The big interview: Christian Ziege – "Liverpool was a bad move – Gerard Houllier never talked to me"
The sun is beating down in Mallorca, and Christian Ziege is being asked to gesticulate at the camera as part of his FourFourTwo photoshoot.
“You want me to be an actor, just like Vinnie Jones?” asks the former Germany star. Within seconds he’s launching into an imaginary team talk, jokingly veering off into a Godfather-esque Italian accent. “You’re going to do this and you’re going to do that, and if you don’t, then you’re dropped,” he mumbles. Although in The Godfather, one suspects they might have been sleeping with the fishes.
Ziege can look like a pretty imposing chap when he wants to but, in the final days of his spell as manager of Spanish third-division outfit Atletico Baleares, the former Milan, Liverpool and Spurs man is in a friendly mood as he sits down to discuss a trophy-laden career.
You were born in West Berlin – how close did you live to the Berlin Wall?
David Mills, Colchester
I lived in a house opposite it, and after school we would play football in front of the wall. For me it was normal, but sometimes we lost balls over the wall and they never came back! I remember the first day you could go through the Brandenburg Gate in 1989. I went over to the other side and it was amazing.
- 1990-97 Bayern Munich
- 1997-99 Milan
- 1999-2000 Middlesbrough
- 2000-01 Liverpool
- 2001-04 Tottenham
- 2004-05 Borussia Monchengladbach
Is it true you used to be a goalkeeper?
Andreas Brandt, Munich
I started as an outfield player but then we had a bad team and had no keeper, and the coach asked, ‘Who wants to go in goal?’ I said I wanted to try – I played maybe one season there – but if you’re in goal and losing 21-0, at some stage you don’t want to be in goal anymore!
What were your best and worst moments with Bayern Munich?
Dr Tenywa Costantine, Uganda
The worst moment was a bad season in 1991/92, when we came 10th, but then a year later Franz Beckenbauer came in – a fantastic person who motivated his players. The best moments were when I won the Bundesliga twice [in 1993/94 and 1996/97] and the UEFA Cup in ’96 against a fantastic Bordeaux team that had Zinedine Zidane in it. We won away at Nottingham Forest [in the last eight] and that was when I realised I should go and play in England one day – we were 5-1 up but the Forest supporters stayed and still applauded their team.
Do you remember losing to Norwich?
George Barnes, Wymondham
Yes, I remember. We lost to Norwich in the UEFA Cup in 1993 – a disappointing result. Then the week after we went out of the German Cup, too – it was a mess. We had big problems that season. The season afterwards I was the club’s top goalscorer even though I was playing left-back! I was the best striker, more or less, and was going forward a lot, which maybe wasn’t the best for our defence.
What was your career highlight?
Orally z-Ikenna, Abuja, Nigeria
Winning Euro 96 at Wembley. I scored the first goal in our first match of the tournament against the Czech Republic. We played them again in the final and I put the cross over for Oliver Bierhoff’s equaliser. When the Golden Goal went in, it was really strange. For a minute they were talking about whether it was offside or not, and it was the first time a game had been decided by a Golden Goal. But then you start realising you’ve won and you are European champions. We would sing Three Lions all of the time during that tournament – it had started when we were celebrating on the coach after we’d reached the knockout stages.
What was it like scoring in the penalty shootout against England in the semis?
Steve Harris, London
It was a lot of pressure! On the way to the ball you’re thinking that the whole country is watching you and if you miss, you’re the stupid guy who missed the penalty. But then you concentrate on trying to score. Winning the final was special, but the game against England was massive. I have seen Gazza’s miss many times since, and if he’d run onto it a little bit earlier he could have easily scored. But it was good for me because I played with Paul Ince and Gazza at Middlesbrough and could always say, “OK, you went out, we went on and lifted the trophy, so shut up!” [Laughs].
4:41 as Ziege keeps his cool
How did Germany’s successful team at Euro 96 compare to the one that won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?
Sean Low, Australia
You can’t compare because football is getting quicker, but I think the team from 2014 was better, football-wise. We had good team spirit – everyone was always there for his team-mates. That was the reason we won it – not because we played the best football.