From Gerd Müller to Robert Lewandowski: the best Bundesliga strikers of all time
They lead the offensive line and are as adept at dropping deep and running with the ball as they are at putting it in the back of the net, but who are the best Bundesliga strikers of all time? bundesliga.com has scoured the history books to bring you the top five.
The Bayern Munich forward has some serious competition (see below) to be regarded as the greatest ever. He hasn't played the most games or scored the most goals, nor does he have the best goals-to-minutes ratio in Bundesliga history, but the Polish hitman nevertheless makes a compelling argument.
In an era of ultra-trained footballers who are fitter and faster than ever before, who have an army of nutritional, analytical and tactical coaches behind them, Lewandowski is almost never injured and still manages to stand out head and shoulders above the competition.
"What impresses me about Robert Lewandowski is his professionalism, ambition, passion, bite and fitness," said former Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes, an erstwhile elite striker himself. "He is an absolute world-class player."
Watch: Lewandowski and Gerd Müller under the tactical microscope
'Lewy' first served notice of his gifts under Jürgen Klopp at Borussia Dortmund, hitting 74 Bundesliga goals in 131 games and winning two league titles, before joining Bayern in 2014. He has continued to improve at the Allianz Arena, seemingly sending best-marks tumbling with each passing week as he averages a goal roughly every 110 minutes.
Lewandowski is now the Bundesliga's best all-time non-German scorer with over 220 goals and counting – putting him third overall in the league's history – while he has finished as top scorer four times and holds the record for the fastest hat-trick and four- and five-goal salvos after scoring five times in nine minutes against Wolfsburg in 2015. Lethal with his right foot, left foot, head and from set-pieces, Lewandowski is simply the complete package.
A bona fide Bayern and Bundesliga legend, Müller is the only player who could truly rival Lewandowski for the 'best-ever' crown. Nicknamed "Der Bomber" on account of his devastating scoring feats, Müller is the league's all-time top marksman with a barely fathomable 365 goals from 427 games between 1964 and 1979, at an average of one every 105 minutes.
Standing at just 5'10", the stocky forward came alive in the penalty area, his elusive movement, trademark ability to quickly turn on the spot and knack of being in the right place at the right time making him a nightmare for opposition defenders.
Watch: A selection of Müller's greatest goals
Müller, who was named European Player of the Year in 1970, lifted the Bundesliga Torjägerkanone an unprecedented seven times, including for his mind-boggling 1971/72 campaign in which he scored 40 goals – a tally unmatched before or since (although he notched 38 the previous season and 36 in the following one).
A four-time Bundesliga champion and 1974 FIFA World Cup winner with Germany, the left-footer's legacy extends far beyond his goals. He was a key member of the Bayern team that won a trio of European titles in the mid 1970s, helping lay the successful foundations for the club to become what it is today. As former Bayern defender Franz Beckenbauer once said: "If it hadn't been for him, we might still be living in the old wood shed!"
Heynckes is perhaps better known to the modern football fan for being the coach that steered Bayern to the treble of Bundesliga, DFB Cup and Champions League in 2013, before returning on an interim basis in 2017/18.
However, long before then he earned a reputation as a goalscorer par excellence with hometown club Borussia Mönchengladbach, where he spent his entire career bar a two-year spell at Hannover.
Watch: Heynckes' top 5 moments
Heynckes plundered 220 Bundesliga goals in 369 appearances in the 1960s and 70s, winning five league titles with the Foals as they established a fierce rivalry with Bayern. He would surely have earned more than his 39 caps for Germany, if it weren't for a certain Gerd Müller…
If you thought Müller's 15-year spell at the top of the game was impressive, that's nothing compared to Pizarro, who embarked on his 21st season as a professional in the 2019/20 campaign at the age of 40.
The Peruvian joined Werder Bremen for the first of four stints at the club as a fresh-faced 20-year-old in 1999, hitting the ground running with 29 Bundesliga goals in 56 outings. That earned him a move to Bayern and, bar a one-year sojourn at Chelsea, he has spent his entire career in Germany, with further stops at Bayern and Cologne.
Watch: Pizarro's Bundesliga highlight reel
Pizarro was the league's all-time leading foreign-born goalscorer until being overtaken by Lewandowski in 2018/19, but his longevity and haul of 197 in close to 500 appearances have cemented his place among the all-time greats.
He's no relation to Gerd (or Thomas for that matter), but is equally assured of his place in the Bundesliga annals. He may never have won the league title, having laced his boots for Kickers Offenbach, Cologne, VfB Stuttgart and Saarbrücken, but his track record speaks for itself.
Müller struck 177 goals in 303 games overall, finished as the Bundesliga's top scorer with 34 in 1976/77 – when Gerd Müller and Heynckes were both in their pomp – and is still the only player ever to have netted six in one game in Germany's top flight in a 7-2 victory for Cologne over Werder Bremen in August 1977.
Averaging a goal every 147 minutes, Gerd Müller and Lewandowski are the only players to have a better minutes-per-goal ratio in the league's long-standing history.