• Thursday, March 05, 2015

Mexico 1970

Muller: The Bomber

Muller would end up winning the World Cup in 1974, but in 1970 he settled for being the tournament's top scorer, with 10. PHOTO: DAILY STAR ARCHIVE
Muller would end up winning the World Cup in 1974, but in 1970 he settled for being the tournament's top scorer, with 10. PHOTO: DAILY STAR ARCHIVE

If Lionel Messi is the new Maradona, then Gerd Muller was the German Jimmy Greaves.
Like Greaves, Muller was the arch poacher but there was an added dimension to his game which built an astonishing career tally of goals and a showcase of silverware, which surpassed even the Spurs and England legend.
The key to his extraordinary facility in the penalty box was hidden in the first nickname bestowed upon him, a rather less flattering one than the pseudonym Der Bomber by which he was to become feted.
When he first appeared as a teenager for his home-town club Nordingen the coach referred to him as 'The Short Fat Muller' and the description stuck with him until he was bought by Bayern Munich.
Muller admitted to feeling insulted at first but came to understand that his somewhat stunted, stocky build was to be the making of him. In addition to the slide-rule precision with which he rolled the ball over the goal-line, Muller could score ugly.
That low centre of gravity and short turning circle enabled him to twist and contort himself into scoring from the most awkward and unlikely positions. A whole generation of world-class defenders despaired at the way Muller could squeeze the ball into the net when they were convinced they had him closed down.
One such hooked effort dealt the killer blow to England in the 1970 World Cup quarterfinal, after Sir Alf Ramsey's unwise substitution of Bobby Charlton freed Franz Beckenbauer, Der Kaiser, to launch the West German fight back from two down and into extra time.

The impossibility of containing Muller shines out at us from the statistics. He scored at the astounding ratio of more than a goal a game for Germany… 68 in 62 international appearances. He amassed 365 goals in 422 Bundesliga matches for Bayern and netted 66 times for his club in 74 games in European competition.
Given that deadliest of weapons at centre-forward, it was hardly surprising that Bayern stock-piled three European Cups, four Bundesliga titles and four German cups in the Muller era.
Even so, it is said that during one key game when they were under pressure the Kaiser asked the Bomber if he could lend a hand with the defending, to which Muller replied: 'When you all join me in the goal-scoring I'll come back and help you out.'
There were two hattricks in Mexico '70 – against Peru and Bulgaria – and after knocking out England he scored twice against Italy, only for West Germany to lose that semifinal 4-3.
So the finest moment of all had to wait four years. When it came, it provided the perfect climax. Germany were the hosts in 1974 and Muller's last goal for his country – in Munich – was the winner against Holland in the final. Muller then walked away from the international game at the age of 28 having won everything.
It took 32 years – and Ronaldo the Brazilian phenomenon – to surpass Muller's old record of 14 goals in World Cup finals.

Published: 12:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2014

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