Claudio Pizarro – few men have played such a defining role in Bundesliga history as the Peruvian striker. Over the last 20 years with Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen and Cologne, he has fired his way into the record books and ensured his legendary status.
To mark the goal machine’s 40th birthday, bundesliga.com looks back at five of Pizarro’s greatest Bundesliga moments.
1) The first of many
Pizarro made his first Bundesliga start all the way back on 12 September 1999. Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailamos” was top in the US charts and Bill Clinton was president, and it took a then 20-year-old Pizarro just 20 minutes to score his first Bundesliga goal with Werder Bremen – the first of 192 in the German top flight. Over the next two decades that has seen three further US presidents take office and Pizarro sign for Bremen three more times, the Peruvian has found the back of the net in the Bundesliga every calendar year for the last 20 years.
Watch: 20 years, 20 goals from Pizarro
His almost double ton of Bundesliga goals puts him fifth on the league’s all-time scoring chart, but among non-Germans he’s the outright leader. His 134th against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 9 of 2010/11 took him beyond Giovane Elber to the top of the standings. And just four days before hitting the big 40 he clocked up another milestone: his 450th Bundesliga appearance when he came off the bench for Werder at VfB Stuttgart. Only 25 players have ever played more Bundesliga matches than the Peruvian, but no other foreign player comes close to Piza’s total. His former Werder teammate Naldo is almost 100 behind him.
2) The perfect job interview
With 29 Bundesliga goals in his first two seasons with Werder, Pizarro quickly caught the eye of clubs around Europe. Fifteen of those came in the second half of 2000/01 alone, including two against Bayern. The latter of the two was scored in the 88th minute to give Bremen a 3-2 win in Munich – the club’s first triumph in almost five years.
Watch: Pizarro's goals against Bayern and Bremen
Three months later and Pizarro was a Bayern player, and it took him just six minutes to open his Bundesliga account for Bayern when he netted against Schalke on Matchday 2. He’d go on to score another 70 in the league for the record champions during his first six years there.
3) The title-winning goal
Pizarro would add to those six seasons with another three between 2012 and 2015, taking his Bayern tally to 87 and making him the only player in Bundesliga history to score over 80 goals for two clubs (104 for Bremen, 87 for Bayern). During his nine Bundesliga campaigns with Bayern, the Peruvian lifted the Bundesliga Meisterschale six times.
The first of those he wrapped up himself in 2003. It was Pizarro who scored the final goal and ensured the then earliest title in Bundesliga history with four games to spare when Bayern won 2-0 in Wolfsburg on Matchday 30.
4) Celebrations in both Munich and Bremen
Two cities 350 miles apart at opposite ends of the country, two teams with an intense rivalry, but on 30 March 2013 Bayern and Werder fans rose simultaneously to celebrate Pizarro’s efforts against Hamburg. The striker scored four and provided two assists in Bayern’s 9-2 demolition of HSV to move within a point of the title with seven games remaining.
It remains Pizarro’s only four-goal haul in the Bundesliga to date, and he joined the just one percent of players to have netted four goals or more in the league. It added to his four previous Bundesliga hat-tricks for Werder, before he added his fifth and as yet final three-goal haul against Bayer Leverkusen (again for Bremen) in March 2016, making him the oldest hat-trick scorer in Bundesliga history.
5) The second, third and fourth coming
Pizarro has often spoken about being at home in both Bremen and Munich. He left the Bavarian capital in 2007 for a year out at Chelsea in England before returning home to Werder. Fans in Bremen queued to buy the new Pizarro kit as they welcomed the second coming of ‘Piza’ seven years after he first left. Just four games into his Bundesliga return he even scored against Bayern in a 5-2 win at the Allianz Arena – the last time the Green-Whites managed to beat the record champions.
There’d be a second spell back at Bayern, where he won the treble of Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League in 2013, before third and fourth stints with Werder either side of a year at Cologne.
A further appearance this season will make Pizarro just the ninth player to appear in the Bundesliga beyond his 40th birthday. It remains to be seen just how long the striker will continue to play football, but should he score on the final day of the season at home to RB Leipzig, he will claim yet another record as the Bundesliga’s oldest-ever goalscorer. Could that be the crowning topping on Piza’s legacy?