Berlin (AFP) – Gerd Mueller remains one of Germany’s best strikers of all time, even after Robert Lewandowski on Saturday equalled his Bundesliga record of 40 goals in 1971/72, which many thought would never be matched.
The 75-year-old Mueller, who spends his days peacefully dozing in a south Munich nursing home for patients with severe dementia, has not been aware his record was in danger – unlike his wife.
She has been hearing about “nothing else everyday for weeks,” Uschi Mueller told magazine Sport Bild.
Gerd Mueller would not hold it against Lewandowski for breaking her husband’s record, Uschi Mueller is “one hundred percent sure” of that.
She says the former Bayern Munich and West Germany legend would never have begrudged Lewandowski.
“Quite the opposite: he would be the first to offer congratulations, to say: ‘Well done, boy. You did well’.”
Despite his poor health, Mueller remains a German football icon and earned the nickname “The Bomber” for his goals having scored 68 times in 62 internationals for West Germany.
Mueller’s total of 365 Bundesliga goals seems out of reach, even for Lewandowski who scored his 276th German league goal on Saturday.
“In my eyes, he (Mueller) is the most important player in the history of Bayern Munich,” said former team-mate Franz Beckenbauer.
“It is thanks to his goals that the club has reached the international level where it still plays.
“I am convinced that people will still be talking about him in a hundred years’ time.”
Mueller’s goals helped West Germany win the 1974 World Cup final and the European Championship final two years earlier.
He scored twice in the 1972 Euro final in a 3-0 win over the Soviet Union, then his shot in the box two years later in the 1974 World Cup final sealed a 2-1 win over the Johan Cruyff-inspired Netherlands.
With Bayern, Mueller was a three-time winner of the European Cup in 1974, 1975 and 1976, the forerunner of the Champions League.
Many thought his 40 goals in 34 Bundesliga games in 1971/72 would never be matched – until Lewandowski’s exploits this season.
Paul Breitner, a team-mate of Mueller, says Lewandowski is the first player he has seen with the “huge quality and a greed that I’ve only known from Gerd in five decades, who was never satisfied and would have loved to score 10 goals in every game”.