While Gerd Müller’s tally of 14 World Cup goals has been surpassed, both Ronaldo of Brazil and his compatriot Miroslav Klose needed a greater number of games in which to do so.
The striker needed just eight games across the 1970 and 1974 tournaments in which to amass his tally for West Germany, and he scored 68 in total for his country in just 62 games – Klose did overtake him and finished with 71, but he won 137 caps.
Having made his debut for his country in 1966, the Bayern Munich man established himself with nine goals in six qualifiers for the 1970 tournament in Mexico. As a centre-forward, Müller wore 9 for Bayern Munich and appeared in both that and 8 during the qualifiers, but when the numbers were assigned for the World Cup, captain Uwe Seeler had first preference on 9, which he had worn in the 1966 event.
Müller opted for 13, which he said was his lucky number – his hero Max Morlock scored a goal wearing 13 in the 1954 World Cup final, West Germany having given their defenders numbers 2-10 and attackers 11 upwards. That Müller scored ten goals in six games as Germany reached the semi-finals backed up that sentiment.
Four years later, Seeler had retired but Müller retained 13 – Jürgen Grabowski wore 9 – and he scored four goals the World Cup was won on home soil.
Twenty-six years later, another member of the Müller clan benefited from 13’s goalscoring charm, too.
In the present day, players who come through Bayern Munich’s youth system to the first team have tended to keep their numbers rather than ‘trading down’ – Philipp Lahm wore 21 from 2005-06 until his retirement last year (he’s a kind-of exception as he did wear 29 before two seasons at Stuttgart), Bastian Schweinsteiger was always 31 and Müller has worn 25 since his debut in 2008-09.
That was also the number he wore on his Germany debut, a friendly against Argentina in the spring of 2010, but World Cup rules limit squads to being numbered 1-23.
When Germany captain Michael Ballack suffered an injury which ruled him out of the competition, Müller – whose Twitter handle is an homage to how Gerd turned the surname into a verb – had an opportunity to emulate his namesake, as he told Raphael Honigstein in Das Reboot: How German Football Reinvented Itself and Conquered the World:
I had the choice between 4, 13 and 14 and I then remembered that Gerd wore the 13 and couldn’t resist.
Five goals as Germany reached the semi-finals in South Africa earned Müller the Golden Boot, and he repeated the feat in 2014 as they went all the way, though this time he had to be content with the Silver Boot as his now-teammate at Bayern, James Rodriguez, was top scorer.
In 2010, Müller could have switched to 13 for Bayern when Andreas Görlitz left, but it stayed empty for 2010-11 before Rafinha took it for 2011-12, keeping it since.
For Germany, it’s what he has continued to wear, though, with Gerd’s approval:
It’s fantastic to see a Müller wearing the number 13 at a World Cup again.