Messi vs Muller

German striker’s record is under threat from Lionel Messi but his mastery of the scorer’s art should still be celebrated.



Gerd Müller merits exalted place in history whatever Lionel Messi does

Bayern Munich’s old Grünwalder Strasse ground. A cross loops in from the right. Standing in the penalty area, the home side’s No9 meets the ball as it drops, planting a header into the right-hand corner. A decent finish, although by itself the goal is hardly worthy of comment, certainly not the kind of strike worth rooting around on YouTube for, more than four decades after it was scored.

But let the clip run on. Seconds later, that cross is looping in again. It’s got to be an action replay: the ball’s sailing at the same speed along the same parabola, and the striker is standing in the same position. Except no, it’s not an action replay. The striker meets the ball with his head again, but this time he sticks it away bottom left. Each time the keeper goes after the ball; each time he’s got no earthly hope of reaching it. In eight seconds of footage, the genius of Gerd Müller – if not statistically the greatest goalscorer of all time, then the player who distilled the art of striking into a pure tincture – is perfectly illustrated. Unspectacular, unpredictable and utterly unstoppable.

Müller’s nickname was Kleines dickes Müller – short, fat Müller – although he was neither, a man of average height and average build. He was also known as der Bomber, but that was something of a misnomer too, as his finishes were rarely explosive: most of his goals were trundled in from close range, pea-rollers sent towards the far corners, finishes that seemed signally unimpressive, until you realised he was doing this every single week, season after season, and he wasn’t just some scruffy hack enjoying an abnormal run of luck.

Yet Müller’s feats of 1972 are unlikely to be forgotten quickly. Comparisons are odious – this pair deserve more respect than another reductive who’s-best back-and-forth – but the German’s stats bear repeating. Messi has played 66 games this year to reach his 84-goal mark. Müller required a mere 60 for his 85.

The year 1972 started for Müller in late January – a point by which, 40 years later, Messi had already enjoyed five outings and notched four times – with the only goal for Bayern at Fortuna Düsseldorf.

– but it would be his acts on the international stage that sent the year stratospheric.

Müller scored 13 times in five appearances for West Germany, at one point scoring eight of his country’s goals in a row, a record at the time. He almost single-handedly won Euro 72, dragging England’s old warhorse Bobby Moore all around Wembley and halfway to the knacker’s yard with his incessant movement in the quarters – he also found the net, naturally – then scoring two apiece in the semi-final and final against Belgium and the USSR. In addition, he helped himself to four goals in 16 minutes in a friendly against the USSR, and another four against Switzerland. Germany’s 1972 vintage is considered the greatest, and Müller was its driving force.

Eighty-five goals, 60 games, one Bundesliga, one European Championship; this is not normal behaviour…

Müller’s staggering career stats back it up: 401 goals in 459 league matches, 35 goals in 35 European Cup ties, 68 goals for his country and 62 caps. A sensation, and relentless with it.

That other phenomenon, Messi, may find himself past Müller’s total on Sunday, a jaw-dropping achievement in an era where defences are supposedly more sophisticated. Yet he will end 2012 with nothing more than a Spanish Cup gong to show for it. Slim pickings compared to the short, fat one.

But whether Messi makes it or not, neither man’s legacy should be affected too much. For all Messi’s ludicrous scoring rates, his game is less about how many, more about how pretty, aesthetics trumping raw data. The less flamboyant Müller, who was happy to shin it in, will always be about the hard stats. Still, there is always an exception that proves the rule. Müller’s four goals against the Swiss in 1972 were part of a 5-1 win. Günter Netzer got the other. He was set up by an exquisite backheel from Müller. Positively Messi-esque.

Read Gerd Müller merits exalted place in history whatever Lionel Messi does

Messi map: How Argentine maestro conquered the world



To celebrate the iconic No. 10’s annus mirabilis, CNN has charted every single goal scored by Messi during an incredible 12 months for Barcelona and Argentina.

Explore the map above to learn more, clicking the icons to see when and where Messi found the back of the net.

Click on the link to go to a world map showing Messi’s goal.

Muller and Messi’s Golden Years: A graphical representation by Four Four Two. 



You can access the FourFourTwo article on their website.

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One Comment on “Messi vs Muller”

  1. GB December 9, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Good article!

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