A Tribute To...Gerd Muller
Barney Corkhill's 'A Tribute To...' series moves back to football. In this series I look at the greatest talents to grace various sports.
Today's tribute is to one of the most prolific strikers of all time. His short, stocky frame enabled him to hold defenders off and turn on a sixpence. At both international and club level, he is a goalscoring legend known as "Der Bomber".
I speak, of course, of the great Gerd Muller.
Born on November 3, 1945, Gerhard Muller grew up in the small village of Zinsen in Germany. The village didn't have a football pitch, so Muller would have to travel to the nearby town of Nordlingen just to play.
When he was 15 years old, Muller joined the TSV 1861 Nordlingen youth side. He was a new type of player. Struggling with weight problems, he never looked like he should be a sportsman, yet he had lightning-quick acceleration and, despite being a small player, was a real threat in the air.
His skill was attracting attention, but his appearance and weight problems had people thinking that he wasn't a sportsman.
Three years later, however, in 1963, Muller signed for TSV 1861 Nordlingen's first team squad.
Despite still being a youngster, Muller quickly established himself as an important first team player through his fantastic goal-scoring rate. He was a phenomenon inside the box, created scoring chances from nothing and scoring almost all of those chances.
In his first year at TSV, he recorded a fantastic return of 51 goals in 32 games.
Naturally, this goal-scoring record was noticed by other clubs, but, as with earlier in his career, people were hesitant in offering for him.
In 1964, Bayern Munich made an offer for Muller. It is reported that the President wanted him, but the coach wasn't so keen. Unsurprisingly, the President got his way, and Gerd Muller became a Bayern Munich player.
At the time, Bayern were in the second division of German football. Muller was brought in to score the goals that would catapult Bayern into the Bundesliga.
It didn't get off to a great start, however, as Muller broke his arm in a reserve match, before even having played a game for the first team. Luckily, his recovery was quick, and he was soon put into the first team, scoring on his debut.
Muller, along with a young Franz Beckenbauer, and later Sepp Maier, was instrumental in winning promotion at the first time of asking. Despite suffering the arm injury at the start of his Bayern career, he still managed to net 35 times that season.
Bayern's first season in the Bundesliga was a success as, not only did they manage to stay up, they triumphed in the German Cup, a fantastic feat for a newly-promoted team.
The great Bayern Munich side was beginning to take shape.
The next season, Bayern continued their vast improvement, and it was also a great year for Muller individually. He helped Bayern to a second successive German Cup, and his goals also brought them success in Europe, as they became the European Cup Winners' Cup champions.
It was also this season that Muller got his first national team call-up. He played in the first game since the 1966 World Cup final loss to England as West Germany took on Turkey. He was unable to score in a 2-0 win for the Germans.
The following April, in 1966, he scored four goals against Albania in just his second cap. That year, his goal-scoring exploits for both club and country (he was joint top scorer in the Bundesliga), saw him be voted as the German Player of the Year, at just 22 years old.
It wasn't until 1969, however, that Muller became a regular in the West German side, securing his place in the run-up to the 1970 World Cup. It was mainly his continued fantastic club performances which gave him this place in the side.
In 1969, Muller's Munich got they trophy they had been craving ever since gaining promotion four years earlier - The Bundesliga title.
The Championship came after a trophy -ess season before, and so was a welcome return to winning ways. Success in the German Cup, the third time they had achieved this in Muller's short time at Bayern, brought about their first league and cup double.
Once more, Muller was the star, again becoming the top scorer in the league, and beating teammate Beckenbauer to the German Player of the Year award.
At the 1970 World Cup, West Germany were many people's outside favourites to claim the trophy. They had the strong England, Italy and Brazil teams to contend with, however.
Ultimately it was Italy who put the Germans out in the semi-final, after a 4-3 win after extra time. Muller, however, had burst onto the world scene with his displays. He had showcased his amazing goal-scoring ability on the grandest stage of them all, winning the Golden Boot with ten goals in the World Cup.
The 1970s were to be kind to Muller.
His goals at club level saw him awarded the Bundesliga's top scorer award for the third time, and his performances at the World Cup saw him awarded with the Ballon d'Or.
1971 brought another German Cup for Bayern, and the following season yet more silverware was added to Muller's trophy cabinet.
Not only did he help Bayern become league champions again in 1972, but he was, once again, named the top scorer.
That summer saw the European Championships, and Germany were much fancied. With Beckenbauer, Maier and Muller, Germany triumphed, and Muller came out of his second successive major international tournament as top scorer.
More medals came in 1973 as he helped Bayern to a second successive league title.
1974, however, was to be the best in the already illustrious career of "Der Bomber". Domestically, Bayern won the Bundesliga again, making it three in a row, and Muller was the top scorer, again for the third season in a row.
This season also saw the start of the great Bayern side in Europe. They had been in the European Cup before, but 1974 was the first time they made major strides all the way to the final, which they won.
One trophy was missing from Muller's trophy cabinet - the World Cup.
As the 1974 World Cup came around, the pressure on West Germany was immense, they were the host nation after all. In the final they came up against the "Total Football" of Holland, and the great Johan Cruyff.
It was to be Gerd Muller's last game in the white of Germany. Thankfully for him, it ended in jubilation, as the West Germans won, and Beckenbauer lifted the new World Cup trophy aloft.
The game was extra special for Muller for three reasons. Not only was it his last game for Germany, he retired the next day, but he also scored the winner, which also happened to be his 14th in World Cup history, breaking Just Fontaine's record of total World Cup goals, a record which stood until 2006.
He ended his international career with 68 goals in 62 games, an astonishing ratio which cements his place in the pantheon of world football greats.
In 1975, Muller helped Munich to another European Cup trophy, and then did the same again the following season, giving them three consecutive European Cup wins, and ensuring that the Bayern Munich of the mid-70s will be forever remembered.
He couldn't help Bayern to another piece of silverware before he left the club in 1979, but his contribution to the most trophy-laden chapter in the club's history will never be forgotten.
He left Bayern having scored 542 goals in 589 games, including 398 in the league, a record which still stands today.
He was intent on retiring from football altogether after leaving Bayern, but was convinced to have a spell in North America at Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Despite being past his prime, he still managed to average a goal every two games while in America.
After three years there, he hung up his boots for good.
Throughout his career, Muller had scored a remarkable 582 goals in 669 appearances, and his international record showed he could do it on the very highest stage.
He remains, to this day, one of the most prolific strikers in football history, and perhaps the greatest goal-poacher ever. Certainly, very few can claim to be his peer inside the box. This has been a tribute to Gerd Muller.
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