Few footballers to have graced the stage can hold a candle to the numbers Gerd Müller produced for Bayern Munich and Germany.
With 1,251 goals in 998 games for Bayern, and 68 in 62 for Germany, Gerd Müller is as worthy of a legend status as it gets, even before considering the string of records he set in a hitherto unrivalled career.
While current Bayern forward Robert Lewandowski may be breaking some of Müller's records, plenty remain the seemingly untouchable property of a man nicknamed Der Bomber – the country's No.1 goalscorer, such as the 365 Bundesliga goals in 427 league games between 1964 and 1979.
The numbers – as dizzying as they are – hardly do the great Gerd enough justice, however.
"When I was growing up, he was the most amazing footballer around," recalled former Bayern coach Hansi Flick. "He was such a natural goalscorer that you don't find anymore – well, there is Lewy. But he was my boyhood idol."
The most natural goalscoring talent
Müller's goalscoring instinct was second to none – it had to be to go into four digits – and there was hardly a way to prevent him from scoring. He could put the ball in with his right foot, his left foot, his head and any other part of his anatomy. Whatever it took to get that ball over the line, as he did at least once in a Bundesliga record 16 consecutive games between September 1969 and March 1970.
"Robert's definitely a great striker, but he didn't score goals like Gerd, with his shin, his chest or his knee," said Uli Hoeneß to the Münchner Merkur. "Gerd didn't care less how he got the ball in, it just had to go in any which way it could. Robert hammers it into the back of the net, but with Gerd, sometimes the ball would just stop an inch over the line."
Thanks to all those goals, Müller helped himself to the 1970 Ballon d'Or, two German Footballer of the Year awards and seven Bundesliga Torjägerkanone trophies. His team-mates also had him to thank for a FIFA World Cup, one UEFA European Championship, four Bundesliga trophies and four DFB Cups, in addition to three European Cups and a European Cup Winners' Cup winner's medal, without forgetting the 1976 Intercontinental Cup.
Watch: A tactical comparison of Lewandowski and Müller
Goals, goals, goals
Over the course of his career, which started with his first two goals – one of a record 87 times in which he scored more than one goal in a game – as a 19-year-old in August 1965, Müller was the top scorer in a total of 18 different competitions.
The last goal of an extraordinary career, which also included 32 hat-tricks or better, came on 18 November 1978, when the then 33-year-old scored in a 2-1 defeat to Kaiserslautern.
It was perhaps not a fitting conclusion to his career, coming as it did in a defeat, and his final season was statistically-speaking his worse, with nine goals in 19 games meaning he did not manage to make it into double figures for the one and only season after 13 double-digit campaigns.
Yet for a man who scored 40, 38 and 36 in his best seasons, he can be forgiven for registering just one in every two games during his swansong year – at least in Germany.
Indeed, after Müller had broken almost all the records a striker could in the Bundesliga, he chose to show off all his talent in the USA, scoring 40 goals in 80 games in the North American Soccer League (NASL) for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
In August 1981, Müller ended his playing career at the age of 36 and initially stayed in Florida with his family. After three more years in the Sunshine State, Müller returned to Germany where he eventually made a return to Bayern as a coach for the second team, passing on all his peerless knowledge to the club's up and coming strikers.
His influence has surely rubbed off on the many who have since passed through the record champions Säbener Straße training headquarters, knowing they tread in the footsteps of a legendary striker who was second to none.
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