From 1980-2000, Lothar Matthäus was in West Germany/Germany squads at nine major tournaments – it could have been more but injury meant he missed Euro 92 while he was in international exile for Euro 96.
Matthäus wore number 10 as he captained the side to glory at the 1990 World Cup and it was what he had for the bulk of his club career but he only wore it at three of the nine finals – 1990, 1994 and 2000. At Euro 80 and World Cup 82, he wore 18, then he had 8 at the 1986 World Cup and 1988 European Championship – and the 1998 World Cup.
On the three occasions where Matthäus wore 10, the number 8 was Thomas Häßler. At Euro 92, Thomas Doll wore 10 as Matthäus’s absence was only temporary. However, when he was dropped after 1994, Häßler assumed the number 10 and he had that as Die Mannschaft won Euro 96.
It was the same situation for the 1998 World Cup – while Matthäus was called up due to Matthias Sammer’s injury, he reverted to 8. Sammer usually wore 6, but that went to Olaf Thon, another player who had been in and out of favour under Berti Vogts. As had been the case since 1992, the Germany number 7 was worn by Andreas Möller.
Up until the end of 1997-98, Häßler had been Karlsruhe’s number 10 since returning home from Roma but their relegation from the Bundesliga (they were replaced by two other adidas teams) meant he could leave and he was to link up with Möller at club level, too.
Möller was the Borussia Dortmund number 10 and so Häßler opted for number 20 at Westfalenstadion. Unfortunately for him, it was not a happy stay as he made just 19 appearances.
The numbers triangle was almost completed, but agonisingly missed. At Dortmund, Möller’s international number of 7 was worn by right wing-back Stefan Reuter; he had worn 2 for Germany at Euro 96 but at the 1998 World Cup he was number 19.
In the summer of 1999, Häßler moved to 1860 Munich and took number 10 there but by that stage Matthäus had reclaimed the digits at international level, wearing 10 at that summer’s Confederations Cup. Häßler was not in that squad but was back in 8 for Euro 2000, the swansong for a number of 1990s stalwarts.