Germany’s recent World Cup warm up game against Armenia proved to be significant for two reasons: one, Marco Reus picked up an injury; and two, Miroslav Klose’s 69th international goal established him as his country’s all-time leading goal scorer, beating Gerd Müller’s record.
It’s quite an achievement for Klose, but then he did require almost twice as many appearances to rack up his total. If Müller had played as many fixtures as Klose, surely his tally would be unachievably high? Maybe, but comparing footballers from different eras always comes down to opinions. Some would argue that life was easier for strikers in the 60s and 70s than it is today. Who knows how many Klose would have scored had he played in Germany’s exceptional team of that era?
The problem with judging Klose is that he is an inherently ordinary player with an extraordinary record. There is nothing remarkable about his game. He will not be remembered as one of the great strikers of his generation, and since Müller there have been other more obviously eye catching German strikers. Klose doesn’t have Jurgen Klinsmann’s athleticism, Rudi Voeller’s skill, or Andreas Moller’s ridiculously arrogant swagger. It is hard to imagine that he will ever be spoken of in the same way as any of these predecessors – and yet, there he is, sitting on top of the pile.
But, having conquered Germany, Klose has an even greater target within reach – THE WORLD. Mr ordinary has 14 World Cup goals, which puts him one behind first place on the leader board, a position currently occupied by Ronaldo. Now, there is no debate about Ronaldo’s greatness. He is one of the greatest centre forwards to play the game, and his combination of phenomenal power with exquisite skill was, before injuries took their toll, almost unstoppable.
Ronaldo is remembered by everyone who watched him at his peak. He scored the kind of goals only seen in advertisements for football boots – a quick spin away from this market, exploding into a lightning fast sprint, weaving past a desperate tackle before hammering the ball into the top corner with enough venom to fell a herd of elephants. As a viewer I would laugh at the ridiculousness of his play. The controlled aggression in his movement terrified defenders who had nowhere to hide, and he punished them brutally with immaculate finishing.
Basically, he was really, really fucking good, and for my generation he changed everything. We saw some good strikers in the 90’s, like Klinsmann, Shearer, and Romario, but Ronaldo combined the best aspects of all of them and then some.
Football is full of sentimental nonsense, but it’s right that Ronaldo has the record for World Cup goals, because he had such an impact on the game, and the tournament in particular. We know of the traumatic end to Ronaldo’s World Cup in France, and his subsequent battle with recurring, career-threatening injuries. That he returned to the World Cup four years later and scored twice in the final to defeat Germany is the kind of romantic achievement that makes football compelling. It’s just an unfortunate footnote that he chose this moment to display one of the worst haircuts ever seen in football.
Now, try to remember a thing that Klose did. Go on, try. I bet all you can think of are the five headed goals against Saudi Arabia. Five identical headers against a dreadful side. Klose will always be that guy who was great at scoring goals against rubbish teams – whether that’s fair or not, there just isn’t much else to celebrate.
He’s probably great at loads of the boring but important bits of football, like making the right runs, but who remembers that? In another era he surely would have had fewer chances, but he’s had the benefit of being around at a time when Germany are a steadily improving side without an outstanding centre forward. They probably won’t bother with one at all when he calls it a day.
You could argue that international goal scoring records are essentially bollocks because it’s not a level playing field. To some extent it depends on fate of birth, but international football also throws up the kind of mismatch rarely seen in professional football, providing rich opportunities for strikers to plunder goals, further skewing the charts. But, the leading goal scorer at World Cups should be held by someone to revere, like Ronaldo. No one reveres Klose – you don’t even get the sense that he reveres himself. There’s no hint of the arrogance that most of the best goal scorers have. He’s boring, and this is why he must fail in Brazil.
So, here’s hoping Klose has a shit World Cup. And, if he happens to score another really unremarkable, instantly ‘s forgettable goal or two, let’s just ignore the record and pretend like no one cared anyway.
Here’s some Ronaldo goals to enjoy.