29. September 1943, Siegburg
1962-1977 1. FC Köln
409 appearances, 83 goals (Bundesliga)
Deutscher Meister: 1964
DFB-Pokalsieger: 1968, 1977
81 caps (17 goals)
"Netzer or Overath?" That was once the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question in German football when it came to who should occupy the centre-midfield position for the national team. Two top-notch playmakers with vision, outstanding technique and leadership qualities - clearly there was no place for both in a functioning team structure at that time. There could only be one No10. Hard to imagine from today's perspective. Modern playing systems would almost certainly offer the flexibility for solving a luxury problem such as this by having one of them operating off the shoulder or even as a false ten.
Wolfgang Overath was the genuine article, that's for sure. Left-footed players like him were also said to possess that extra portion of creativity needed to cope with the demands of playing in such an exposed position. The ball was practically glued to the Cologne orchestrator's foot, which meant he didn't have to pay it too much attention when dribbling his way through midfield. Instead, he was able to keep his head up and scan the movements of his teammates for the decisive pass into space. Overath's play always had a sleek and elegant air. His actions were characterised by an unrivalled lightness and dynamism.
That said, Overath had a combative edge to his game, too. No trek was too far for the hard-running technician. Perhaps this was the small, decisive difference between him and his long-time rival. Once he had made one of his famous runs from deep, Günter Netzer sometimes had trouble getting back. That may explain why he made just 37 international appearances. Overath, on the other hand, racked up 81. With outstanding success.
He played at three World Cups, sampling every step of the podium. After second place at the 1966 World Cup in England, where he left his mark in all six games aged just 22, and third at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, an outstanding international career was crowned by the 1974 World Cup triumph on home soil. The final against Holland was Overath's last outing. After the tournament, he announced his retirement from the German national team.
Overath, who rose through the youth ranks at Siegburger SV, remained loyal to FC Cologne throughout his 14 years as a Bundesliga player. He won the league title in his debut season in Germany's top flight. In 1977, he hung up his boots after making 409 Bundesliga appearances out of a total of 765 for the Rhineland club. Netzer or Overath? The question no longer arises, as both have finally been brought together in the German football Hall of Fame.