Franz Beckenbauer, 31-year-old king of West German soccer, apparently will accept an offer to play for the (New York) Cosmos under a contract reported to be worth nearly $3 million.
The news that "Kaiser Franz," as he is called here, appears headed for New York has stunned millions of European fans and many coaches and players, although there have been hints in the past that he would consider foreign offers.
Beckenbauer was captain of the West German national team that in 1974 won the World Cup, the international soccer crown. Three times he has led his famed local team - Bayern Munich - to the European championship.
[A spokesman for the Cosmos in New York denied yesterday that Beckenbauer had been signed, but confirmed that the German star and his personal financial manager, Robert Schwan, were in New York on April 11 for negotiations.]
Unlike other soccer greats who made their reputations as high-scoring individualists, Beckenbauer has become one of the most respected players in the game as a defenseman and as a team player.
He has a fluid and unruffled style of play under pressure that is similar to the way Joe DiMaggio played baseball.
He is, in West Germany and much of Europe, as popular as was DiMaggio in the U.S.
Although the status of negotiations between Beckenbauer and the combine behind the Cosmos offer is not clear, the announcement today that West German national team manager Helmut Schoen, at Beckenbauer's request, had taken the star middle-fullback off the national roster for two upcoming games signaled the seriousness of the negotiations.
The West German Football Association also said in a statement that Beckenbauer's plans to move to the United States made his replacement on the national team necessary.
His absence from the lineup would be a heavy blow for Germany's chances to retain the World Cup next year in Argentina.
The reported offer to Beckenbauer is said to be about 7 million Deutsche marks, or about $2.8 million.
The total price to the Cosmos could eventually be much higher because they apparently have to bargain with Bayern Munich for Beckenbauer's contract. It reportedly does not expire until 1979. Beckenbauer would replace the Cosmos' Pele, retiring after this season as soccer's highest paid player.
Bayern Munich coach Detman couldn't advise Beckenbauer against accepting such an offer. "When so much money is involved," he said, "reason stop."
Cramer said Beckenbauer's coming to the U.S. could "practically be the end for Franz."