On 3 November, FC Bayern München legend Gerd Müller turns 70. To mark the occasion, bundesliga.com looks back on Der Bomber's remarkable career in a two-part tribute.
While Müller's uncanny knack for finding the net earned Bayern trophies, they also brought him his very own slice of Bundesliga history with his record-breaking 1971/72 season when he plundered a mammoth 40 goals to set a mark that still stands today.
An inauspicious start to the campaign barely boded of what was to come. Sluggish out of the blocks with just a single goal in the opening three matches, it was not until February Müller eased into overdrive. His first career five-goal haul in the 7-0 defeat of RW Oberhausen on 19 February took him onto 23 goals from 21 games, and proved the catalyst for the record, the goals for which came – incredibly – from just 19 games.
After finding the net regularly in the following weeks, Müller reached the 40-goal barrier in the 6-3 dismissal of Eintracht Frankfurt. "I would sell two Franz Beckenbauers for one Gerd Müller," said opposition coach Erich Ribbeck, while Der Kaiser himself stated: "There's no more dangerous a striker in the world."
His talents were also recognised by Germany coach Helmut Schön, who – following defeat to England in the 1966 FIFA World Cup final – was seeking fresh blood. With the legendary Uwe Seeler ageing, Müller was the obvious replacement, being dubbed by Schön himself no less as "a centre-forward born for modern football".
Müller made his Nationalmannschaft debut in Turkey in October 1966, but after a listless display, did not appear for his country's senior team again until six months later. This time, the critics were silenced by a four-goal salvo in a 6-0 defeat of Albania, laying the foundations for an international career that would lead to him being dubbed 'The Nation's Bomber' by Bild newspaper.
His habit of scoring late, important goals endeared him still more to his country, though his staggering ten goals in six appearances at the 1970 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, including the extra-time winner against reigning champions England in the quarter-final, earned him iconic status. It also made this stocky, unathletic-looking goal machine a household name worldwide. "We didn't know who he was," admitted Mexican newspaper El Universal. "We took him for a salesman who sat behind a desk too much, didn't move enough and who ate too much."
'Gold-plate his legs'
A Ballon d'Or followed as did 14 international goals in a remarkable 1971/72 campaign, which took him past Seeler as Germany's all-time record scorer, as well as securing the 1972 European Championship with four of Die Nationalmannschaft's final round goals. "They should gold-plate his legs," then-Belgium coach Raymond Goethals stated in admiration.
Two years later, Müller's strike two minutes before half-time turned the European champions into world champions as the Netherlands were vanquished in Munich. Appropriately, the scene of his amazing club exploits was also that of the last of his 68 international goals, which came in just 62 international appearances, as Müller astonished team mates and fans alike by announcing his retirement from international football.
His Bayern career ended less auspiciously, however. His last appearance came on 3 February, 1979, when he was substituted against Eintracht Frankfurt. He then signed a two-and-a-half year deal with Fort Lauderdale Strikers in the NASL, but after a relatively unsuccessful spell in Florida, he brought down the curtain on his career in a friendly against Greek side Olympiacos, which – ironically – ended goalless.
It was a low-key finale to a spectacular career that brought a staggering 533 goals in 585 competitive appearances for Bayern, a breathtaking feat that led to Müller being named the Bundesliga's all-time MVP by the DFL in 2003. "Gerd Müller is one of the greats of world football," said another Bayern legend and current Executive Board Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "Without his goals, FC Bayern and German football would not be where it is today."