Football: Effenberg's finger on the pulse

Bayern's veteran midfield motivator is determined to atone for the gesture that almost destroyed him
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The Independent Online
RECOGNITION COMES in many forms but few are as lasting as a place in the language. Yet while the progenitors of the "Ali Shuffle" and the "Cruyff Turn" will forever feel pride in their bequest, some sportsmen are less enamoured of their footnote in linguistic history.

In England, Harvey Smith, despite a glittering career in show-jumping, will be forever remembered for a two-fingered salute 27 years ago. In Germany, Stefan Effenberg is in danger of earning a similar notoriety.

The Bayern Munich midfielder is one of the most gifted German players of his generation but the world knows him for a one-fingered gesture in Dallas. Germany were struggling against South Korea in the World Cup when Effenberg made it quite clear what he thought of German supporters' criticism.

He was immediately substituted and sent home by Berti Vogts, who said he would never pick him again. "Making an Effe" has since entered the lexicon of German slang.

The 30-year-old already had a wild reputation. As a youngster with Borussia Monchengladbach he "borrowed" the manager's jeep to escape from a training camp and crashed it. He also "shot up" a Stuttgart hotel room with an air pistol and, in his first spell at Bayern, asked the then-manager, Jupp Heynckes, "outside" to settle an argument.

He had moved to Bayern with the explanation "all the other clubs are too stupid to win the championship" which, unsurprisingly, led to him being jeered at away games. Though he moved to Fiorentina the resentment lingered before surfacing again in Dallas.

Effenberg spent four years in exile but had the final word. Recalled by Vogts after Germany's World Cup failure he played two games but after Vogts' sacking, he declared he was no longer available. This may have been linked to the appointment of Erich Ribbeck, who had sold him in his first spell at Bayern but it is believed he was simply not interested in playing for an unusually poor German team.

Thus the Champions' League assumes paramount importance for Effenberg who has yet to win even a domestic championship let alone a European honour.

Effenberg was a key figure in Borussia Monchengladbach's Uefa Cup win over Arsenal two seasons ago and Alex Ferguson, the United manager, is aware of his threat. "We respect him, he's earned that through his football," Ferguson said. "All good teams have someone taking responsibility and influencing play and he and Lothar Matthaus do that for them. For a player of his age Effenberg's got a good stamina level, he's still prepared to go box-to-box."

Tony Woodcock, the former England striker now living in Germany, added: "He's the central midfield kingpin Bayern have lacked for several years. They had three or four players fighting for the position but he has made himself No 1. He's an elegant player who works hard, a very good footballer."

Yet time is running out if he is to be remembered for that, rather than for "making an Effe". Inspiring a revival of Bayern's European glories might do the trick.