There was cause for celebration in Germany over the recent international break as Miroslav Klose equalled Gerd Mueller's record for goals scored representing his country. The 35-year-old found the net against Austria in a 3-0 World Cup qualifier win, bringing his tally to 68 goals in 130 appearances.
Mueller has long been regarded the best Germany striker of all time and one of the very best that world football has ever seen. That will not change, even once Klose surpasses him in goals scored for Germany. But Klose's achievement prompts the question of where he stands on Germany's list of all-time great strikers.
Read on for analysis of which players qualify as the top 20 strikers in German football history. Criteria considered include goals scored and titles won with club and country, with special importance given to goals that were of critical importance to title success.
Stefan Kuntz leads off the list of Germany's best-ever strikers. But for a brief spell at Besiktas, the 50-year-old spent his entire career in the Bundesliga, scoring 179 goals in the German top flight. His tally leaves him sixth on the league's all-time top scorers list, ahead of greats like Klaus Allofs and Hannes Loehr.
Kuntz made only 25 appearances for Germany and scored just six goals for the national team. Despite his limited opportunities, he still managed to earn a call-up to the squad that won Euro 1996. There, his late equalizer against England kept Germany's hopes alive in the semifinal.
Although he is just 28 years of age and has never exactly convinced as a starter for the German national team, Mario Gomez is certainly among the top 20 strikers in the history of German football. Much like the great Gerd Mueller, nothing about Gomez's play stands out in particular, other than the fact that he scores goals at a phenomenal rate.
Even at 22, Gomez was named Germany's Footballer of the Year in 2007. In the following two seasons, he scored 72 goals for club and country, allowing him to command a Bundesliga record transfer fee (€35 million) as he left Stuttgart for Bayern Munich. After a slow first season, he scored 80 goals over the next two for Bayern. An injury saw Gomez benched for much of the 2012/13 season. He was offloaded to Fiorentina this summer. Nonetheless his career is far from over. Expect more great things from the prolific striker in the years to come.
Ulf Kirsten is one of a handful of players born in the Communist block who represented both East Germany and the unified national team. He earned almost the same number of caps for each: 49 for the East, and 51 for the post-Communist national team.
Much like Gerd Mueller, Kirsten was short and stocky but agile and very dangerous in the penalty box. His 182 goals for Leverkusen leave him fifth on the Bundesliga's all-time scoring chart, an impressive statistic given that he spent the first seven years of his career playing for Dresden in the East German Oberliga.
Ranking behind only Gerd Mueller, Klaus Fischer and Jupp Heynckes on the Bundesliga's all-time scoring chart, Manfred Burgsmuller stands in good company. The Essen native played in over 600 professional matches in Germany over the course of a 22-year career, and scored over 300 times in domestic play (213 in professional competition).
Burgsmueller makes this list for longevity more than anything else; his only title came in 1987-88, when as a 38-year-old he lifted the Bundesliga title with Bremen. Burgsmuller played in an era of many great strikers, and as a result made only three appearances for Germany, failing to score. He did find the net in stunning manner on one occasion (see the above video), but his bicycle kick goal was disallowed.
The younger brother of Kaiserslautern and Germany legend Fritz, Ottmar Walter was more of a traditional striker than his sibling and scored even more goals (336) for 1.FC Kaiserslautern.
Walter won the 1954 World Cup with Germany, but sadly, the footballing world may not have seen the full extent of his potential. Drafted into the German navy during the second World War, Ottmar was less fortunate than Fritz. Surviving an attack on his ship, he was badly wounded and played his football career with three pieces of shrapnel in his right knee according to his obituary in The Guardian. Walter retired from football in 1968 to run a gas station, then work for the Kaiserslautern local government. He died in June of this year at the age of 89. Kaiserslautern fans later commemorated his life with choreography before a match with Ingolstadt.
An attacking midfielder in the early stages of his career, Klaus Allofs would later become one of the best German strikers of all time. The current Wolfsburg sporting director was a success wherever he played, winning titles with Fortuna Duesseldorf, Koeln, Marseille, Werder Bremen and Germany.
Although he scored 17 goals and recorded a modest 56 caps for country, the highlight of Allofs' career was undoubtedly Euro 1980. During that competition he scored three goals, leading Germany to the title. At club level, he finished as the Bundesliga's top scorer in 1978-89 and 1984-85.
Ranking just behind Gerd Mueller and Miroslav Klose on the list of all-time scoring leaders for a German national team is Joachim Streich, who scored 55 times in 102 appearances for country. His record is not generally recognized, given that the national team for which he played was East Germany. But Streich's tally is nonetheless very impressive.
A two-time East German Footballer of the Year and bronze medal winner at the 1972 Olympics, Streich is a legend of East German football, particularly at Magdeburg, where he served for 10 years. The above video shows Streich at his best during the 1982-83 season.
Although he has spent more than half his career playing on the wing or in a supporting striker role, Lukas Podolski remains one of Germany's best-ever centre-forwards. The Arsenal striker was overlooked by the national team of his native Poland as a youngster, and Rudi Voeller jumped at the opportunity to tie him to the German team in 2004.
One hundred eleven international appearances and 46 goals later, Podolski is the third-most capped and fifth-most prolific scorer in the history of the German national team. And at 28, he still has plenty of time to chase records in both categories. His form may have waned in recent years as moving to the wing and playing in a German team strong in possession have not entirely suited his qualities. But numbers don't lie, and Podolski's contribution at the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, as well as Euro 2008 ought not to be forgotten.
Oliver Bierhoff is one of a few on this list who spent much of his career playing outside Germany. Now 45 years old, he spent over a decade in Serie A, and also had stints in France and Austria. His 27 league goals in 1997-98 saw him crowned the Italian league's top striker, and for his efforts Bierhoff was later named German Footballer of the Year.
Bierhoff scored a good but modest 37 goals in 61 appearances for Germany, but two of those goals propel him towards the German legends on this list. Those were his pair against the Czech Republic in the Euro 1996 final. Not every player on this list won a major international title, and few scored in a major final—let alone twice. Bierhoff showed composure and cutting edge on the greatest stage.
Hans Schaefer is one of several players on this list to make his name before the founding of the Bundesliga, and as a result his exploits have garnered only modest recognition.
Born in Koeln, Schaefer spent his entire 17-year career with 1. FC Koeln. He led Effzeh to two German titles towards the end of his career, and was even prolific as he approached the age of 40. Schaefer captained Germany 16 times during his career and was part of the team that won the 1954 World Cup, in which he scored four goals.
Schaefer remains well regarded in Koeln, and the club produced a video (above) in honor of his 85th birthday.
World Football's best coach of 2012-13 is also one of the best strikers in German football history–Jupp Heynckes. In one of football's cruel twists of fate, the former Gladbach striker played in an era when Gerd Mueller was Germany's best striker. As a result, there wasn't much room for Heynckes in the national team, and he made just 39 appearances for the DFB.
Heynckes nonetheless made his mark at club level. He won the Bundesliga four times with Gladbach during and around the era that Bayern dominated the European Cup, and found the net 220 times in the Bundesliga. Heynckes' goals tally leaves him third on the all-time scoring list, and his rate of 0.6 goals per game is behind only Mueller among the league's top 15 all-time scorers.
One of the most underrated strikers in the history of world football is Miroslav Klose. The veteran striker is an old-school footballer who can always be relied upon to find his form in the matches that matter most.
Klose's statistics at club level are rather ordinary; he scored 31 goals for Bremen in 2005-06, but only broke the 20-goal barrier three times in his career. His record for Germany, however, is outstanding. Despite spending most of his prime playing for a rather poor national team, he managed to equal Gerd Mueller's record of 68 goals for the Mannschaft. His 14 goals in World Cup play equals Mueller's tally, making them joint-runners-up behind Ronaldo in that category. Klose will turn 36 just before next summer’s World Cup in Brazil. Even in his old age, the veteran is sure to be a formidable opponent to any defender.
Born in 1955, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge's football career began to blossom around the time that Gerd Mueller's started to wind down. It was good news for the West German national team, which replaced one legendary striker with another.
Rummenigge won consecutive European Cups with Bayern Munich in 1975 and 1976, and the 1980 European Championship. He also began West Germany's comeback in the 1986 World Cup final, with a goal in the 74th minute as his side trailed Argentina 2-0. The DFB went on to be denied victory by Diego Maradona's team, 3-2. Despite never winning the World Cup, the current Bayern president retired a decorated hero of club and country.
Ask any football historian for his top 100 strikers in football history, and Rudi Voeller would likely make the list. The Hanau native's trophy cabinet is not exactly extensive, but he claimed the titles that matter: Voeller won the 1990 World Cup with Germany, and later the 1992-93 Champions League with Marseille.
Voeller's strike rate at club level had its ups and downs over his career, but for Germany he was a consistent performer. He was key to the World Cup victory, netting three times during the tournament. He ended his career with 47 strikes (eight of which came during World Cups) in 90 caps.
Like Bierhoff, Juergen Klinsmann is one of the few players on this list to spend most of his prime playing outside the Bundesliga. Although he did not made his senior international debut until age 23, his record of 108 appearances for Germany stands fourth on the all-time caps list. And his 47 goals have only been surpassed by Miroslav Klose and Gerd Mueller.
Klinsmann won the 1990 World Cup and Euro 1996, and his 11 career World Cup goals have been exceeded by only five players. He was named West German Footballer of the Year in 1988, and unified German Footballer of the Year six years later. In 1995, the English press honored Klinsmann with the FWA Player of the Year award. There is something to be said for adaptability. Wherever he went, Klinsmann made a mark.
The story of Klaus Fischer is a strange one indeed. The Kreuzstrassl native stands behind only Gerd Mueller on the Bundesliga's all-time top scorer's list, yet did not receive his first call-up to the German national team until age 27. Like many other great German strikers, including Jupp Heynckes, he stood in Mueller's shadow during the best years of his career and simply had no chance.
Incredibly, Fischer nearly had his career cut short at 22, when he received a lifetime ban as part of the 1970-71 Schalke side that part of the Bundesliga bribery scandal. His ban was later reduced to one year, and despite missing some key time in his career he still became one of the Bundesliga's best-ever strikers. A bicycle-kick specialist, his strike against Switzerland in 1977 was voted Goal of the Century by ARD (German television) viewers.
Before Gerd Mueller, Uwe Seeler was the best-ever German striker. Tragically, his time came just after the 1954 World Cup-winning German side and before the team that won Euro 1972.
Seeler nonetheless had a brilliant record for Germany and Hamburg. With 43 goals for the Mannschaft, he is among his country's most prolific strikers. By scoring with such frequency in just 72 appearances he compiled the second-highest goal rate among top scorers in DFB history. Seeler's record of 404 goals for Hamburg would have easily surpassed Gerd Mueller's Bundesliga record if not for the fact that the first half of Seeler's career came before the league was created.
One of the most criminally overlooked German footballers in the country's history is Max Morlock. Born in 1925, the Nurnberg native played for 19 years, the first 18 of which came before the founding of the Bundesliga.
Over the course of his career, Morlock scored nearly 300 goals for Nurnberg and 21 more for Germany. One of those international strikes was die Mannschaft's first goal in their epic comeback in the 1954 World Cup, now remembered as the "miracle of Bern." It's no wonder that the address of Nurnberg's Frankenstadion is Max-Morlock-Platz 1.
Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Mueller and Lothar Matthaeus are the usual names in any discussion of the best German football players in history. Fritz Walter is too often overlooked. But in 2003, the DFB nominated Walter as its "Golden Player," the best player from the German Association over the previous 50 years.
A Kaiserslautern legend who played as a supporting striker, Walter scored 380 goals in 411 appearances for the club, a feat made all the more impressive given that he was drafted into the German army and was forced to forgo three of his best footballing years fighting in World War II. He returned emaciated and struck by malaria, but managed to have an incredible career
A natural leader, Walter captained the German national team to a shock victory in the 1954 World Cup final. Even eight years after his death, Kaiserslautern commemorated their best-ever player by wearing a special shirt featuring Walter's face and his famous quote that translates as: "The key to success is friendship and the will to give everything for each other."
Gerd Mueller is and perhaps always will be remembered as Germany's best-ever striker. Regardless of how many goals Klose scores before retiring, the fact that "Der Bomber" took just 62 appearances to record 68 strikes—three of which came in World Cup finals—makes his record more attractive still.
Mueller was named European Footballer of the Year in the time of Beckenbauer and Cruijff, he won Euro 1972 and the 1974 World Cup, and three consecutive European Cups from 1974-76. And although his records for career World Cup and European Cup goals and goals for Germany have since been broken, his record tally of 40 in a Bundesliga season may never be matched. Mueller is a champion of German football, and most certainly is the best striker his country has ever produced.