FIFA.com: You took part in the 1970 and 1974 FIFA World
Cups. What are your memories of the two competitions?
Gerd Muller: The 1970 World Cup in Mexico was a far better experience for me than 1974. There were some absolutely classic games and the team really gelled. There was almost no falling out. Unfortunately that wasn't the case in '74.
Were the matches better or was the team just more harmonious?
We had the best team in 1970. Everyone reckons the '72 and '74 teams were better, but I think our 1970 team was the best.
Looking back at the two FIFA World Cups, what was the best experience you had?
Winning the World Cup, of course. The day before, I read in a newspaper that a clairvoyant had said Holland would win. I lost a lot of sleep that night, thinking about it and hoping it wouldn't come true. When we won 2-1, it was just the most wonderful feeling.
Which was your best game at a FIFA World Cup finals?
[All the games at] Mexico 1970, apart from the match against Morocco, when we all played badly. The whole of the team played well in all the other matches. No-one had an off day. We always had two men to spare out on the wings. If one of them couldn't play, the other played, and that's the way it was throughout the competition. We had a squad of 22 and could have played any one of them in any of the matches. They were all that good.
What was your best match, and what was the best match of the tournament?
Our most important match was definitely the game against England. My best matches were against Italy and Bulgaria. I scored three goals and another three against Peru. Everything worked out for me.
Who was your hardest opponent?
Rosato! The Italian Roberto Rosato. He was a really tight marker, but also a gentleman. It was all rough and tumble with him. At the start of the second half, I'd already made my way into the penalty area when I suddenly thought: "Hang on, where's Rosato?" I turned round and saw he'd gone. He wasn't on the pitch any more.
He'd hurt his knee and Burgnich had come on for him. Burgnich was a midfielder though, not a man-marker. He didn't stick to me, he gave me two or three yards instead, which meant I had time to control the ball, something I hadn't been able to do when Rosato was on. If you didn't move to the ball, you'd never get it since Rosato was already there. But I have to say he was never unfair.
And your best opponent? Who did you most enjoy playing against?
Do you mean in Germany, or overall?
No, just in FIFA World Cup matches.
I just took it as it came and didn't really mind who I was playing. I didn't know much about most of them, except perhaps the English, but certainly not the South Americans. They played with a back four, but we always had a libero.
You scored 68 goals in 62 internationals and 14 goals at the FIFA World Cup finals. Only Ronaldo has surpassed that record.
Well, I did play at two World Cups.
Even so, for a player to score 14 goals in two FIFA World Cups.
The second is Juste Fontaine with 13.
Is there a goal that deserves special mention, one you would say was your best, your most important?
The goal in the Final against Holland was obviously the most important, but the one I scored against England was the best. Grabowski crossed and Hennes Lohr nodded it back, high across goal, and I caught it way up high on the volley. I don't know how I managed to get my foot so high and make contact, but in it went.
A side-on bicycle kick?
Yes, it was so high! I don't know how I got my foot up to that ball.
At the 1970 FIFA World Cup, you were the top scorer with 10 goals.
How would you compare that with winning the FIFA World Cup? One was a personal success, the other a team triumph.
I must say that all the teams were stronger in 1970. Morocco were probably our weakest opponents but all the other teams had world-class players. You couldn't say any of them were easy to beat. We had to earn all our victories.
Coming back to my question, would you say that scoring ten goals during a FIFA World Cup or winning a FIFA World Cup was the greatest success for you, or would you say that they were both great successes?
My greatest success was winning the World Cup with the team.
And your ten goals in 1970?
Carlos Alberto was on seven goals. We were there to watch the Final, all hoping he wouldn't score another three.
So then came your greatest success, winning the trophy in 1974.
Yes, but we didn't play well in 1974. The first three games were abysmal, and there were problems in the dressing room too.
What about the match against the former East Germany? That must have been a disaster at the time.
Yes, although with hindsight, it was a good thing we lost. Otherwise, we'd have been in the other group. If we'd won, we'd have been in the same group as Holland and Brazil.
But there was probably a lot of criticism in West Germany after you lost to East Germany?
Very much so. All hell broke loose in our training camp when we lost. Helmut Schon was in a right mood and we were up till the early hours trying to work out how we had lost. It shouldn't have happened. We should have beaten them. We also weren't sure whether Overath or Netzer was the better midfielder. Looking back on it now, I have to admit we the players made a mistake, because Overath was the better player, a better tournament player than Gunther Netzer.
Gunther Netzer is supposed to have said: "Overath was born for the national team."
Yes, Overath could really get his teeth into a game and hang on in there for an hour and a half. But we'd played so well with Netzer at the European Championships in 1972 that we thought we really needed him in the team. That was a mistake. Overath should have played, he was a better tournament player. Overath only played in the second half, but we told Schon he had to make some changes. Five new players came in against Yugoslavia. Then things started to work out and we played well.
You mean the players picked the team?
We told Schon he had to do something or we'd be out of the competition.
How was the general mood in the country during the FIFA World Cup?
The mood was very good, but we didn't pick up on that at all. Unlike today's players, we didn't stay in hotels but in sports academies. We trained at the Malente sports academy near Hanover.
Was there a media circus like today's?
As far as I can remember, we had two press conferences a week, now there's one every day. We were definitely more shielded.
Was there more pressure on you because you were playing at home in Germany?
The pressure was certainly there and you're always nervous before the first match. We won 1-0 against Chile thanks to Paul Breitner trying his luck. It was a wonderful goal. Then we beat Australia 3-0, although it was another poor display. But then we had a rude awakening against East Germany. That's when we started to get really nervous.
What was the key game at the 1974 FIFA World Cup, the game that fundamentally shaped the course of the tournament?
I think the key match was against Yugoslavia, because they were also a good team. We beat them 2-0. Then there was that tough game against Sweden on a very heavy pitch.
What were your personal highlights at the 1974 FIFA World Cup?
We didn't really get up to much. Perhaps that's just the way it is with the German team. Every day, we just thought about football and the matches.
So all you did was train?
Our training sessions offered plenty of variety and were well planned.
What did you feel during the Final at your home stadium in Munich, playing in front of a capacity crowd? What was the atmosphere like in the ground?
The atmosphere was fantastic, but it would have been fantastic wherever we'd played. But we certainly knew our way around and six of us were from Munich. It certainly had a different feel to playing in Hamburg, and we played a few good games there too. But we did get annoyed before the match. We needed a look at the pitch to decide on the type of studs to use, but a DFB official told us to get out of the way and not interrupt the programme. But we needed to look and decide on our studs. I always played with long studs, even on a hard pitch or in Mexico. I was used to playing with long studs for Bayern and I hardly ever slipped.
Because they were so light?
No, because they gave me more grip.
What did you think after the Netherlands took such an early lead?
I sensed the referee would blow his whistle again if one of us went down in the penalty area, and that's the way it was. It definitely wasn't a penalty, he went down very easily. But the other was on the line. The ref could have waved a red card, we were aware of that. But he didn't give a penalty for that clear foul in the second half and he disallowed my goal as well, and that definitely should have stood.
So you were in shock at first?
Yes, we were in shock. At the end of the day, it was a good thing the Dutch scored so early. I think they underestimated us, they started to spray the ball about and then they thought: 'Hang on, the Germans are getting back into it.' Then they started giving it everything again.
When did you reach the point where you thought you could win the game? Was it after your goal?
Not after the goal. The score was 2-1 and then it was half-time. Twenty minutes into the second half, we were looking at the clock and it seemed as if it would never be over. It drives you mad. But then it was over at last.
What was it like after the final whistle, and how did you feel?
It's a very good feeling.
Were you longing for that whistle?
Yes, it was all over, and I threw myself to the ground.
Could you make sense of it all right away?
No, you don't think rationally, you've won the World Cup, but how you got there just doesn't matter.
Your goal was a little curious. Could you talk us through it again?
We were in their half of the field. Bonhof played a one-two with Grabowski out on the right and ended up level with their penalty area. I was about 10 yards out by the near post. The Dutch defence were all back, and one of them was marking me. I made a run and all three followed me, which was a mistake. I wanted to trap the ball with my left foot, but it bounced up and came to my right foot and I just swung my boot at it. I knew where the goal was, and in it went.
You were well-known for your instinct!
You have to react quickly or the chance is gone.
How did you feel up there in the stands with the Trophy in your hands?
It was a great feeling. It's really tremendous, winning the World Cup and holding the Trophy in your hands.
The crowd was cheering and the television was there too.
Yes, it was great.
What did you feel at the time?
You can't think of anything else, it's all you think about.
So let me hand you the Trophy. What's it like to hold it again?
(Holding the trophy) It's really heavy!
It was just as heavy then.
Back then, I didn't care. I've only noticed how heavy it is now.
I suppose it brings back some memories?
Yes, I think I'll hang on to it!
Do you have any special memories of the Cup?
We also got a cup.
No, I mean did anything special happen that night or did you take the Trophy with you? What happened at the team celebration?
The team celebration was nothing special at all. FIFA or UEFA hadn't invited our wives or the Dutch players' wives. That wasn't right and the mood wasn't what it might have been. But our wives celebrated more on the second floor than we did on the first.
And you went up to join them afterwards?
Yes, we went up afterwards.
Coming back to the Trophy itself: Jurgen Kohler said the only thing wrong with it was that you couldn't drink out of it.
Well, he should have made a hole in it!
What do you think about the Cup from an aesthetic point of view?
I think it's really fantastic. It's the kind of thing you want to take in your hands or win at least once.
That must be a fantastic feeling.
Yes, after you've won the World Cup, no-one can take that away from you.