Europe in 1970 as he won the Ballon d’Or.

Throughout Euro 72, Muller was typically outstanding in front of goal. He scored against England in the quarter-final, a semi-final brace against Belgium and even during the final where West Germany beat The Soviet Union 3-0.

Muller finished as the competition’s top scorer with five goals. During 1970 he won twelve caps for his country and ended the year having scored 18 times! 

Netzer was also in fine form and a vital cog within the German winning machine. His playmaking proved excellent and contributing crucial passes.

Whilst perhaps not grabbing all of the headlines throughout the competition, Beckenbauer was unmistakably majestic and didn’t waste his opportunity to show the world why he had already driven Bayern Munich to recent success.

Germany lifted the European Championship with Beckenbauer at the helm. Under his guidance, the national team would go on to win their first World Cup in 1974, further cementing his reputation as one of the greatest defensive talents to ever play the game.

1972 Ballon d’Or Top 20 

Rank Name Club(s) Nationality Points
1 Franz Beckenbauer Bayern Munich, West Germany West Germany 81
2 Gerd Müller Bayern Munich, West Germany West Germany 79
Günter Netzer Borussia Mönchengladbach, West Germany West Germany
4 Johan Cruyff Ajax, Netherlands Netherlands 73
5 Piet Keizer Ajax, Netherlands Netherlands 13
6 Kazimierz Deyna Legia Warsaw, Poland Poland 6
7 Gordon Banks Stoke City, England England 4
Barry Hulshoff Ajax, Netherlands Netherlands
Włodzimierz Lubański Górnik Zabrze, Poland Poland
Bobby Moore West Ham United, England England
11 Hristo Bonev Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Bulgaria Bulgaria 3
Murtaz Khurtsilava Dinamo Tbilisi, Soviet Union Soviet Union
Gerrie Mühren Ajax, Netherlands Netherlands
Paul Van Himst Anderlecht, Belgium Belgium
15 Antal Dunai Újpest, Hungary Hungary 2
Eusébio Benfica, Portugal Portugal
Sandro Mazzola Internazionale, Italy Italy
18 Amancio Real Madrid, Spain Spain 1
Paul Breitner Bayern Munich, West Germany West Germany
Giorgio Chinaglia Lazio, Italy Italy
Dragan Džajić Red Star Belgrade, Yugoslavia Yugoslavia
Johnny Giles Leeds United, Republic of Ireland Republic of Ireland
John Greig Rangers, Scotland Scotland Scotland
Johan Neeskens Ajax, Netherlands Netherlands
Gianni Rivera Milan, Italy Italy
Yevhen Rudakov Dynamo Kyiv, Soviet Union Soviet Union
Marius Trésor Marseille, France France


  • 1972 marked the year that Franz Beckenbauer would go on a four-year trophy-laden streak – claiming seven honours including three Bundesliga titles, one German cup and a hat-trick of European Cups.
  • Gerd Muller’s 1971/72 season was his highest-scoring campaign in terms of league goals as he netted forty times in the Bundesliga alone.
  • In 1972, Gunter Netzer hit his final goal for West Germany, scoring during their 5-1 victory in a friendly vs Switzerland on 15th November.

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