Claudio Pizarro has called time on his career after two decades of success in the Bundesliga. - © DFL
Claudio Pizarro has called time on his career after two decades of success in the Bundesliga. - © DFL

Claudio Pizarro: the Bundesliga legend's 10 career highlights


Claudio Pizarro has finally hung up his boots after more than two decades, over 400 appearances and nearly 200 goals in the Bundesliga, and all after his talents were spotted through a hole in a fence in Lima. pays tribute to the legendary Peruvian, who shone for Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich and Cologne in Germany, by picking out the 10 highlights from one the game's greatest careers.

1) 12 September, 1999: 1st Bundesliga goal

When Pizarro arrived at Bremen in 1999 from Allianz Lima in his native Peru, no-one - not even the man himself - could have imagined the outrageous success and longevity he would enjoy over 20 seasons in Germany.

He did give them an early indication that he might just be a hit though. He'd made his debut on Matchday 1 of the 1999/2000 season by coming off the bench against Hertha Berlin. In the very next game - a 5-0 win over Kaiserslautern - he scored his first league goal in Germany on his first start.

"It was a header. We won 5-0 and it was a wonderful day. I can still remember the game and my emotions," Pizarro explained over two decades later. "We had played Hertha in a dull draw, I'd come off the bench. Then there was an international break, and so I had two weeks to train with my new team and get used to everything. That helped me a lot."

He certainly made a positive first impression on the Bremen squad.

"I remember Claudio's first training session well," said ex-Bremen goalkeeper Frank Rost. "No-one knew who he was, but he scored from all over the place, he was phenomenal! " "He was already an incredibly complete player when he came to us from Peru in 1999," said then-coach Thomas Schaaf. "A total team player."

Watch: Pizarro, the curtain comes down

2) 19 September, 1999: 1st Bundesliga hat-trick

Playing in an ultra-attacking Bremen side under Thomas Schaaf and alongside the likes of Ailton and Marco Bode, Pizarro very quickly flourished.

Just a week after scoring his first goal, the then-20-year-old forward hit his maiden Bundesliga treble - the first of four in his career - as Bremen rampaged to a 7-2 win at Wolfsburg. Bremen CEO Jürgen Born must have been a happy man.

He'd happened to see a Peru national team game on TV while working in the South American country and had been impressed by Pizarro. Born had sought to see the youngster in action in the flesh, but with Allianz Lima training behind closed doors, had had to spy on the session through a hole in the fence.

"I didn't need to look for long," said Born. "His fluid movement, his speed and his coolness in front of goal jumped out immediately. I was certain: this was one for Werder."

3) 12 May, 2001: Caps most prolific Bundesliga season

It's tough to pick out one goal from nearly 200 in the top flight, but an early significant one came in Cologne - where he would spend the 2017/18 season - late in the 2000/01 campaign.

The season had started very slowly with just one goal in his opening eight appearances, but when Pizarro did click into gear, boy! Did he ever click into gear! Four goals at the halfway stage were transformed radically by 15 strikes that came in 16 outlandishly successful Rückrunde matches, the last of which arrived in a 3-1 win over the Billy Goats.

It marked the highest single-season total Pizarro mustered in his Bundesliga career, and was the catalyst for his summer move to then-champions Bayern. And how do you score so many goals? "I watch [goalkeepers and defenders] a lot, and then I know what I can do." Simple, eh?

Pizarro and Giovane Elber formed a prolific partnership at Bayern Munich. - imago/Team 2

4) 9 November, 2002: Wins Der Klassiker as Bayern do the double

The first of two spells over nine years at Bayern started strongly. Borussia Dortmund had won the title in Pizarro's first season in Bavaria, but the South American tandem of the Peruvian and Brazil international Giovane Elber fired Bayern to a league-DFB Cup double in 2002/03.

Pizarro hit 15 goals - one being the decisive strike in a 2-1 Hinrunde win over the champions in Munich - and his strike partner netted a joint-league-high 21 as Ottmar Hitzfeld's men romped to the Bundesliga title, finishing 16 points ahead of second-placed Stuttgart.

Pizarro also scored in the 3-1 DFB Cup final win against Kaiserslautern to secure his first trophies with Bayern, but they were far from the last: in all, he collected six Bundesliga titles, five DFB Cups, and the 2012/13 UEFA Champions League as part of Jupp Heynckes' historic treble-winning squad.

Watch: Claudio Pizarro, 21 goals from 21 years

5) 23 October 2010: Bundesliga's all-time leading foreign-born scorer

Back at Bremen - his second spell at the Weserstadion - Pizarro passed his former Bayern teammate Elber to become the division's top-scoring foreign national. Mönchengladbach was the scene for the historic occasion as he netted goal number 134 in the German top flight in a 4-1 Bremen win.

He has since been surpassed by Bayern's Robert Lewandowski, but his tally of 197 will keep him in second place - and comfortably inside the top 10 for all Bundesliga players - for a long time to come. And if Lewandowski has knocked him off the top step, Pizarro can claim part of the Pole's success for himself.

"[Pizarro] was strong, he was always calm, his technique was incredible too," enthused Lewandowski after surpassing 'Pizza'. "He always knew exactly what he wanted to do with the ball and that's what I learned from him. He knew what I had to do with the ball, I have no problem saying that a lot of what I know, I learned by looking at him.”

6) 5 February, 2016: 400th Bundesliga appearance

It was a day to remember for Pizarro, one to forget for Bremen. A 5-1 loss at Borussia Mönchengladbach was a painful way for the Peruvian to reach the milestone, the first non-German to do so.

Want to take a guess who scored the visitors' goal? Yes, he overtook Ulf Kirsten with his 182nd Bundesliga strike that day. He has gone on to make a further 89 appearances in the German top flight (AS OF MATCHDAY 33 2019/20), putting him ahead of fellow legends such as Lothar Matthäus, Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier and Gerd Müller.

7) 2 March, 2016: Oldest Bundesliga hat-trick

It was a record that had stood since 1985, held - is there something in the water in Bremen? - by another Werder striker, Manfred Burgsmüller. This was spell #3 with the Green-Whites, and aged nearly 37-and-a-half - almost a year older than Burgsmüller - Pizarro found the net three times in his team's 4-1 win at Bayer Leverkusen.

And it was not just the final hurrah of a man in the twilight of his career: Pizarro finished that season with 14 goals in 28 league appearances at an extremely healthy rate of one strike every 124 minutes.

Pizarro and former Bremen teammate Naldo are the Bundesliga's leading foreign-born appearance makers. - Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

8) 16 April, 2016: Werder's club record scorer

Already an iconic figure at the Weserstadion, Pizarro added a little more lustre to his legend by becoming the club's all-time leading Bundesliga scorer.

Marco Bode, who was part of Germany's UEFA EURO '96-winning side and who remains part of the Bremen organisation, had previously held the mark, but had to bow to Pizarro when he netted his 102nd top-flight goal in a 3-2 home win over Wolfsburg.

It helped him secure another distinction as the only player to have scored more than 80 BL goals for two different clubs: 109 for Werder, and 87 for Bayern.

9) 16 February 2019: Oldest Bundesliga scorer

Nearly three years later - Bremen spell 4.0 - Pizarro was still grappling with Bundesliga defences half his age when most middle-aged men are simply fighting the flab, not for a football. The evergreen (and white) Peruvian was proving more than just a handful for the 20-somethings trying to stop him, and showed it at the Olympiastadion against Hertha Berlin.

The hosts looked to have all three points in the bag when Pizarro pounced in added time to salvage the visitors a point and earn himself another place in the Bundesliga history books at the age of 40 years and 136 days. That made him 15 days older than Miroslav Votava, the man who had held the record since August 1996. And he was yet another Bremen striker…

Just to prove he was more than useful as a super-sub, Pizarro netted five goals that season at a rate of one every 135 minutes on the pitch, and it also meant he passed Schalke legend Klaus Fischer by having scored in 21 consecutive calendar years in Germany. His last of the five - and his last-ever Bundesliga goal - was an 88th-minute winner against RB Leipzig on the final day of the campaign, lifting the record to 40 years 227 days.

Claudio Pizarro has signed off on his Bundesliga career with relegation with Werder Bremen. - imagoimages

10) 27 June, 2020: Final Bundesliga appearance

His 490th Bundesliga appearance - on the final day of the 2019/20 season - was always going to be an emotional occasion.

Bremen needed to beat Cologne at home and hope Fortuna Düsseldorf lost at Union Berlin to hope to avoid only their second-ever relegation by giving themselves the safety net of the play-off. Pizarro emerged from the bench in the 88th-minute, but his goals were not needed on this occasion as Bremen scored six to earn a relegation play-off spot, given the Peruvian's fairytale career in his adopted homeland one more game.

Pizarro did not play in either of the play-off games against Heidenheim, in which two goals away from home in the second leg secured Bremen's safety for another season in a 2-2 aggregate draw. The Peruvian, whose appearance tally puts him well ahead of former Bremen teammate Naldo (358) among non-German Bundesliga players, bowed out in silence on the pitch, but was celebrated by his teammates on the pitch.

Claudio Pizarro came and left with a smile in his final Bundesliga appearance on Matchday 34 of the 2019/20 season. - Witters/Pool/imagoimages