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.
Müller was born in 1945 in Nördlingen, a small town some 120 kilometres north-west of Munich, just a few months after the end of the Second World War. Like most children his age, he started out playing football in the streets, often using a tin can instead of a ball. A shy, humble character, Müller was initially reluctant to join a football club, and when he finally gave in to the demands of one of his friends, Peter Kraus, and went to training, he was ridiculed by team-mates because of the holes in his shoes.
Transfer to Bayern
He responded as he would always do later in his career – with goals. The young Müller is reported to have scored a hat-trick on his debut for TSV Nördlingen, while the club archives also show that years later he once hit the net 26 times in a single game, a 31-2 victory over SV Holzkirchen on 2 March 1963.
By summer 1964 his goalscoring exploits caught the eye of Munich’s big teams, FC Bayern and TSV 1860. As the latter were playing in the newly-formed Bundesliga at the time and Bayern were not, the ever-modest Müller, like Franz Beckenbauer before him, opted for Bayern. After much negotiating, TSV Nördlingen received 4400 Deutsch Marks as a transfer fee.
Still considered a minor - you were not legally of age until 21 at the time in Germany – Müller's mother had to sign his first contract. And so in July 1964, Müller quit his day job as a welder and joined Bayern in a move that would go on to shape the futures of both the player and the club.
Nevertheless, Müller's career in Munich got off to a slow start. Head coach Tschik Cajkovski was unimpressed with the newcomer's physique: standing at 176 centimetres and weighing close to 90 kilograms, the striker did not look much like an athlete. "His stomach and thighs were as one," recalls Dieter Brenninger, Bayern's left-winger at the time.
Marginalised by the coach, Müller was ready to give up and go home. However, his fortunes changed after club president Wilhelm Neudecker insisted that Cajkovski finally put him in the side. He duly did on 18 October 1964 in Freiburg, where Müller scored the first of his 398 league goals for Bayern in an 11-2 victory. Over the course of his career at the club, he netted over 1000 goals in all competitions, although statisticians disagree on the final tally. According to an official book published by Bayern in 2010, it is 1335, but other sources put it at 1289.
Either way, his goal haul is hugely impressive, as is the fact that in the subsequent 15 years, Müller was never a substitute in a competitive game for Bayern. Every new coach had faith in his extraordinary abilities as a nimble two-footed forward with superb reactions and an even better eye for goal. Wearing the number eight shirt, Müller scored 33 goals in 1964/65 – the season Bayern were promoted to the Bundesliga. In the maiden campaign in the top-flight, Müller, Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier and Co. won the DFB Cup and kept Bayern in the title race until the final day of the season.
Bayern have not stopped winning silverware ever since – both domestically and on the international stage. The 1968/69 season was a particularly fruitful one for Müller: new coach Branko Zebec forced him to wear two shirts under his training jacket in summer an effort to lose weight. Now six kilograms lighter, the striker won the league and cup double with Bayern and also finished as top scorer and player of the year.
The 1971/72 campaign was equally memorable. Bayern won the Bundesliga crown and scored a record-breaking 101 goals along the way, with Müller contributing an astonishing 40 of those. Even today that return stands as the largest single-season haul in Bundesliga history. In October 1972, he became the first player to surpass the 200-goal milestone, prompting renowned football magazine Kicker to write: "He will probably get to 300 before anyone else makes it to 200."
Goals and trophies continued to flow until Müller underwent a ligament operation in 1977, which marked the beginning of the end of his Bayern career. He nevertheless managed to finish as top scorer one final time in 1977/78 with 24 goals, but increasingly struggled to keep pace with the game.
He made his final Bundesliga appearance on 10 February 1979, having scored 365 times in 427 games. After a stint in the USA, Müller was welcomed back into the Bayern family as a coach. As Beckenbauer put it, "without him, we'd still be getting changed in a wooden cabin." His incredible achievements were also honoured by the DFL in 2003 when he was named "Most Valuable Player in Bundesliga History".