Ex-Bayern Munich midfielder Thomas Strunz: Trapattoni conflict helped me grow

The former midfielder believes he would not be the man he is today had it not been for former coach's harsh words
By Maximilian Bensinger

In the third and final instalment of Goal.com's three-part interview with Thomas Strunz, the Euro 1996 winner discusses his career highlights and the personal hardships he has overcome.

In particular, the former Bayern Munich man addresses the now-infamous press conference in which coach Giovanni Trapattoni humiliated him, as well his split from wife Claudia, who had had an affair with team-mate Stefan Effenberg.

Be sure to read the first and second instalments of our interview, on Bayern Munich and the Germany national team, respectively.

Goal.com: Does any experience in the national team stand out?

Thomas Strunz:
"It was always an honour to play for Germany. It was something very special. The crowning achievement of course was the 1996 European Championship. I played in every game, apart from my red card suspension in the quarter-finals. In the semi-final against England, I converted a penalty, and in the final I was also in the starting line-up. That was really something special."

Many know of you from a very famous speech by Giovanni Trapattoni. As funny as this may seem to outsiders, as the affected player it's cruel, is it not?

Thomas Strunz: "Of course it was hard. Two or three months later, it was still hard to work with Trapattoni. But I must say that this was an important part in my personal development."

How can one understand this? Don't you want to delete such a thing from your memory?

Thomas Strunz: "The international games and titles that I have, they're all well and good. But there are a lot of players who have done similar or even more. Look at the level of the individual players of my generation: there were players like Oliver Kahn, Lothar Matthaus and Mehmet Scholl, all of whom have more titles than me. Trapattoni contributed to the fact that I now work in media.

What exactly does Trapattoni have to do with it?

Thomas Strunz: "That's part of my life, part of my recognition. That's why I'm still perceived differently in public than many other players with whom I celebrated the [Euro 1996] title, even though the press conference was 14 years ago. But in order to work on television, as I do now, I need a certain degree of notoriety. Trapattoni brought this to me."

A stroke of luck then?

Thomas Strunz: "As a player I did not think so, of course; I was shocked. I did not know what was happening. Suddenly my name was everywhere. In the Harald-Schmidt-Show, for example, every day, and in the stadium and at the [Sabener] Strasse [Bayern's training ground], people insulted and made fun of me. It was a real nightmare. Today, I must say that it was a very important milestone in my life."

There was another low point in your life. You were the victim of the Munich tabloid press after the affair between your ex-wife, Claudia, and Stefan Effenberg was made public.

Thomas Strunz: "This is another part of my story, much like the one with Trapattoni. Moreover, it was a personal step forward for me. At the time I had many things on my mind and I even questioned myself. I now believe that things do not arise randomly, everything happens for a reason. Therefore, this personal side of my life was a very important phase, just as with Trapattoni."

That does not sound very negative. It was surely a difficult time for you?

Thomas Strunz: "I see it even as a positive. This phase gave me the opportunity to develop myself further. Of course it was difficult for me at the time, since emotions play a big role."

Is the whole story still relevant to you?

Thomas Strunz: "For me it is no longer an issue, I can handle it. I have no problem with Stefan or with Claudia."

We come to a question that just has to be asked of a former footballer. Who was the best player you've ever worked with?

Thomas Strunz: "I am asked this so often, it's very difficult. I've had the pleasure to play together with Carlos Dunga, the captain of the [Brazilian] world champion team of 1994. He was an incredible leader, even though he could not speak German and never said anything. But we just noticed from his body language, he set the tone for the team. Then there was Scholl, who was outstanding with his technique. There was Mario Basler, who played in front of me on the right side. I do not know any player who had such a brilliant right foot. He could not run so much, but that was my job."