“I wanted that goal – that was all.”
– Gerd Müller
The quote said by the German legend would exactly suit the little maestro from Argentina.
It seemed like just another day at the office for Leo Messi. His Barcelona was playing Betis Sevilla away. Quarter of an hour into the game Messi got the ball at the top of the arc, dribbled his way into the penalty box and slotted a low left-footed drive into the opposite corner. 1-0 Barca. Just some 10 minutes later Messi got a brilliant heeled pass from Andres Iniesta and drove another shot almost at the exact same spot where he scored the first. 2-0 Barca, except those two goals were a little more special. Those were Messi’s 85th and 86th of 2012. With them, he surpassed Gerd Muller’s 1972 record for most goals in a calendar year.
The new record acts in two major ways. On one side it further establishes Messi as the greatest footballer of our time and possibly the greatest ever. But it also serves as a reminder of the achievements of Gerd Muller, one of the less heralded heroes of the game.
Muller is arguably the most efficient goal-scorer to ever play the beautiful game. Although he was also short like Messi, he was a very different kind of player. He lacked the technique, grace and flair of the Argentine, and was more of a poacher type of striker. His nickname was “The Bomber” due to his ability to find the ball and put it in the net, but also due to his stocky body build. His first coach at Bayern Munich Zlatko Cajkovski famously compared him to a weightlifter.
Gerd Muller – “The Bomber”
Messi scored his 86 goals in 66 games this year, while Muller scored his 85 in only 60 games. The spread between club and country is virtually the same for the two players – Messi has 74 for Barcelona and 12 for Argentina, while Muller scored 72 for Bayern Munich and 13 for West Germany.
An argument could be made that the two players faced a very different level of competition. In Muller’s days, the Bundesliga was still in its formative years, only being created in 1963. On the contrary, La Liga is currently among the world’s most competitive leagues. However, a common feature between the two players is the strength of the supporting cast they had around them. Messi’s owes a great deal of his success to Iniesta and Xavi, who have consistently supplied him with good scoring chances. For his part, Muller played alongside Germany’s greatest in his time, including Franz Beckenbauer and Uli Hoeness.
Another interesting parallel that can be drawn between the two players is the amount of success they brought to their clubs in their record year. In 2012 Barcelona had to concede the Spanish title to rivals Real Madrid for the first time in four years, while the club also failed in its bid to become the first team to successfully defend a Champions League title. Meanwhile, 1972 was very successful for Gerd Muller, who won the Bundesliga with Bayern on record amount of points and the European Championship with West Germany.
Gerd Muller set a lot of records in his time, and most of them held a long time. He was the top goalscorer in World Cups with 14 goals from the tournaments in 1970 in and 1974 before Brazil’s Ronaldo set the mark at 15 in 2006. El Fenomeno, however, did it over 4 world cups. Muller’s record 68 goals for the German national team are also likely to be history soon as Miroslav Klose currently sits at 67. However, The Bomber’s 365 goals in 427 games in the German Bundesliga are a record that is likely to stay intact for the foreseeable future, both in terms of volume and efficiency.
Some of the quotes about him:
“When everyone was starting to slouch, that’s when Gerd suddenly came along.“
– Sepp Maier
“Everyone’s looking for the ball – and he comes along and knocks it in.” – Georg “Katsche” Schwarzenbeck
“Without Gerd we’d probably still have huts on our club grounds today.” – Franz Beckenbauer
“Gerd reigns absolute in tight spaces.” – Uwe Seeler
“He can’t be compared to anyone. Anyone! Not even Pelé.” – Bernd Hoelzenbein