Bundesliga: Robert Lewandowski topples Gerd Mueller’s goal record

Robert Lewandowski on Saturday broke Gerd Mueller’s 49-year-old record when he bagged a 41st Bundesliga goal of the campaign seconds before the final whistle on the last weekend of the season.

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Mueller, 75, is suffering from severe dementia, but ‘The Bomber’ remains an iconic figure in German football as the Bundesliga’s all-time top scorer with 365 goals, well ahead of Lewandowski’s tally of 277.

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Many thought Mueller’s record of 40 goals for Bayern Munich in 1971/72 would never be matched until Lewandowski rounded the goalkeeper to score in the same club’s 5-2 rout of Augsburg on Saturday after equalling the record last weekend.

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“It was tense until the last second, I would have liked to have scored earlier,” a relieved Lewandowski told Sky.

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“Sometimes you also have to stay patient, which was difficult.

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“I always believed that a chance would come. That was a special and historic moment.”

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While Mueller scored his 40 goals over 34 league games in 1971/72, injury and squad rotation meant Lewandowski broke the record in just 29 matches.

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Bayern scored 101 goals in the league in 1971/72 and 99 this season.

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Physically, the 32-year-old Lewandowski is very different to Mueller, who was 26 in the 1971/72 season.

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“Robert is an athlete, Gerd was an artist,” Mueller’s wife — Uschi Mueller — told magazine Sport Bild.

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At 1.84m and 79kgs, Lewandowski is a model athlete, renowned for his strict diet and training programme.

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Mueller, at 1.76m and 80kgs in his prime, was nicknamed “short fat Mueller” by former Bayern coach Zlatko Cajkovski.

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The pair share an unsatiable appetite for goals.

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Lewandowski has hit the net on average every 60 minutes this season, while ‘The Bomber’ scored every 77 minutes in 1971/72.

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Lightning reaction speed is another similarity.

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Mueller was a copybook penalty box striker, who could transfer the ball from his right to left foot with bewildering speed.

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His low centre of gravity helped Mueller steal an edge over defenders in the first few metres. Given a sniff of goal, he was an ice-cool finisher.

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Lewandowski is just as dynamic, but in contrast to Mueller, he is happy to shoot from outside the box or use the space to outsprint defenders.

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They share the killer instinct when the ball is near goal, often being alert to a rebound and waiting until the last second to pounce, as Lewandowski demonstrated on Saturday.

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Lewandowski started 2020/21 with a bang, converting a penalty and providing two assists in an 8-0 thrashing of the Schalke, a record result for the opening game of a Bundesliga season.

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He failed to score in the next game, a shock 4-1 loss at Hoffenheim, but provided all four goals, including a late match-winning penalty in a nervy 4-3 home win over Hertha Berlin last October.

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He was rested for one game in late October after scoring ten goals in his first five games, then hit a purple patch with 25 in 20 league games.

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A knee injury playing for Poland in late March left Lewandowski on 35 goals after a hat-trick against Stuttgart.

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After three weeks out, he returned with a goal in the shock loss at Mainz before hitting a hat-trick in the 6-0 home win over Moenchengladbach which won Bayern the title.

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While Lewandowski has scored consistently, Mueller had sporadic purple patches, netting just three goals in the first nine games of the 1971/72 season.

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However, he had scored 18 goals by the halfway point, including four in an 11-1 thrashing of Dortmund in November 1971.

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He then hit five goals in a 7-0 thrashing of Oberhausen which sparked a run of 16 goals in just seven games, finishing the season with six goals in three games.

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“Gerd spread fear and terror in defenders”, said Bayern assistant coach Hermann Gerland, who faced Mueller as a Bochum defender in the 1970s.

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And almost half a century later, Mueller was in Lewandowski’s thoughts when he scored at Freiburg last weekend.

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To celebrate a record-equalling 40th goal, Lewandowski lifted his playing shirt to reveal a T-shirt with Mueller’s face over the text ‘4EVER GERD’.

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As Bayern star Thomas Mueller later insisted “without the goals of Gerd Mueller, the club wouldn’t exist in its current form”.

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