Lothar Matthaus, the 1990 world champion and holder of the record for most games played at the World Cup, told Russia’s President Putin that he was present at ten of the tournaments and Russia 2018 has been the best among them.
Matthaus was speaking at the Kremlin, where he and other football greats, including Marco van Basten and Peter Schmeichel, who covers the World Cup for RT, attended a meeting with the Russian President.
“I took part in five World Cups as a player and five more as an official. And I can say that Russia managed to organize the best tournament in recent times. Thank you very much for this,” the German legend said.
Matthaus, who captained the victorious German team in Italy 1990 and played a total of 25 World Cup games – more than any other player in history, said that he first “visited Russia in 1979 and even back then understood that it was a good place for football.”
“Moscow and Russia have changed greatly over the past 15 or 20 years. I like Moscow because it’s a beautiful international city, I feel myself at home here. I always come to Moscow with a smile because I know that I’ll see beautiful places and people here,” he said.
The 1991 FIFA World Player of the Year also addressed Russia’s performance at the home World Cup, saying: “I know that the Russian people were displeased with the national team, but now the situation has changed.”
Russia is now gearing up for Saturday’s quarter-final match against Croatia in Sochi after sensationally kicking favorites Spain out of the tournament on penalties in the first round of the playoffs.
Putin said Russia “put a lot of effort and invested significant funds into football infrastructure,” adding that the choice of Russia as the host country for the tournament was "a right one.”
With the quarter-final action kicking off at the World Cup on Friday, the President also asked the football legends to share their thoughts on which team will claim victory in the tournament, but to do so “after the journalists leave.”