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banner Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
Beckenbauer leads tributes to Hargreaves
Owen Hargreaves
Hargreaves (r) tussles with Real's Figo
German legend Franz Beckenbauer can hardly believe how well Owen Hargreaves played in Bayern Munich's win over Real Madrid.

The England Under-21 midfielder celebrated his first start in the Champions League by helping the German giants beat Real Madrid and secure a place in the final.

Bayern president Beckenbauer said: "It is hard to believe Hargreaves could turn in a performance like that.

"Perhaps he never had a chance to show what he could do, but last night he did."

Hargreaves' thoughts on the game remain private as Bayern slapped an interview ban on the youngster.

But coach Ottmar Hitzfeld said: "Hargreaves outgrew himself and was a key player for us."

Hargreaves' mentor

Hargreaves played because German international Stefan Effenberg was suspended.

Effenberg watched from the sidelines and was hugely impressed by his replacement.

"He played clear, simple balls, was very committed and stuck to his job," he said.

Hargreaves was born in Calgary but holds a British passport as his dad is English and his mum Welsh.

He has already played three times for England Under-21s, but only in friendly matches.

The man who discovered Hargreaves and fixed up a trial at Bayern thinks for him, Thomas Niendorf, was understandably proud of the young midfielder.

He said: "To see him play in one of the world's biggest soccer tournaments and hold his own is a tremendous thing.

"Owen is an example to all young players here. So much of being able to play at an elite level is courage and conviction.

"Owen had it and can inspire others. I still hope he will play for Canada and I mean that.

Example to youngsters

"He'd be a superstar. He'd mean so much to the programme here."

Hargreaves joined Bayern in 1997 after playing for the Canadian Under-15 team.

"I can't say enough about the way he performed," Niendorf added.

"He had poise and played with intelligence. I don't think he put a foot wrong.

"Being allowed to take set pieces shows the type of respect his team-mates have for him already."

Bayern now meet Valencia in the final in Milan on 23 May and Hargreaves may have to settle for a place on the bench in that game.

But he can look forward to a bright future in Bavaria after his mature performance againt Real.

General manager Uli Hoeness said: "I hope all our young players will now see they will get a chance if they are good enough."

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See also:

10 May 01 |  Champions League
Mystery man Hargreaves in spotlight
09 May 01 |  Champions League
Hitzfeld praises Bayern strength
09 May 01 |  Champions League
Bayern end Real reign
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