MUNICH (AP) — Gerd Müller, the Bayern Munich and former West Germany soccer great known as “Der Bomber” for his scoring prowess, has died. He was 75.
The Bavarian club announced his death on Sunday, with club president Herbert Hainer saying it was “a sad, dark day for FC Bayern and all its fans.”
Müller scored 566 goals for Bayern between 1964 and 1979, helping the team to four German titles, four German Cup wins and three European Cup victories in that time. He still holds the record for the most goals scored in the Bundesliga with 365, scored in 427 league games.
Müller’s goals, scored in a variety of ways, helped earn Bayern promotion to the Bundesliga in 1965 and usher in a period of greatness at the club that laid the foundation for its success today.
“Gerd Müller was the greatest striker there’s ever been, and a fine person and character of world football,” Hainer said in a statement posted on the club’s website. “We’re all united in deep mourning with his wife Uschi as well as his family.”
Former West Germany forward Rudi Völler said it was “a sad day for soccer. Gerd’s performances will stay unforgettable.”
Tributes came from outside Germany, too.
“The best striker in history,” Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola said on Twitter.
Former England forward Gary Lineker said he “loved watching him as a child and learnt so much from doing so. The greatest penalty box goal scorer I’ve ever seen.”
Bayern announced in October 2015 that Müller had Alzheimer’s disease for “a long time” and that he had been cared for professionally with the support of his family since the beginning of February that year.
Müller made 607 competitive appearances for Bayern. He was the league’s top scorer on seven occasions. He was able to score goals as important to Bayern’s ascent to becoming Germany’s powerhouse as former teammates Franz Beckenbauer and Uli Hoeneß.
Müller’s record of 40 goals scored in the 1971-72 Bundesliga season was only beaten last season, when current Bayern forward Robert Lewandowski scored his 41st in the last minute of the last game.
Müller also helped West Germany win the European Championship in 1972, then the World Cup two years later, when he scored the winning goal in the final against the Netherlands.
Rainer Bonhof remembers setting up Müller for that winning goal in Munich.
“I played the ball in from the right so hard that the ball came backwards off his foot. And then he fired the ball through a Dutch player’s legs and into the goal for 2-1. He was the only one who could do such a thing,” Bonhof told Monday’s edition of the Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper.
Altogether Müller scored 68 goals in 62 appearances for West Germany. It was a national record only surpassed in 2014 by Miroslav Klose, who needed 129 appearances to match him.
“He was the best German forward of all time. Without him, FC Bayern and the German team would never have been able to take this successful path,” Bavarian state president Markus Söder said. ”I myself was a big fan. All of Bavaria is mourning.”
The chief executive of Bayern rival Borussia Dortmund also paid his respect.
“Gerd Müller was one of the biggest idols of my childhood and youth,” Hans-Joachim Watzke said. “I had the great honor to get to know him personally as a very humble and pleasant person. He was an outstanding player for whom FC Bayern and the German soccer team owe so much.”
Müller became a youth coach at Bayern after his playing days, working with players such as Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller.
“His achievements are unrivaled to this day and will forever be a part of the great history of FC Bayern and all of German football,” Bayern chairman Oliver Kahn added in the club statement. “As a player and a person, Gerd Müller stands for FC Bayern and its development into one of the biggest clubs in the world like no other. Gerd will forever be in our hearts.”