Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have come close in recent years, but no player has yet been able to match Gerd Müller's remarkable 40-goal haul for Germany's record champions in the 1971/72 season.
Müller - known as Der Bomber der Nation (the country's bomber) - celebrated his 72nd birthday on Friday, the day before Der Klassiker as fate would have it, the stars aligning to provide the perfect opportunity to take a trip down memory lane and relive those halcyon goalscoring days in the early 1970s.
Watch: This strike was Müller at his predatory best!
Here, bundesliga.com looks in detail at Müller's record-breaking 1971/72 campaign...
If you include friendly matches, appearances for representative XIs and games indoors, Müller scored a remarkable 151 goals in 100 games in the 1971/72 season, 40 of those coming in the Bundesliga. It was a unique achievement, even for him. For the third successive season, he was rated 'world-class' by kicker magazine, and there is no doubt that it was the campaign Müller reached the peak of his career.
When, to celebrate his 70th birthday, Bayern installed a special exhibition in the club museum, the centrepiece was 40 red and white balls hanging from the ceiling, symbolising the contribution he made to that 1971/72 season in terms of league goals.
Many players have tried to emulate Müller's scoring achievement, but only one has ever come anywhere near: Müller himself, in 1972/73, with 36 goals, and 1969/70 with 38. Aubemayang's best return is 31 Bundesliga goals (2016/17); Lewandowski's 30 (2015/16).
Watch: Müller was the Bundesliga top scorer seven times during his career!
How did he reach the 40-goal mark?
Müller's sixth season as a professional - 1970/71 - did not live up to his usual standards. With just 22 goals, he had to hand his golden boot award – or the Torjägerkanone as it is known in Germany – to Lothar Kobluhn of Oberhausen. That riled him, so his summer holiday in Italy was not spent purely relaxing on the beach.
In fact, when pre-season training came around, hardly anybody recognised Müller with his moustache, long hair and weighing in at his lightest ever - 72kg. Despite his pre-season efforts, he only supplied one of Bayern's first 12 goals of the season, missing another from the penalty spot.
Müller missed a further two penalties in the first half of the season, first against Bochum and then against Stuttgart a week later. Der Bomber was so frustrated by this, he decided he would no longer be Bayern's penalty taker, seemingly struggling to score the 'easiest' goals, when he took the more difficult ones in his stride. With only four goals in the opening ten games and a string of missed penalties, it certainly did not look like a historic season in front of goal was in the making.
Slowly into his stride
A brace against Hannover got the engine warmed, with two more following against Duisburg and then a treble against Hamburg – a 13-minute hat-trick which catapulted him to the top of the scoring charts on 30 October 1971. From then, there was no looking back.
In Bayern's biggest ever Bundesliga win - 11-1 - on 27 November against a desolate Dortmund, who were relegated at the end of the season, Müller scored four. At the midway stage of the season, the striker had scored 17 of Bayern's 47 goals, an impressive haul, but only setting the stage for a stunning second half of the season.
A prolific Rückrunde
That said, Müller did not make the best of starts to the second half of the season either, scoring only once in the first three games, before Oberhausen arrived at Grünwalder Straße. It was a day Müller remembers fondly, as anyone would if they scored five goals in a 7-0 win.
Those five goals took him onto 23 for the season – more than the number of games played (21) and he continued scoring and earning his side points, up to Matchday 27. He then became a little distracted: an offer was on the table from Feyenoord but the striker eventually ended up deciding to commit to a new deal with Bayern at the end of March 1972. "I grew up at Bayern and I have my friends here," Müller said. "I feel such deep gratitude to this club from the bottom of my heart."
Although Bayern were not able to shake off their closest challengers for the title, Schalke, Müller was head and shoulders above the rest in his personal competition. When he reached 34 goals on 15 April 1972, his closest rivals, the Royal Blues' Klaus Fischer and Hannover's Ferdinand Keller, barely had half as many – 18. By the end of May, Müller was firing on all cylinders, scoring two goals against Cologne in a 4-1 win, before delivering his party piece for the Germany national team, netting all four goals in a 4-1 win over the Soviet Union at the official opening of Munich's Olympiastadion and earning headlines such as 'Nobody does it like Müller'.
Clash of the best ‘No 9's’ in the world...Who will prevail? 💛 or ❤️⠀ #DerKlassiker - Saturday November 4 - 6:30 PM CET @bvb09 vs. @fcbayern @aubameyang97 @_rl9 ⠀ ⠀ #BVB #BorussiaDortmund #Dortmund #immerwiederbvb #bvbarmy #FCB #FCBayern #Munich #miasanmia #Bundesliga #Football #Soccer #Germany #fussball #futbol #goals
Historic 40-goal mark
In the 6-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on 3 June 1972, he broke the 40-goal mark by netting a hat-trick, his sixth of the season, his opponent that day Gert Trinklein saying: "Müller does things that nobody else on the planet can do. The only way to stop him is by handcuffing him."
The visitors' coach, Erich Ribbeck, went further, saying: "I would trade two Beckenbauers for one Müller." Not that Beckenbauer minded, the sweeper acknowledging that his club were "happy to have Müller – there's no striker more dangerous than him in the world."
Müller's spectacular goalscoring season ended on Matchday 32, at least in a Bayern shirt. He had already done more than enough, which is why he let his team-mates complete the 5-1 win over Schalke several weeks later which clinched the title.
Then came the European Championship in Belgium with Müller scoring four of Germany's five goals on their way to the title, crowning an unforgettable year for the nation's Bomber: that summer, he also became the first German to score more than 50 goals for his country.
Müller's 40 goals: a breakdown
|5 & 6||11||Hannover|
|7 & 8||12||Duisburg|
|9, 10 & 11||13||Hamburg|
|12 & 13||15||Eintracht Frankfurt|
|14, 15, 16 & 17||16||Borussia Dortmund|
|19, 20, 21, 22 & 23||21||Oberhausen|
|24 & 25||23||Kaiserslautern|
|27, 28 & 29||25||Bochum|
|30 & 31||26||Stuttgart|
|32, 33 & 34||27||Werder Bremen|
|35 & 36||30||Hamburg|
|38, 39 & 40||32||Eintracht Frankfurt|
Udo Muras (author of the biography: "Gerd Müller - Der Bomber der Nation")