Just as Maradona led his squad to a title at the 1986 World Cup, Lothar Matthaus would do the same for Germany at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, and he would do so by actually preventing Maradona from getting anywhere near the net. Though Maradona bested him in ’86, Matthaus worked hard and got his well-earned revenge four years later.
The main reason Matthaus is a starter on my World Cup All-Time Best XI though is because he played in a whopping five World Cups (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998), which is a record for an outfield player. He also appeared in more WC matches (25) than any player in history. His work ethic and fitness were legendary and led to a long career.
During the ’82 Cup, Matthaus helped Germany reach the Final, though they would lose to Italy. In the ’86 Cup, Matthaus was told to ignore the attack and mark Maradona, but he couldn’t stop the Argentine’s amazing playmaking skills. During the ’90 World Cup Final though, he managed to thwart Maradona to lead his team to the title.
Since the rest of my World Cup All-Time Best XI midfielders are attacking players, I figured I needed one defensive mid to hold down the middle and spur the counter-attack, which Matthaus could do better than anyone. While he didn’t have much success at the ’94 and ’98 Cups, he was already a legend by then and he deserves his spot here.