German international forward Karl-Heinz Riedle played for Borussia Dortmund between 1993 and 1997. Also having stints at Werder Breman, Lazio, Liverpool and Fulham, he was nicknamed “Air” due to his impressive leaping abilities.
Christoph Wagner, a reader of Grumpy Old Fan, has kindly written this passionate and informative article on Riedle, one of the heroes of his youth – and on Borussia Dortmund. (More info on Christoph below).
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Karl-Heinz ‘Air’ Riedle, Borussia Dortmund, 1993-1997
Karl-Heinz Riedle was one of the most prolific centre forwards of the 1990s in Germany.
It is difficult to point out any one in particular hero from the Dortmund team that dominated German football between 1994 and 1997.
After all, the team featured the likes of Matthias Sammer as sweeper and a key man to European success in England 1996; Andreas Möller was the undisputed playmaker and a natural No.10; Steffen Freund has to be considered as almost a reincarnation of Berti Vogts, who was nicknamed the ‘Terrier’ for his ability to follow his opponenteverywhere – even in to the dressing room and further if necessary; Jörg Heinrich added some flair to the left wing, whilst Stefan Reuter flew up and down the right wing (as a former sprinter he was one of the fastest wingers ever to play for the German national side).
The side was captained by Michael ‘Susi’ Zorc, who is a ‘one-club man’ and now sporting director at the Dortmund. In defence, Jürgen Kohler ‘Fußballgott’ and Julio Cesar were insurmountable for many attackers. Up front the team had two stereotypical strikers of the era: Stephane Chapuisat, a classical goal poacher and Karl-Heinz ‘Air’ Riedle who was strong in the air, but had to fight for his place as Chapuisat was the main man for coach Otmmar Hitzfeld.
What many might not know is that Riedle was part of the Italia ‘90 squad and thus can call himself a world champion. He is one of the most decorated players in German football history, winning three league titles and a Champions League trophy. With Dortmund he also managed to win two DFL-Supercups, the equivalent to the English Charity Shield and an Olympic Bronze at the 1988 Seoul Games.
His greatest game must certainly be the Champions League final in 1997.
Dortmund were up against their bête noire, Juve. (see also: Germany’s footballing nightmare: Italy) In previous seasons, Juve proved to be too much. In 1993 the teams met in the UEFA-Cup final, where they won 6-1 on aggregate. Two years later, Juve were once more unbeatable in a UEFA-Cup semi-final that saw the Italians winning 4-3 on aggregate.
As champions of Germany, Borussia Dortmund were drawn in a Champions League group with Juve and once more this was too much – Juve went on to win the group and then the tournament. “The Old Lady” managed to get to another final in 1997, played in Munich – against Dortmund.
In the history of Borussia Dortmund there must be 4 games that really have to be considered the best: the 1966 Cup Winners’ Cup final win against Liverpool (2-1), the German Cup Final 1989 (4-1) against Werder Bremen (where Riedle played at the time), the Champions League final 1997 (3-1) and more recently the Cup Final against Bayern Munich 2012 (5-2).
Facing Juventus once more, no one really gave Dortmund a chance of winning or at least being on a par with them. This however, was premature as they had defeated Manchester United in a dramatic semi-final where Jürgen Kohler saved the BVB with the tip of his foot. Subsequently he was nicknamed Fußballgott. Arguably, United were on the verge of something great as became clear two years later, when they beat Bayern Munich in Barcelona in injury time.
Dortmund started with a 3-5-2 with Sammer as sweeper and Kree as well as Kohler defending. Heinrich and Reuter played wing-backs. The midfield trio were Möller in the No.10 position while Paolo Sousa and Paul Lambert added skill and steel to midfield. Up front Chapuisat and Riedle were looking for gaps in the Juve defence.
A young gun called Zinedine Zidane played behind Alen Boksic and Christian Vieri in Juve’s 4-4-2 formation. How frustrating it must have been for Zizou to feature in two finals in two years and lose both against German opposition.
Dortmund did the only thing they could do – stay calm and keep the ball as long as possible.The Italians were superior technically as well as tactically. However, they did not shy away from attacking the Italian goal. Juve were nonetheless dominant, yet they could not find the goal.
That came on the other side. A corner from the left was badly defended by Juve. The ball came out to the right wing, where Lambert hoofed the ball towards the 6 yard box. Riedle connected, chested it down and finished with his left foot underneath the keeper into the net. So far so good. Dortmund have been leading 1-0 against Juve on all previous occasions but always lost in the end. After 30 minutes, they were one up and it got even better.
Another corner brought in by Andreas Möller saw Riedle scoring again. The keeper did not even move. Riedle, in between Juve defenders did not need to jump too high but he connected perfectly and left the keeper no chance. 2-0.
In the second half Alessandro del Pierro came on and brought Juve back into the game with an elegant flick of his left heel to beat keeper Stefan Klos and the Dortmund defence. Game on for Juve, who had a shot from Zidane hit the post. Lucky that Klos was at his peak in this game.
Another substitution decided the game. After 70 minutes Chapuisat left the pitch to make way for Lars Ricken, a player coming through Dortmund’s academy. He needed one touch only to make it 3-1. A lovely pass from Möller found Ricken with plenty of space ahead of him, he beat the Juve defence who were pushing up and ran towards Peruzzi in goal. With one chip of his right foot he beat the keeper from almost 30 metres away. The television footage suggests that he could not believe that he scored this wonderful goal himself. Somehow Dortmund survived the remaining 20 minutes of the game and lifted the trophy into the Munich sky.
This game was decided by Karl-Heinz Riedle’s two goals in the first half. Later he described that he dreamed about scoring two, one with his left foot another with the head. How much of this is fabricated legend I’m not sure. What is certain is that this game made him a legend at Borussia Dortmund. Sadly, he decided to leave the club for a move abroad, with Liverpool his destination – he played two more years before moving to Fulham, where he also became player manager before ending his career in 2001. He made a comeback attempt in Vaduz but to no avail.
Christoph is author of the football blog http://www.anoldinternational.co.uk – named after the Manchester Guardian football writer, Donny Davies, who was a pioneer in international football reporting, but unfortunately perished in the Munich air disaster in 1958 – and also the site www.donotmentionthewar.wordpress.com which explores Anglo-German cultural relationships.