He was simply called "the Bomber." Germany's international striker Gerd Müller had an incredible nose for the ball in front of the net. His records could be set in stone but he has done without pomp since his retirement.
Gerd Müller was a one-man wrecking crew on the pitch
Former Bayern Munich and German national teammates Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller live in different worlds. Beckenbauer seeks the spotlight, and has risen to the top of Bayern Munich and the World Cup 2006 hierarchy. When he celebrated his 60th birthday in September, it wasn't just any old party -- greats from the world of soccer were in attendance.
Gerd Müller, "the Bomber," turned 60 on Thursday this week -- and went to his favorite bar with a small group of family and friends -- hardly the big fuss that the "Kaiser" made of his birthday.
"That's not my world," he told DPA news agency. "I don't need a gala. For me it's a day like any other."
Goals did the talking
Müller's first of three goals against Peru at the 1970 World Cup where he would win the Golden Shoe
When Müller joined Bayer Munich in the 1964-65 campaign, the now most-renowned team in Germany had to look up to its crosstown rival 1860 Munich. Things changed quickly with the likes of Müller, Beckenbauer, Uli Hoeness and Sepp Maier on the squad. In 1969, Bayern Munich won their first Bundesliga title and only their second German championship. 36 years later, the count stands at 18 total Bundesliga titles. Müller and co. had started a juggernaut that has become unstoppable.
"All of our successes wouldn't have been possible without Müller. We have him to thank for everything," Beckenbauer said before his own 60th birthday. For that occasion, he had surprisingly asked Müller to give a speech.
"The Bomber" however was never a man of big words. In 14 seasons at Bayern Munich, Müller instilled fear in every goalkeeper in the league with his foot. In 427 Bundesliga matches, Müller found the net 365 times, an amazing 0.85 goals per match. In the one-of-a-kind 1971-72 season, he scored 40 goals in 34 Bundesliga matches, a record that can safely be etched in stone, for it seems nobody will come close to that mark.
"Kaiser" Franz Beckenbauer would go on to coach Germany and Bayern Munich to titles
"Some records will stand eternally," the usually modest man who was not only called "the Bomber," but also "little, fat Müller" told DPA. "Nobody will get close to scoring 365 goals in the Bundesliga -- although it would be much easier today since strikers face four-man back lines. Earlier there were two extra men in the defensive line."
Germany wins the World Cup
While Bayern Munich was becoming the club to beat in German soccer, the German national team was slowly turning into a force. At the 1970 World Cup, coach Helmut Schön's squad 4-3 semifinal loss to Italy would go down as one of the greatest in the tournament's history. Müller tallied 10 goals at the 1970 World Cup and was top scorer.
There was no stopping "The Bomber" when he took off the ground
The greatest success of his career, though, came in 1974 when Germany won the World Cup on home soil. It wouldn't go down as Müller's most impressive series of matches with only four goals in seven games but he scored what he called his most important goal in the final which turned out to be the gamewinner in the 2-1 victory over the Netherlands.
A dark side in his life
Müller ended his soccer career, not at Bayern Munich, but in the US with the Fort Lauderdale Strikes. In the 1970's, the North American Soccer League (NASL) was practically throwing money at the world's greatest players, or to put it more precisely, those who had already passed their zeniths -- players such as Müller, Beckenbauer or Pele. They were attractions meant to bring credibility to the soccer-weak market in the US but these players were for the most part getting ready to hang up their cleats. After two years in the NASL, Müller returned to Germany where he began to hit the bottle to a point where he no longer had any control.
"I suffered very much. Without the help of my friends, I don't know if I would have gotten through it," he said.
Bayern Munich general manager and former teammate Uli Hoeness forced him to go to a clinic where he won the battle with alcohol. His path following that has not been as glamorous as that of Beckenbauer, who coached Germany to another World Cup in 1990.
The "Bomber" has been coaching Bayern Munich's amateurs since 1992, a job he intends to do for another five years. When he turns 65, he'll quit -- but plans to visit the team every day to see "just what is happening."