Germany and Bayern Munich are mourning the loss of one of football’s greatest strikers Gerd Muller, known throughout the game as ‘Der Bomber’, who has died at the age of 75.
Muller, who joined Bayern in 1964 and was part of an era which established Bayern as Europe’s top team, was one of the deadliest forwards the game has ever seen, his goalscoring prowess the stuff of legend.
Alongside club teammates such as Sepp Maier, Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner and Uli Hoeness, he helped West Germany win the 1972 European Championship and then bagged the winner, in Munich, in the 1974 World Cup final triumph over the Netherlands.
“Gerd Muller was the greatest striker we ever had in Germany,” former national team coach Joachim Loew said in 2015.
Known as the most prolific of penalty box poachers, Muller remains the Bundesliga record scorer with 365 goals in 427 games.
Many of his strikes came off balance, prone on the ground or from some other angle where shots, never mind goals, seemed impossible.
“Today is a sad, dark day for FC Bayern and all its fans,” said Bayern club president Herbert Hainer. “Gerd Muller was the greatest striker there’s ever been, and a fine person and character of world football.
“We’re all united in deep mourning with his wife Uschi as well as his family.
“His name and memory will live on forever.”
Muller’s single season tally of 40 goals from 1971-72 stood as a record until finally being eclipsed by Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski, with 41, last term.
“He’s one of the greatest legends in the history of FC Bayern, his achievements are unrivalled to this day and will forever be a part of the great history of FC Bayern and all of German football,” said Bayern chief executive Oliver Kahn.
Muller won three European Cups with Bayern in addition to a Cup Winners’ Cup, four Bundesligas and four Germany Cups.
The penalty box king had long stepped back from the public eye, however, as he battled Alzheimer’s disease and lived in a nursing home.
“He was always a fighter, always brave, throughout his life,” his wife, Uschi Muller, told the Bild paper ahead of his 75th birthday last November. “And he is now. Gerd is sleeping towards his end.”
“He is quiet and peaceful, and I don’t think he has to suffer.”
After Muller ended his career in 1982, he suffered from alcoholism. His former teammates at Bayern were the ones to convince him to go through rehab.
And once recovered, Bayern gave him a coaching position at their under-23 team.
The victory over alcoholism was probably the most important in his life. “After four weeks I was cured,” he said in 2007. “To do that in such a short time, it was quite an achievement.”
Had he played today, Mueller would have been showered with riches, but whether he would have embraced social media and the attention which comes with the modern game is debatable.
For he was a superstar, but not one for glamour or red carpets, and reporters would not get a headline from his interviews.
He never envied Beckenbauer for his place in the spotlight as the former defender continued to travel around the world after his playing career.
“I’m not the type who likes to be away from home,” Muller said before his illness took hold.