Miroslav Klose scored goals in the Bundesliga and Serie A, but is best remembered for his performances in a Germany shirt. - © imago
Miroslav Klose scored goals in the Bundesliga and Serie A, but is best remembered for his performances in a Germany shirt. - © imago
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Miroslav Klose: A goalscoring legend for club and country

The record FIFA World Cup goalscorer, Germany's all-time leading marksman, and a world and Bundesliga champion: Miroslav Klose is a veritable football legend.

With 16 goals across four World Cups, Klose ranks as the top scorer in the tournament's history. He's also Germany's outright best with 71 strikes in 137 international appearances.

The no-frills No.11 won the World Cup Golden Boot in 2006, the tournament itself in 2014, and two Bundesliga-DFB Cup doubles with Bayern Munich.

All the above and much besides, despite not scoring his first top-flight goal until the age of 22.

Watch: Miroslav Klose, thanks for the memories!

Klose certainly made up for lost time.

Following stints in the seventh and fifth tiers of German football with SG Blaubach-Diedelkopf and Homburg respectively, the lithe forward - rejected by a local sports school in his younger days for being too slight - joined the Kaiserslautern reserves.

Twenty-six goals in 50 games later, he was bulking out his tally for the seniors.

"Sometimes, I can hardly believe it," said Kaiserslautern president Jürgen Friedrich of Klose, who made his Bundesliga debut as a 21-year-old substitute against Eintracht Frankfurt. "He has come out of absolutely nowhere."

Klose was switched on from the moment he kicked a ball in the Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern. - imago

Klose scored his first of 127 Bundesliga goals in the early part of 2000/01, against future employers Werder Bremen. His second full season with the club he grew up supporting on the terraces of the Fritz-Walter Stadion yielded 16 strikes. It was the first of seven double-digit hauls across a 12-year stay in the Bundesliga.

After plundering 53 goals in 89 Bundesliga games for Kaiserslautern, Klose found career-best form at Bremen. He had a direct hand in 25 goals in 2004/05, and scored that many alone the following campaign to claim his first and only Bundesliga top scorer's cannon. In 2005/06 and 2006/07, he also finished as the division's top provider with a combined 28 assists.

Although a three-year stay with Bayern gave Klose his first major silverware in the 2007/08 and 2009/10 Bundesliga and DFB Cup, his numbers in front of goal at Germany's most successful club dwindled. Used as more of a back-up to Luca Toni and Mario Gomez, the 2010 UEFA Champions League runner-up scored just 24 times in 98 league games for the record champions.

Klose's return at Lazio, where he actually spent more time than any other club in his career, was more in keeping with one of the most efficient strikers ever to have played for Germany.

Between 2011 and 2016, Klose produced 63 goals and 35 assists in 171 appearances, whilst helping Lazio beat city rivals Roma in the 2012/13 Coppa Italia final. Such was the impression he made in the Italian capital, fans pleaded with the striker to postpone his retirement in what proved his final season as a player.

"Miroslav Klose is an example of professionalism, reliability, modesty and honesty who should be protected by UNESCO," read a petition, lodged during the 2015/16 campaign.

Klose became a hugely popular figure at Lazio during a lengthy stint in Italy. - imago

It's fair to assume Germany supporters share those sentiments to this day.

Born in Poland to a Polish mother - a handball player - and German father - a professional footballer - Klose was still a relative unknown when he made his debut for Die Mannschaft in a 2002 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Albania in March 2001.

It took the fresh-faced substitute just 15 minutes to open his account and plot a course to history.

Klose scored seven more goals for the national team prior to the 2002 World Cup, including hat-tricks against Israel and Austria, to bolt down his place as Germany's leading man.

His World Cup journey began in Japan and South Korea with a hat-trick of headers against Saudi Arabia and a Silver Boot-winning haul of five. It ended with tournament gold at Rio de Janeiro's Maracana Stadium 12 years later, and a place in the competition annals.

All told, Klose struck 16 times in 24 appearances spanning four World Cups, including a tournament-leading five at Germany 2006. Four goals at the 2010 edition in South Africa took him past Jürgen Klinsmann and Pele in the all-time rankings, and level with the late Gerd Müller.

At Brazil 2014, he surpassed Ronaldo's previous record of 15 World Cup strikes with his semi-final effort in Germany's 7-1 demolition of the hosts.

Klose (r.) wheeling away in celebration was a familiar sight for Germany fans. - imago

Klose retired from international football one month after lifting the Jules Rimet Trophy, aged 36. He occupies second place on his country’s list of most-capped players, behind Lothar Matthäus, and goes down in history as the fourth player to score in four consecutive World Cups, and first to appear in four semi-finals in a row.

What's more, only 14 men - among them Robert Lewandowski, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Ferenc Puskas and Pele - have scored more international goals than 'Salto-Klose' ('Somersault Klose' - a nod to his uncharacteristically exuberant, and acrobatic, goal celebration).

It is testament to Klose's primal instinct in and around the opposition penalty area that the four-time world champions are still searching for his natural successor all these years later.

Chris Mayer-Lodge