As Miroslav Klose nears Gerd Mueller's international goals record, perhaps it's time the Bayern Munich striker finally gets the credit he deserves and is honored as a German legend.
Miroslav Klose's service to Germany should be recognized
When Klose scored his 58th international goal against Kazakhstan this week, the Bayern Munich striker moved to within 10 goals of Germany’s all-time record held by Gerd Mueller. When presented with this statistic by a reporter, the soft-spoken, deep-thinking Klose chose only to comment on the importance of the win, not the fact that he had taken another step towards greatness.
Perhaps this self-effacing reluctance to consider his own personal goals have combined to shroud Klose in a kind of cloaking device, making it difficult for the world to see him as one of the game's all-time great strikers.
In the modern game, unassuming players like Klose are rare. For Klose, there is no nickname like "Der Bomber" which resounds through history or a sunny, enthusiastic disposition like that which put a spotlight on Juergen Klinsmann's talents. The man quietly and affectionately known as "Miro" has taken a stoic route through his career, letting his feet and the growing list of statistics tell his story.
"If Klose was revered as a legend we wouldn't be asking these questions about him," Joerg Jakob, deputy editor-in-chief at kicker magazine told Deutsche Welle. "Obviously he’s one of the game's top strikers and he’s a top international player, but he will never be a legend in the eyes of German fans."
"Mainly it is because of his personality," said Jakob, explaining that Klose is perhaps too quiet and not glamorous enough to become a legend. "People see him as hard worker, a player unaffected by scandal, an honest footballer…but he's not seen as a star."
Goal-filled club career deserves more silverware
Klose (r.) began his rise to the top at Kaiserslautern
Klose has had a formidable run in the Bundesliga since making his debut for Kaiserslautern in 1999. In 293 league games played at Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich, Klose has hit 120 Bundesliga goals.
A nice goal-scoring haul, but Klose should perhaps have won more silverware. He can look back at two cup wins and a pair of Bundesliga titles earned during his time in Bavaria, but it could be argued that Klose's efforts at Kaiserslautern and Werder, where he was the centerpiece of the side, should have merited more.
"Klose is a legend at Kaiserslautern, where he started; he's seen as a hero like Fritz Walter there," said Jakob. "His qualities are respected there and he is loved because of them. The fans do love him. He was also respected in the same way at Bremen. He was a typical Werder player in many ways."
But the Bayern Munich-vintage Klose has never elicited the same type of excitement from crowds as teammates like Robben or Ribery, even though an on-form Klose can be more damaging to opposing teams than either of his Bayern team mates. He is, after all, the man charged with adding the end product to their trickery.
But there’s the rub - Klose's currency is goals, and his return of late has been paltry for a player of his standing. Still, a barren spell - however long - shouldn’t be allowed to mar his reputation.
"It's very hard for Klose at Bayern because while they are the biggest team in Germany with the biggest support and fans all over Germany, they are also the most hated team," Jakob said. "It makes it very hard for fans of other teams to love you when you play for Bayern, even when you play well for Germany. If you’re a star, maybe you stand a chance, but Klose doesn't have that star power."
Klose in danger of being remembered as an enigma
Klose's struggles at Bayern endanger his Bundesliga legacy
These days, due in part to his dwindling Bundesliga return, Klose is better known for being an enigma; a striker who excels for the national team while underperforming at club level. Even he is at a loss to explain it: "Why do I score for Germany and not Bayern Munich? I ask myself every time," he said after his two goals against Turkey last week. "Here I have more luck, which is lacking when I play for Bayern."
If it is luck which keeps him scoring for Germany then it's one of the longest runs of good fortune in history. Klose, who made his debut for Germany in 2001, has 58 international goals from 105 caps, surpassing Franz Beckenbauer's mark of 103 and moving into fourth place on the list of most-capped German players. Germany has also never lost a game in which Klose has scored, so his is the kind of luck that gets spread around.
Since making his international mark in coming second in the World Cup scoring stakes with five strikes in 2002, he topped the goal charts with five more in 2006 and continued his tournament form in this summer's competition in South Africa, scoring four.
In total, Klose has 14 goals in World Cup finals, just two behind Brazil's Ronaldo, putting him joint second along with Gerd Mueller on the list of FIFA World Cup goal scorers. And yet the names on people's lips when talking about World Cup greats will always be Pele, Maradona, Beckenbauer, Cruyff…. The list goes on, but Klose's rarely features.
Goal scoring record should secure Klose among the greats
Goal king Gerd Mueller's record is in Klose's sights
On the strength of his international career alone, Klose should at least be celebrated as a German legend. He has some way to go to beat the record number of 150 caps set by Lothar Matthaeus but as a striker, Klose should be judged by his trade and to eclipse Gerd Mueller's long-standing goal record should automatically elevate him to legendary status. Eleven goals for Klose in his current international form should not be a problem so the chances are high that the record will fall sooner rather than later.
"Klose has everything you would want from a player; he's committed, a good team player, a good character and a striker who scores a lot of goals," said Jakob. "But times are changing. This isn't enough. Even if he beats Mueller's record, he won't be seen as a legend."
It's unlikey that you'll see much of a celebration from Klose should he beat Der Bomber's record. Germany, on the other hand, should hold him aloft and sing his name. It's about time someone did.
Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann