As Barcelona's Lionel Messi was stretchered off last week in the Champions League against Benfica his personal crusade to rewrite goal scoring history looked all but doomed. A player who is almost too good to get fouled and therefore injured was definitely writhing around in genuine pain clutching at his knee, but to the relief of his manager and teammates ‘twas but a bruise and there were still five fixtures to equal or even better the goal scoring feats which have remained untouchable for exactly 40 years. It took him just 16 minutes on Sunday night when Barcelona met Real Betis.
“Messi is fantastic, an incredible player, a giant. And such a nice and modest guy. Only one defect: he doesn’t play at Bayern. My record stood for 40 years and now the best player in the world has broken it. I’m happy for him.” This was the instant response from the man who scored 85 goals in the calendar year of 1972, an achievement which for a long time seemed impossible to re-create. Lionel Messi may have smashed the long standing record but Gerhard Muller’s legacy as the finest finisher to ever play the game remains intact. Amidst all the Messi mania we have decided to look back at the career of Der Bomber and remind ourselves what made him such a hero in Germany.
- Gerd Muller was signed by the then second division side Bayern Munich in 1964, just one year after the inaugural Bundesliga campaign. The coach remarked that the player resembled a weight lifter upon arrival, and nicknamed the striker ‘short, fat Muller’.
- Another nickname was thrust upon Muller as he scored more and more goals but much like short, fat Muller, ‘Der Bomber’ painted a slightly skewed picture of the man. His goals were always based on sniffing around defenders and putting them under pressure with expertly timed runs and excellent box movement, he hardly ever scored spectacular goals.
- Muller’s innate ability to score goals despite lacking any real physical gifts is what made his goal scoring exploits all the more astonishing. After signing for Bayern Munich in 1964 he was the clubs top goal scorer in every single season until his last in 1978.
- Muller’s record breaking year came in 1972 as the pint-sized striker bagged 85 goals. He scored 42 goals in 34 Bundesliga games, 7 goals in 6 cup appearances, 12 goals in 5 games in the German League Cup, 10 goals from 4 European cup games, 1 in the Cup Winners Cup and 13 international goals for Die Mannschaft. It took the best player to have ever played the game to break the record some 40 years later.
- Gerd Muller was part of the Bayern Munich dream team alongside Franz Beckenbauer and Sepp Maier who swept all before them in the 60’s and 70’s. After getting promoted to the Bundesliga in 1965 the club went on to win four DFB Cup’s, four league titles, one Cup Winners Cup and three UEFA European Cups over an 11 year period.
- His club form alerted the National team coach and Muller went on to become his country’s top goal scorer, another record which is close to being broken by Miroslav Klose who is now just one goal behind Muller’s total of 68. International honours include winning the 1972 European Championship and the 1974 World Cup. He was also top goal scorer during the World Cup of 1970 and the European Championships of 1972. Muller retired from international football at the age of 28 after becoming a world champion.
- After falling out of favour with Bayern coach Pal Csernai in 1979 Muller decided to join American outfit Fort Lauderdale Strikers in an attempt to reignite his career. He saw out his two and a half year deal but struggled to come to terms with life out of the spotlight. Going from superstardom and national hero status to living like everyone else drove the Bavarian to drink and Muller now admits he nearly ruined his life.
- In 1992 Bayern handed him a lifeline with the offer of becoming a scout and coaching the strikers. 20 years later and he is still there, now assistant manager of Bayern’s reserve team, a true one club man.
- Muller’s legacy at Bayern Munich was extremely close to ending prematurely as Barcelona agreed to sign him in the summer of 1973. Muller signed a contract with the Catalan club and it took a last minute intervention by the German government, thought to be the finance minister, to keep him on German soil.
- Despite bettering Muller’s calendar year record Messi will finish the year with a solitary Spanish Cup to show for his mammoth efforts. Muller finished 1972 with a European Championship medal and a Bundesliga title.