Bernd Schuster: The Blond Angel, A Legacy Brilliance and Controversy
There are players in History who for various reasons never had the chance to participate in a World Cup or a major Tournament.
The reasons range from injury, not playing for the right team at the right time, etc. Then, there is the rare breed whose exclusion is self inflicted.
German star Bend Schuster is that type of a player, that seemingly had everything going for him, yet due to a difficult character missed out on some of the biggest events of his playing days.
What is more astonishing is that he refused despite pleas from his Managers and his Federation Leadership who had more or less rolled out the red carpet for him.
A German journalist once described him a combination of Beckenbauer, Overath and Schnellinger.
There has not been a player, whose talent in abundance was universally acclaimed on equal terms as his difficult character and off field antics were derided.
Schuster was born in Ludwigshafen, on December 22nd, 1959, but brought up in Augsburg.
He joined local team SV Hammerschmiede in 1971 at Junior Level. His talent did not go undetected and after a few seasons, Augsburg wanted to sign him.
Schuster was ready and willing, however, he was convinced by the SV Hammerschmiede Manager, Ludwing Paula, to stay a few more years to develop better as a player. Paula felt that at such a young age, Schuster would not be able to make the first team and therefore needed the more stable atmosphere of Hammerschmiede.
He finally did join Augsburg in 1976 as a 16 year old.
In no time, he was detected and selected by DfB at youth level. He played for the Schwabing Youth Selection and the Bavaria Youth Selection and was eventually selected for the West German Youth squad under Jupp Derwall (The future Senior level Manager).
West Germany were involved in a youth level Tournament in Israel in late 1977. Legendary Manager Hennes Weisweiler (at the time managing Koln) happened to be in the audience and was immediately captivated by the 17-year-old Schuster.
His vision and precision passing was already evident and showed a level of maturity in his play that was beyond his age.
This was also the start for his career long taste for controversy.
Two months later Weisweiler convinced Schuster to sign for Koln.
In the meantime, Augsburg had received and agreed on a superior offer from Borussia Moenchengladbach. Schuster preferred to join Koln and as a result Moenchengladbach sued Schuster for breach of contract. The club were asking for £500,000 to buy a replacement. The courts dismissed the case, but Schuster received a short suspension.
At the end of the season, in the summer of 1978, he finally did join Koln as an eighteen year old. Koln had just won the Bundesliga title and he believed it was a difficult time for any young player trying to break through.
Schuster was fortunte to be under the tutelage of Hennes Weisweiler. He would describe him as his best manager and spiritual father.
Initially at Koln, he was living with two other young professionals Holger Willmer and Gerald Ehrmann.
But after a while, due to his more independent spirit, he rented a studio in the city.
He also treated himself to a brand new Porsche, much to the dismay of Weisweiler.
For that first season (1978/79), his initial ambition was to make the substitutes bench, little did he know that by the end of that first season he would be a full International.
Midway through the season, an injury to teammate Gerd Strack gave him his chance to firmly establish himself in the squad. Weisweiler selected him in Strack’s position of Stopper in a match against Eintracht Braunschweig on February 2nd, 1979 (3-1). Schuster handled Eintracht striker Harald Nickel to great effect much to the delight of Weisweiler who never doubted Schuster’s abilities.
At the end of the season (May 22, 1979), another injury (that of Rainer Bonhof) earned him his first cap for his Nation vs. Republic of Ireland at Dublin (3-1 win), now under the Managership of Jupp Derwall.
The Koln fans nicknamed him ‘der Blone Engel’(the Blonde Angel), and the world seemed to be his oyster at this point
Soon, his private life would be the focal center of the gossip papers when he married at the age of nineteen, a former call girl named Gaby, who was eight years older.
For the rest of his career, the outspoken Gaby would be his Personal Manager, as well as a source of tension and conflict for Schuster’s succeeding Managers and teammates.
It was said that on the day of his marriage, upon exiting the church, guests and others could buy photos of Gaby (semi-nude).
The press intrusion on his life increased but his performances on the field were flawless.
He continued his positive performances in the new season (1979/80). Initially deployed as a midfielder, he was switched to great effect as Sweeper from March 8, 1980 (in an away match vs. Schalke, 1-1).
This was a move that did not please the National Team Manager, Jupp Derwall, who had wanted Schuster to develop as a midfielder for a few more years and then be tried as a Sweeper. However, Weisweiler replied that he had to select a squad in the interests of his team.
Schuster had a scare in January 1980, when a pregnant Gaby was involved in a car accident. Fortunately, the mother and the baby were safe and some time later, Schuster’s first-born Benjamin came into the world.
Towards the end of the season, there was the possibility of a transfer to Bayern Munich as Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck was showing signs of age. The Koln Management opposed any such move.
At the end of the season, Schuster was introduced on the big stage, as he was part of West Germany’s UEFA European Championships squad in Italy.
He made his debut, in West Germany’s second match vs. Holland on June 14th, 1980. Schuster played a brilliant and star making match and assisted on two of West Germany’s goals (hat trick by Klaus Allofs) in a (3-2) win.
Photo From: France Football, Issue 1812, December 30, 1980(Bernd Schuster, June 14, 1980, UEFA European Championships, West Germany 3-Holland 2)
He did pick up a yellow card, and with West Germany having already qualified for the Final, Derwall chose to rest him for their upcoming Group match vs. Greece.
But he was ready and back in the lineup for the Final vs. Belgium on June 22, 1980.
Once again he excelled (this time in the left side of midfield) and helped his Nation win the trophy (2-1 win). In the match, Schuster set up Horst Hrubesch’s first goal in the 10th minute.
He had been the revelation of the Tournament due to his young age and many were already predicting an even brighter future him Internationally.
He came back to Koln as a conquering hero, but his adventure with the club was about to end. The incessant media coverage of his private life with Gaby, as well as the Coaching change at the club were instigators in his desire to leave.
Schuster had a number of disagreements with the new Koln Manager Karl-Heinz Hedergott. He vowed that he never play for Koln again and asked for a transfer. He had a valid contract until 1982, and Koln set his transfer fee at 5 Million Deutschmarks (£1.25 Million).
Photo From: Mondial, New series, issue 7, October 1980
(Bernd Schuster at Koln)
It was a price that Bundesliga clubs could not afford and therefore a transfer abroad was the only option.
The New York Cosmos came calling first (now managed by his mentor Weisweiler).
Koln accepted their offer of £900,000. However, the transfer fell through after the NASL’s players’ Union blocked it. This was part of their effort to abolish transfer fees and earn freedom of contract.
It was at this point that Barcelona came calling. They offered Koln £850,000 plus the receipts from a friendly between the clubs (for a four year contract).
Barcelona Manager Ladisalo Kubala had not even been consulted about the transfer, but had to quickly make a choice between the remaining two foreign players: Austrian Hans Krankl and Denmark’s Allan Simonsen.
Hans Krankl was loaned out again to make room with Simonsen staying on.
Soon afterwards Kubala himself was dismissed as the team struggled. Former Legendary Manager Helenio Herrera was called in as his replacement.
Given the team’s precarious situation, Schuster immediately felt responsible and reveled in it. Schuster scored many goals and the team’s position improved.
Photo From: Fussball Magazin, Issue 2, March April 1981(Bernd Schuster at Barcelona)
However, Schuster did not get on with Herrera, whom he accused of restraining him and not giving him the freedom that he craved. Schuster also felt the (old school) Herrera was unaware of new methods of training and as result the team suffered physically.
By the New Year his performances for Barcelona and most importantly his displays in the European Championship Finals earned him second place in the France Football’s Ballon d’Or award (Compatriot and soon nemesis Karl-Heinz Rummenigge won the award).
However, given his character his first trouble with his teammates was right around the corner.
In Barcelona, he lived a very private life, under the watchful eye of Gaby, and was isolated from his teammates.
In interviews, Schuster would praise his teammates, but privately he felt that they did not pass to him enough.
It was reported that in the club’s New Year’s Eve Party, he told his teammates that since they had played without him, they also could drink champagne without him. There were also reports of an altercation in training (the first of many) with Barça veteran Migueli.
On one occasion, also walked out prior to the Barcelona derby vs. Espanol on January 11th, 1981 and traveled back to West Germany.
Photo From: Fussball Magazin, Issue 5, September October 1981
(Bernd Schuster with family at Barcelona)
By the end of the season, he would also complain about the standards of refereeing in Spain, claiming there was little dialogue and as a result expected to be carded routinely.
With the team well positioned to win the League a tragedy struck the team that derailed their season.
Barcelona striker Quini was kidnapped on March 1st. Naturally the news affected the entire team including Schuster. The players had decided to boycott all matches until Quini was freed. However, Herrera and the management forced them to play.
Schuster had not wanted to play against Atletico Madrid on March 8th (the first match after the kidnapping). He sought advice from his wife Gaby, Rainer Bonhof and Berti Vogts before agreeing to play. However, Schuster, clearly with his mind elsewhere, had a poor display. Herrera described him as ‘our worst player in every away game.’
Schuster lamented the club’s lack of humanity in forcing the squad to play under these circumstances (for which he was heavily fined).
Schuster claimed that during this ordeal he would receive letters from rival fans threatening to kidnap him as well if he scored.
Fortunately Quini would be released unharmed, but the damage had been done as far their title hopes as they had lost many matches after the kidnapping.
Barcelona did win the Spanish Cup at the end of the season by defeating Sporting Gijon (3-1) on June 18th, 1981.
Fearing his and his family’s safety, Schuster who was living in a secluded villa moved his family in the city and employed security.
Photo From: Fussball Magazin, Issue 2, March April 1982
(Gaby and Bernd Schuster)
There were also changes with the National Team set-up. West Germany Manager Jupp Derwall had re-integrated Paul Breitner into the National Team in the Spring of 1981. This would be the start of Schuster’s problems with the National Team. He would vehemently oppose the Bayern Munich duo of Breitner and Rummenigge, who were now the kingpins of the team.
In May 1981, when there were reports that Barcelona might be interested in signing Rummenigge, Schuster threatened to leave the team.
The onset of his problems with the National Team were after West Germany’s match vs. Brazil (May 19, 1981, 2-1 Brazil win).
Teammate Hansi Muller had thrown a party and had invited the entire squad. Schuster did not attend this party, which angered Derwall. Schuster claimed that he had told Harald Schumacher (one of his old friends from Koln days) that he needed sleep, as he had to fly back the next day for a match with Barcelona.
Derwall dropped him from West Germany’s World Cup Qualifier in June vs. Finland.
Photo From: Fussball Magazin, Issue 2, March April 1982
(Jupp Derwall and Bernd Schuster)
The match against Brazil would be his last match for West Germany until November 17th, 1982 (vs. Northern Ireland).
In the summer of 1981, Barcelona dismissed Herrera and appointed Schuster’s compatriot Udo Latteck.
Unlike Herrera, who positioned Schuster just behind the strikers, Latteck placed him as a defensive midfielder. Schuster was pleased as this gave him the space that he needed to organize and unleash his pinpoint passes from long range.
Latteck imposed a counter attacking system built around Schuster and also appointed him as Captain.
Schuster played some of his best Football and the team was winning and seemed headed to win the League title.
He was full of praise of Spanish Football, that he considered livelier and less cerebral than the cold German style.
A much happier Schuster also started to identify more with the Catalan mentality.
All appeared positive at club level (despite another training fight with teammate Estella), the situation with the National Team was another matter.
Schuster upped his anti- Breitner/Rummenigge rhetoric by declaring that Breitner wielded too much influence in running the team and that Derwall was powerless.
After these statements, Derwall tried to contact him but was unable to reach him despite many atempts.
This forced him to declare that as long as he was Manager, Schuster would not play in the National Team. Schuster’s reply was that as long as Derwall was Manager, he would refuse any National Team except that of Catalonia.
He declared he would refuse to be involved with the National Team while Breitner and Rummenigge were still present and allegedly running things.
Schuster also disliked the German Management’s disparaging view of Gaby.
DfB President Hermann Neuberger tried to act as mediator and contacted Schuster to usher him back into the fold for the World cup in Spain in the summer of 1982. Schuster appeared to be willing to return after Neuberger’s intervention.
These attempts were for naught after Barcelona’s match vs. Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on December 13th, 1981. Schuster’s season ended on that day after Bilbao defender Andoni Goikoetchea ‘the Butcher of Bilbao’ seriously injured him to put him out for the rest of the season.
He would go on and call this the worst moment of his career and would compare going to San Mames akin to the Korean War.
In panic, the Barcelona Management tried to sign Austria’s Bruno Pezzey on loan, as well as Brazilians Socrates and Toninho Cerezo (though none of these options materialized).
His only consolation for this season was the birth of his second child and once again finishing on the podium (third place) in the voting for the France Football’s Ballon d’Or award. Though he most likely took little comfort from that given that the two players ahead of him were Rummenigge and Breitner.
Barcelona, without Schuster, were once again within touching distance of winning the League title, but a late collapse, allowed Real Sociedad to repeat as Champions.
Barcelona also reached the Final of the Cup Winners Cup vs. Standard Liege, but without their talented German star, they won the trophy by using brutality in one of the most shameful Finals of the competition.
In the summer of 1982, Argentina Superstar Diego Maradona arrived at Barcelona and his partnership with Schuster promised much.
However, Maradona’s season was hampered by Hepatitis. Schuster’s relationship with Latteck was also straining. In October 1982, after being substituted he threw his boots at Latteck and then later called him a drunk. He later apologized to Latteck in the presence of Club President Jose Luis Nunez and the matter seemed settled.
He did make a comeback with the National Team (Breitner had retired from the National Team after the World Cup). His comeback match for the National Team (after 18 months away) was a European Championship qualifier at Belfast on November 17, 1982 (1-0 Irish win).
He was substituted during the match by debutant Rudi Völler.
Barcelona’s season was below expectations and Latteck paid the price and was sacked midway through the season and replaced with Argentinean Manager Cesar Luis Menotti.
In April 1983, he turned out for West Germany in matches against Turkey and Austria. It was reported that the players in the squad had been opposed to his inclusion, but Derwall and Neuberger had wanted him.
He scored his last goal for West Germany in a friendly vs. Yugoslavia on June 7th, 1983 (4-2 win). Barcelona also won the Spanish Cup (vs. Real Madrid (2-1) on June 4th, 1983) to end the season on a somewhat positive note.
The following season (1983/84), Menotti was optimistic of Schuster’s input and publicly praised him his importance to the rest of his teammates.
Unfortunately, Barcelona’s season was once again taken off course as this time it was Maradona’s turn to be Goikoechea’s victim in a match vs. Bilbao on September 24th, 1983. He would miss many months which affected Barcelona’s chances for the title.
Schuster was also beset with some other problems in the second half of the season. Apparently, he was being blackmailed by a Journalist from Koln Newspaper ‘Express’, who had photos of Gaby prior to their marriage (you can draw your own conclusions what type of photos these were) and in turn Schuster was being asked for exclusivity on the said journalist’s articles.
Among other things there were also articles about him being tired of Barcelona and wanting a transfer to either Koln or Bayern Munich. He denied any desire to leave but fans started to jeer him more as such articles continued.
There were also rumors that Barcelona were interested in signing Roma’s Brazilian midfielder Paulo Roberto Falcao to replace him. He criticized the Barcelona directors for this proposal.
As far as the National Team, he played his last ever match for them in a friendly vs. Belgium (February 29, 1984, 1-0 win) and refused to appear during the UEFA European Championships in France.
In the new season (1984/85); there was a change in Management for both club and country. At Barcelona, Menotti had departed, along with Maradona, who joined Napoli. In their place came the British duo of English Manager Terry Venables and Scottish striker Steve Archibald.
West Germany also appointed a new Manager following Jupp Derwall’s exit. The new man in charge was former Legend Franz Beckenbauer.
Following the news, Schuster had initially shown willingness for a return and had sought to play as Libero.
Beckenbauer rejected this idea and from the onset laid down the law for the troublesome Schuster.
Beckenbauer stated that Schuster ‘had a big mouth’ and it was time for him to prove his worth. He also made it clear that he would never go to Barcelona to beg for his release for Internationals.
Schuster once again closed the door to the National Team, by saying that ‘Beckenbauer has too much power and Neuberger is powerless’ and ‘Beckenbauer is responsible for everything and therein lies the danger’.
Schuster also felt that Derwall’s selections were better than those Beckenbauer was planning.
At club level, things could not be better that season as Venables’ system was better suited to the team and the team ran away with the title, their first since 1974.
That first season Schuster was full of praise for Venables, who he felt transmitted his ideas better than his predecessors. According to Schuster, in the new system players were freer, whereas with Menotti everything had to go through Maradona.
His performances earned him the 1985 award as the Best Foreign player of the Spanish League.
Photo From: Onze, Issue 110, February 1985(Esteban , Steve Archibald, Schuster and Terry Venables, 1984/85)
After the title win, in an Interview, Schuster was reflective about his future in the Bundesliga and the West German National Team.
He believed at that stage of his career it would be impossible to return to the Bundesliga, since they trained twice a day and after so many years in Spain that type of a professional life would be too difficult.
He also once again re-iterated his desire to never play for the National Team. This was mostly due to the adverse pressure for the Press who denigrated all his performances which would affect his play. Therefore, he had nothing to gain and preferred the club Football of Barcelona.
In fact he felt the Barcelona League title was superior to winning the 1980 Europeo, since the League title was for an entire season.
Strangely at the time, he saw no future in himself as a Manager. He felt that type of a stressful life was not for him, but did like the idea of being a talent scout.
His performances once again (for the third time after 1980 and 1981) earned him a place on the podium (third place) for the Ballon d’Or Award of 1985.
The following season (1985/86) turned out to be the one that irreparably damaged his relationship with the club.
But before that there was yet another attempt to entice Schuster to return to the National Team.
During the 1985 Oktoberfest, Franz Beckenbauer held a secret meeting with Schuster to discuss his return. DfB Chief Neuberger was aware of the meeting, as were Adidas who were very keen for the reconciliation (both player and Manager were under contract with them).
Beckenbauer made overtures, but insisted Schuster had to make the first move as he could not bring him from Barcelona ‘in handcuffs.’
West Germany were in desperate need for a playmaker, as they had struggled towards the end of the Qualification matches for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
Beckenbauer was hoping Schuster could put his differences with Rummenigge aside for the good of the team. Schuster’s animosity with Rummenigge went back years and he had felt that Rummenigge’s performances with the National Team had been poor.
In reply, Rummenigge felt ‘Schuster has the intelligence of an East Friesian teabag’.
Near the end of the season, Schuster claimed he had been in phone contact with Beckenbauer who was still encouraging him to return.
Schuster issued two conditions for his return: 1) The entire squad should agree for his re-instatement. 2) The Media and the DfB should make a public statement that they will not treat him neither as a hero nor a scapegoat in case of failure.
Some of the players, such as Lothar Matthaus felt that his inclusion would be unfair to any player who had participated in the qualification phase.
Others such as Thomas Berthold, Pierre Littbarski and Assistant Manager Horst Koppel were skeptical of the success of his return.
Needless to say, Schuster once again closed the door to the National Team.
It was really the events at club level that grabbed the headlines.
The problems started on December 22nd, 1985, in the Derby vs. Espanol (0-0 tie). Schuster became enraged after Venables substituted him for the first time.
He sought a transfer out (preferably Italy) and started missing training sessions. He also insulted Barcelona’s Board of Directors along the way.
He would come to training to treat his various injuries and leave without speaking to any of his teammates nor Venables.
In fact, he did not speak to Venables for the remainder of the season.
Venables was forced to strip him of the Captaincy (Schuster would claim that he had stood up twice to Venables and that was the reason he was stripped).
He declared that he needed a fresh challenge and claimed that he had received offers from Bundesliga clubs such as Hamburg, Leverkusen and Koln.
He declared his intention to play one season in the Bundesliga and then transfer to Italy (Once the borders would re-open in 1987).
It was rumored that AC Milan would acquire him and then loan him for one season to Koln before joining them.
The last straw between the player and the club occurred for the Champions Cup Final vs. Steaua Bucharest on May 7th, 1986.
Venables replaced Schuster near the end of regulation time by Moratalla. Venables reasoning was that Schuster had looked tired.
Schuster (enraged after such incidents as always) immediately left the stadium and went to the Team Hotel. He did not even wait to see the final outcome of the match (scoreless tie and penalty kick shoot-out loss for Barcelona).
His relationship with Venables already beyond repair, Club President Jose Luis Nunez also found this act unacceptable.
He declared that Schuster would never play for the club again.
A transfer out seemed to be the only logical solution. But of course with Schuster there had to be continuous controversy. Schuster decided that he would see out the remainder of his contract (another two years and then leave as a free agent).
In the meantime Barcelona had acquired Welshman Mark Hughes and English striker Gary Lineker and registered them as its two authorized foreigners for the season.
Schuster’s lawyers pointed out that his contract required the club to register him for the first team and even attempted to block Gary Lineker’s registration. He joined the squad on their pre-seaosn training camp knowing full well that he would not be playing.
Schuster would sit out the entire (1986/87) season and instead would fight his battles in the courtroom.
His lawyers lodged complaints with the Labor, Civil, Criminal Tribunals and the Spanish Federation for his re-instatement.
The Spanish Federation, the Criminal and Labor Tribunals dismissed his claims.
They concluded that the Club was under no obligation to play Schuster in Official matches, since the reasons for selection are subjective and due to technical and disciplinary considerations. However, he had the right to the Club installations and services and had a right to train and play in friendlies.
In March 1987, it was concluded that he could not rescind his contract.
The court proceedings (1110 pages in total) also revealed that the double contract policy had produced tax irregularities.
On June 5th, Schuster lost the court battle for reinstatement in first team. He lost through a technicality related to the timing of his claim.
Unbelievably, Barcelona offered him a new long-term contract in July 1987.
He rejected it and even stated he would be willing to sit another entire season and leave as a free agent.
Barcelona had been dissatisfied with Mark Hughes, the previous season; as a result, Bernd Schuster was re-integrated in the first team for the new season (1987/88).
In a poor season for Barcelona, Venables was sacked in the early stages and replaced with Luis Aragones.
It would be a difficult season as the team struggled and were even out of contention to qualify for Europe.
In February 1988, the Spanish Tax Authorities alleged that Schuster owed back taxes. (By June he would be formally accused).
In the same month, his club for the manner in which he asked to be substituted in a League match fined him. He was later also fined for making an obscene gesture to the fans.
By midseason, there were rumors that Schuster had or was about to sign with archrivals Real Madrid.
Barcelona and Schuster salvaged the season by qualifying for Europe by winning the Spanish Cup vs. Real Sociedad (1-0) on March 30th, 1988.
Towards the end he was involved in yet another fight with one of his teammates in training (this time Jose Ramon Alesanco).
He played his last match for Barcelona on April 30th, 1988 vs. Real Madrid (2-0 win).
He officially signed with Real Madrid on June 7th, 1988. When he finally left, Victor, the Barcelona veteran and teammate for so many years described Schuster as a poor teammate and too individualistic.
For the new season (1988/89), he joined an excellent Real Madrid squad that had won the last three League Championships.
He fit in perfectly in this well-oiled machine and won the League and Cup Double with Real. He was also cleared of the Tax evasion charges.
Photo From: Mondial, new series, issue 104, October-November 1988(Bernd Schuster at Real Madrid)
The following season (1989/90), the new Manager Welshman John Toshack positioned him as Libero. Once again Schuster had a good season and Real Madrid once again won the League Title.
The end of the season, yet another disagreement led to his departure.
In May-June 1990, Real Madrid were to tour Mexico and California. It was reported that he refused to Tour without his family, though he finally relented and played in some of the matches.
There are some who have suggested that his initial refusal to tour was to due to an injury that he did not want to aggravate. Others felt that the Real Madrid hierarchy wanted to enroll the Romanian Gheorge Hagi and used this situation as a pretext to dismiss him.
On June 7th, 1990, Real Madrid bought out his contract and released him.
After being inactive for the first few months of the new season (1990/91), he was surprisingly signed by Jesus Gil’s Atletico Madrid (against Manager Tomislav Ivic’s wishes) on October 9th.
He was an inspired signing and Atletico Madrid challenged Barcelona for the title and finished as runner-ups. They did win the Spanish Cup (vs. Mallorca (1-0) on June 29th, 1991) and thereby Schuster won the Copa Del Rey with all the big three clubs.
At the end of the season, he was voted as the League’s Best Foreign player for the second time.
For the following season, Luis Aragones became his manager again like his last season at Barcelona.
The team was once again in the running for the League title just falling short at the end. Atletico Madrid repeated as Spanish Cup winners, this time defeating city rivals Real Madrid (2-0) on June 27, 1992. Schuster scored the first goal from a free kick.
Photo From: World Soccer, July 1993
(Bernd Schuster at Atletico Madrid)
The following season (1992/93) would signal his end with the club. During the season, he was sidelined with an injury to his ankle (it was finally diagnosed to be an infection). He was recommended antibiotics by the medical staff, however, due to his Christian Scientist beliefs Schuster refused such a treatment and instead took Herbal remedies.
The volatile Jesus Gil threatened to rescind his contract, as the player missed many months. In any case, by the end of that season, Atletico Madrid’s Technical Director felt Schuster was past his best and recommended other signings and Gil himself felt that Schuster was burnt-out.
So after thirteen years, Schuster (with Gaby and his four Children: David, Benjamin, Sarah and Rebecca) returned to the Bundesliga by joining Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 1993.
Leverkusen General Manager Reiner Calmund (XX Large) felt Schuster’s presence would give the team the extra ‘character’ needed for a title challenge.
It was seen as a move to wind down his career, but his displays were so impressive that there was yet another movement (by the Press) to recall him for the National Team.
Schuster, for once seemed open to the idea, but stated that he did not want to place any pressure on Germany Manager Berti Vogts and would gladly concentrate on his club.
By the following season (1994/95), Vogts put the issue to rest by stating that he would not be doing Schuster any favors by selecting for two matches and never calling him back up again. In any case, Vogts felt he was already well covered for the position with two alternatives.
His troubles with Leverkusen started in the middle of that season when he stated criticizing the tactics of Manager Dragoslav Stepanovic. Schuster suggested that Stepanovic should field only one striker and should choose between Rudi Völler and Ulf Kirsten.
Völler replied that if he wanted improved performances he should stop lobbing passes from far and pass in close proximity of the strikers.
By April, 1995, with elimination in the semifinals of the UEFA Cup looming (vs. Parma), Stepanovic was replaced by Erich Ribbeck (Derwall’s assistant as National Team Manager a decade earlier).
For the second Leg, Ribbeck installed Schuster as Libero. He had a sub-par performance and afterwards refused to play as sweeper.
By the time, the following season (1995/96) rolled around, Ribbeck would routinely criticize Schuster and his performances.
Schuster was also angry with Calmund, who had stated that in defense Schuster was no better than a regional level player.
Schuster submitted a five-page document drafted by his lawyers that asked his employers not to criticize him in public and asked for a retraction and apology.
He was immediately suspended and Ribbeck removed him from the lineup vs. SV Hamburg (On November 3rd, 1995).
Photo From: Four Four Two, Issue 21, May 1996(Bernd Schuster at Bayer Leverkusen)
Nonetheless Schuster appeared and even sat on the bench even though the club had suggested he should sit in the stands. Rudi Völler also felt that Schuster had gone too far. The club voted (13-0) to strip him of the captaincy in favor of Völler
There were some who felt that much of this was intentionally orchestrated by Ribbeck to remove Schuster from the team.
The courts ordered the club to allow him train. Schuster once again employed his lawyers to get him back in the team and sought compensation for not being invited to the winter training camp. (Almost a replay of his court battle with Barcelona).
Schuster was under contract until 1997 and was seeking 4 Million Deutschmarks. On March 14, 1996, he accepted a settlement of 2.8 Million Deutschmarks and he was released from his contract.
At first it looked as if he might join San Jose Clash of the new American professional League (MLS) but that did not materialize.
In December 1996, he surprisingly signed for Mexican club UNAM.
He only managed to play nine matches, before retiring from the game. Despite his reluctance to enter Management, he started to manage Fortuna Koln (1997/98) shortly after his retirement in the Second Division.
He then managed his former club Koln (1998/99) after their relegation.
He started managing in Spain with Xerez (2001/03), Levante (2004/05) with one spell in Ukraine in between (Shakhtar Donetsk (2003/04)).
He did fine work at small Spanish club Getafe (2005/07) and achieved UEFA Cup qualification. This led him to be the Real Madrid Manager in 2007. In his first season (2007/08) he led the club to the Title and earned the distinction (with Jorge Valdano) of winning a League title with Real Madrid as a player and Manager (as a foreigner). Midway through the next season (2008/09) he stepped down after a loss vs. Barcelona on December 13th, 2008.
As always he was contentious with the media and would refuse to answer questions at times and walk out of press conferences.
He followed up with short spells at Besiktas (2010/11) and Malaga (2013/2014).
By 2008, he had parted ways with Gaby and by 2012 had married a Spanish Lawyer.
It is the story of a complex man and a brilliant athlete and no superlatives could do justice in describing his skills.
On the other hand, for the German Press, he was ‘a child in a man’s body’.
Despite having a strong enough character to lead wherever he went, each adventure ended badly with him quarrelling with everyone.
Perhaps it was fitting that at Koln his closest friend on the team was the equally controversial Harald Schumacher.
The question remains as to why controversy and disputes followed him everywhere.
Was it due to himself or was it Gaby’s influence that polluted the environment(s)?
Many saw her as THE negative factor on his dealings with clubs and the National Team and crossed swords with many influential Managers/Directors along the way.
It beggars belief that a player of such merit would sit out an entire season (1986/87) just to sit on a contract and to spite everyone.
It is doubtful if any other player used the Legal Courts as much as he did in his career (probably not even Bosman).
He could potentially have represented the German National Team in three World Cups (Even though he had indicated he would be partipating in the 1982 Edition, prior to his injury, given the rest of his career, it is safe to assume, he would most likely have refused with Breitner/Rummeigge still around). It will remain a mystery what they could have achieved with him on board. Certainly there would have been less reliance on their physical attributes and more on technique and skill, as the team was sorely lacking a skillful organizer of his quality.
While most players have a burning desire to play for their Nation, for him it was an annoyance. He managed just 21 caps, a waste for such a talent. If not for Alfredo Di Stefano, he could be considered as the greatest player never to play in a World Cup.
World Soccer, August 1980 (‘Schuster pays tribute to England’s Woodcock’ By Keir Radnedge )
Mondial, New series, issue 7, October 1980
World Soccer, December 1980 (By Arthur Rotmil)
World Soccer, January 1981 (By Keir Radnedge)
World Soccer, March 1981 (By Keir Radnedge)
Fussball Magazin, Issue 2, March April 1981
World Soccer, May 1981 (By Keir Radnedge)
World Soccer, July 1981 (By Arthur Rotmil)
Fussball Magazin, Issue 5, September October 1981
Mondial, new series, issue 19, October 1981 (By Joan Valls)
World Soccer, November 1981 (By Arthur Rotmil)
World Soccer, December 1981 (By Keir Radnedge)
France Football, Issue 1861, December 8, 1981 (‘Le Regne de Bernd Schuster’ By I . Jaen)
Mondial, New series, issue 21, December 1981 (‘Schuster, le footballeur qui derange’ By Francois Sorton and Joan Valls)
World Soccer, February 1982
World Soccer, April 1982 (By Arthur Rotmil)
World Soccer, December 1982 (By Keir Radnedge)
World Soccer, April 1983 (By Keir Radnedge)
World Soccer, May 1983
World Soccer, June 1983 (By Arthur Rotmil)
France Football, Issue 1951, August 30, 1983 (‘Un Pont d”or pour Schuster’ By Andres Merce Varela)
World Soccer, April 1984 (‘Schuster back in the headlines’ By Duncan Shaw)
World Soccer, October 1984 (By Arthur Rotmil)
Mondial, new series, issue 63, June 1985
World Soccer, December 1985 (By Arthur Rotmil)
Mondial, Hors Serie 3, 1986
World Soccer, February 1986
World Soccer, March 1986 (By Duncan Shaw)
World Soccer, April 1986 (By Duncan Shaw)
World Soccer, May 1986 (By Arthur Rotmil)
World Soccer, September 1986
France Football, Issue 2125, December 30, 1986 (‘Schuster-Barca: L’Imbroglio Juridique’ By Andres Merce Varela)
World Soccer, March 1987
World Soccer, August 1987
World Soccer, September 1987
World Soccer, March 1988
World Soccer, April 1988
World Soccer, June 1988
World Soccer, July 1988
World Soccer, August 1988
World Soccer, August 1988 (‘Bernd still in the news’ By Michael Butcher)
Mondial, new series, issue 104, October-November 1988
World Soccer, January 1989
World Soccer, July 1990
World Soccer, November 1990
World Soccer, February 1993
World Soccer, July 1993 (‘Still one of the best’ By Graham Turner)
World Soccer, October 1993 (By Keir Radnedge)
France Football, Issue 2587, November 7, 1995 (‘Schuster Claque La Porte’ By Rainer Kalb)
Four Four Two, Issue 21, May 1996