Gerd Muller’s goal against England in the 1970 World Cup bore his trademark of an astonishing strength and agility seen more often in Olympic gymnasts… the striker known as Der Bomber was a genius in the box
- Legendary German striker Gerd Muller passed away on Sunday at the age of 75
- He scored a ridiculous 68 goals in 62 games for Germany at international level
- And tributes have flooded in for the former ultimate penalty box poacher
- The master marksman knocked England out of the 1970 World Cup quarter-final
It was some months after the crushing disappointment of England losing the World Cup quarter-final to West Germany in Mexico 1970.
On a crisp evening that autumn, we sat sipping our lagers in Bobby Moore’s garden and still the conversation harked back to a hot midsummer day in Leon when the Germans came back from two down to win a convulsive match 3-2.
We exhausted the conspiracy rumour of Gordon Banks being poisoned the night before and the un-readiness of Peter Bonetti to take over in goal. Unproven.
Legendary German footballer Gerd Muller (above) passed away on Sunday at the age of 75
The master marksman also had an astonishing goalscoring rate at international level
He scored the winner to knock England out of the 1970 World Cup quarter-finals in Mexico
We tackled the question of whether Alf Ramsey snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by substituting Bobby Charlton and inviting Franz Beckenbauer to seize control of the game. Guilty, M’lud.
Finally we turned our attention to the genius who scored the winner in extra time. There came the hiss of another can being opened as Bobby mused: ‘Hmm. Maybe just as well Gerd Muller didn’t play against us in 1966.’
Perhaps a little merciful, also, that the Luftwaffe were not quite as accurate from the war-time skies over Britain as the striker known as Der Bomber.
Muller’s nickname may not have been acceptable in today’s politically correct climate but back then it fitted perfectly the short, squat, weapon of destruction who has now joined Moore in the boot-room above.
Muller played only one friendly for his country before being omitted from the Wembley final in which England won the World Cup. He had arrived on the scene too late to replace the balding Uwe Seeler in that team.
But it was not long before he set about succeeding and surpassing that goal-scoring legend and Moore knew he would be a pocket handful in Mexico.
He said: ‘This little chap doesn’t look fast but he’s lightning off the mark. He’s not big but he’s a menace in the air. He’s strong as a bulldog. His turning circle is tighter than a London taxi’s and he’s deadly in the box.’
Our Bobby contained Gerd for 108 minutes in that fateful quarter-final but could not deny him forever. No defender could.
Muller scored 51 goals in only 31 games for local club Nordlingen before being bought by Bayern Munich for £2,500. What would he be worth today? Try £250million.
In 15 seasons as Bayern’s major strike force he scored 506 times in 607 matches, spearheading their drive for four league titles, three German cups, three European Cups, one Cup Winner’s Cup and an Intercontinental Cup.
The short, powerful striker known as ‘Der Bomber’ scored an acrobatic goal to make it 3-2
Muller had an extraordinary scoring record at club level, most notably with Bayern Munich
He won four league titles, three German cups, three European Cups, one Cup Winner’s Cup and an Intercontinental Cup with Bayern Munich
He scored the winning goal in the epic 1974 World Cup final victory over Holland and netted twice in the 1972 European Championship final win over the Soviet Union. In both tournaments, he won the Golden Boot.
In terms of goals-per-game ratio, Muller’s record in international football defies belief: 68 in 62 appearances for Germany. Only of late have his records of 40 goals in one Bundesliga season and 85 in a single calendar year been overtaken, by Robert Lewandowski and Lionel Messi respectively.
Those exploits were the foundation of Bayern’s rise to prominence and when he died yesterday, just 75, president Herbert Hainer said: ‘Without Gerd Muller, Bayern would not be the club we love today. He was the greatest striker there has ever been.’
The goal he scored against England bore his trademark of an astonishing strength and agility seen more often in Olympic gymnasts or the most powerful of circus tumblers.
That he should pass away after wasting away in hospital for months with dementia will fuel further the game’s concerns about the perils of heading the ball, a skill at which he was exceptional for his stature.
But for the moment football the world over pauses to pay its respects to Herr Muller, with Gary Lineker leading the UK tributes: ‘Very sorry to hear that Gerd Müller has passed away. Loved watching him as a child and learnt so much from doing so. The greatest penalty box goalscorer I’ve ever seen.’
Current Bayern star Robert Lewandowski only recently broke Muller’s Bundesliga record
He netted 68 goals in 62 games, including in the 1974 World Cup final against the Netherlands
He also scored in the 1972 European Championship final win against the Soviet Union – winning the Golden Boot in both tournaments to cement his standing as one of the best strikers ever
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