Miroslav Klose wrote his name into the pantheon of German football history on Friday with yet another goal for his national side. On target in the 3-0 defeat of Austria in 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ qualifying, the 35-year-old forward notched his 68th strike for Die Nationalmannschaft, drawing level with Gerd Muller as his country's joint record goalscorer.
"I'm very happy for him," said Der Bomber, now aged 67, afterwards. "Miro is a great striker and a really nice guy. He deserves everything that's happening to him."
For his part, Lazio marksman Klose has never hidden his admiration for Muller. In fact, more than anything, he seemed uncomfortable with the thought of competing with his idol as he began to pull closer to the famous benchmark. Like Muller before him, Klose is an extremely modest individual, and it is a character trait that makes the two men easy to like.
FIFA.com digs a little deeper into the statistics to compare their careers. The high-achieving duo may have plied their trades several decades apart, but the figures speak volumes for their respective talents.
As the saying goes, everything comes to those who wait. Klose had not scored for Germany since the 4-4 draw with Sweden last October, but he was finally able to equal Muller's haul against Austria. It took him more than twice as many matches to do it, however, and Der Bomber's incredible scoring ratio looks in little danger of ever being matched. "It's a joke to compare me to him," said Klose. "Nobody comes even close to him. What he accomplished was quite simply exceptional, and I told him so personally when I met him."
FIFA World Cup goals
Miroslav Klose: 14 in 19 games (three tournaments)
Gerd Muller: 14 in 13 games (two tournaments)
The two players can pride themselves on having engineered some of the finest moments in the modern era, and both are among the greatest forwards to grace the FIFA World Cup. Moreover, they currently lie joint second on the list of all-time scorers in the global showcase, outstripped solely by Brazil's Ronaldo on 15 goals. Muller collected the adidas Golden Boot at Mexico 1970, topping the scoring charts thanks to his agility, a capacity to pounce even when denied space and his unerringly precise and opportunistic finishing. Klose then repeated the feat on home soil 36 years later, relying more on speed, aerial ability and technique. Muller believes that his successor "is far from being finished yet", and could even dethrone Ronaldo at Brazil 2014: "That would be extraordinary. I hope he'll still be able to play at the highest level for another two or three years."
Miroslav Klose: aged 21 (Kaiserslautern)
Gerd Muller: aged 19 (Bayern Munich)
There was a hint of chance about the way both players ended up at the clubs where they made their breakthroughs. Until the age of 20, Klose led the line for Blaubach-Diedelkopf, a modest side in the seventh tier. After a brief spell with Homburg in Germany’s top amateur division, he signed for Kaiserslautern in 1999. It was then the world started to take note of his blossoming talent. As for Muller, he first turned heads at Nordlingen, where he racked up 180 of the 204 goals registered by the club's youth team in 1962/63 to draw envious glances from Bayern Munich and 1860 Munich. Bayern were quicker to offer the then 17-year-old a professional contract and that ultimately made the difference, Muller later admitting that he also feared he would struggle to make the grade with Die Löwen. With their new find rapidly settling in, Bayern earned promotion to the Bundesliga in 1964/65, and Der Bomber's career was set for its stunning take-off.
Number of clubs
Miroslav Klose: 4
Gerd Muller: 3
Klose is often regarded as one of modern football's more settled players, but compared to Muller he could almost be considered something of a wayfarer. Since earning his stripes at Kaiserlautern, the Polish-born marksman has also turned out for Werder Bremen, Bayern and Lazio, whereas his predecessor spent nearly his entire career in Bavaria. Muller rounded off his playing days with three years in the United States between 1979 and 1981, playing for Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Smiths Brothers Lounge, but he is remembered above all for his 365 goals in 427 Bundesliga outings with Bayern. Klose left for Lazio having struck 121 times in Germany's top flight from a total of 307 appearances.
Along the way, both men topped the Bundesliga goals table and picked up player-of-the-year accolades, with Muller also winning the Ballon d'Or in 1970. The two players also snared league and German Cup trophies, with Der Bomber getting his hands on three European Champion Clubs' Cups and a FIFA World Cup. In short, the pair can lay claim to an impressive list of winner's medals.
Despite having so much in common, the similarities end when it comes to comparing silverware on the international stage. A runner-up in the finals of the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan and UEFA EURO 2008, Klose has twice come tantalisingly close to glory without being able to cross the line, whereas Muller helped his nation to the European title in 1972 and tasted FIFA World Cup success two years later. Klose will nonetheless have one eye on Brazil 2014, where he will hope to get the chance to emulate his idol once again.