How do Gerd Müller and Lionel Messi compare?

Gerd Müller and Lionel Messi both scored over 500 competitive goals for their clubs in the course of glittering European careers; UEFA.com compares and contrasts two all-time greats.

Lionel Messi and Gerd Müller: little wonders of their age
Lionel Messi and Gerd Müller: little wonders of their age ©Getty Images

Media reports at the weekend suggested that Barcelona's Lionel Messi had matched Bayern great Gerd Müller's stellar 'total' of 525 competitive goals for a single club. UEFA.com can quibble with the figures (see notes below), but there is no questioning the brilliance of both forwards. UEFA.com lines the German Bomber and the Atomic Flea back-to-back (Müller 176cm, Messi 170cm).

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EXPERT TESTIMONY

Highlights: Watch all of Gerd Müller’s EURO 1972 goals
Highlights: Watch all of Gerd Müller’s EURO 1972 goals

Paul Breitner on Müller:
"He was the greatest genius I have witnessed in football."

Thomas Müller on Müller:
"You have respect for all the great strikers, but Gerd still hovers above them all."

Franz Beckenbauer on Müller:
"Without his goals FC Bayern would not be what it is today. We would still have a wooden hut at the training ground."

Watch every one of Messi’s 100 European goals
Watch every one of Messi’s 100 European goals

Josep Guardiola on Messi:
"Nobody can sit at Messi's table. He scores 60 or 70 goals per season, always in the big games; he plays every three days and never gets injured. He has his body under total control. He's the best player I've ever seen."

Andrés Iniesta on Messi:
"What I've seen him do, I've never seen anyone else do and I don't think I will. "

Gerd Müller on Messi:
"Messi is an unbelievable player. He's a giant yet such a nice and humble person. He only has one flaw: he's not playing for FC Bayern."

GOALS

Messi celebrates another goal for Barcelona
Messi celebrates another goal for Barcelona©AFP/Getty Images

Domestic league:
Müller 427/365
Messi 397/363

Domestic cup (main competition only: no league cups or super cups)
Müller 62/78
Messi 62/44

UEFA competition:
Müller 71/62
Messi 125/100

Overall club total:
Müller 560/505 – goals per game average 0.90
Messi 584/507 – goals per game average 0.87

Eusébio and Gerd Müller compare Golden Boots
Eusébio and Gerd Müller compare Golden Boots©AFP

International:
Müller 62/68
Messi 123/61

The 525 club total touted seems a little unfair on both players, including as it does goals from the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup for Müller (a competition regarded as unofficial by UEFA) and strikes from the Spanish Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup for Messi. To keep it simple and ensure a fair equivalence, we stuck to four principal appearance types – league, main domestic cup, UEFA competition and internationals. Judged by these criteria, their records are eerily similar.

TROPHIES

Messi with the Golden Ball after the 2014 World Cup final
Messi with the Golden Ball after the 2014 World Cup final©AFP/Getty Images

Major club trophies:
Müller 4 Bundesliga (1969, 1972, 1973, 1974), 4 German Cup (1966, 1967, 1969, 1971), 3 European Cup (1974, 1975, 1976), 1 Cup Winners' Cup (1967)
Messi 8 Liga (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016), 5 Copa del Rey (2009, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017), 4 UEFA Champions League (2006, 2009, 2011, 2015)

Major international trophies:
Müller 1 World Cup (1974), 1 EURO (1972)
Messi none

Müller with the World Cup in 1974
Müller with the World Cup in 1974©Getty Images

Messi has not been lucky in terms of international competitions; he played in three Copa América finals and the final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and ended up on the losing side each time – his team failing to score in all four games (losing two on penalties). Müller, meanwhile, struck the winner in his only World Cup final, and also netted in both of his EURO finals – West Germany's 1972 triumph and subsequent 1976 shoot-out defeat by Czechoslovakia.

HONOURS

Müller receives some domestic prizes in 1969
Müller receives some domestic prizes in 1969©Getty Images

Ballon d'Or:
Müller 1 (1970)
Messi 5 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015)

European Golden Shoe:
Müller 2 (1970, 1972)
Messi 4 (2010, 2012, 2013, 2017)

European Cup/UEFA Champions League top scorer:
Müller 4 (1973, 1974, 1975, 1977)
Messi 5 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015)

Messi with the Ballon d'Or in 2015
Messi with the Ballon d'Or in 2015©AFP/Getty Images

Domestic league top scorer:
Müller 7 (1967, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1978)
Messi 4 (2010, 2012, 2013, 2017)

As regards the Ballon d'Or, Messi's only constant rival has been Cristiano Ronaldo (the pair have finished one and two in the last ten editions, and were second and third behind Kaká in 2007). Aside from his 1970 win, Müller was in the top three on three other occasions in an era when Johan Cruyff, Gianni Rivera and Franz Beckenbauer took the top prize.

PERSONAL STATEMENT

Müller on Müller: "The box was my kingdom. I never scored a lot of goals from outside the box."

"You need to be able to score blind. It really helps if you can shoot at the goal without looking."

Messi on Messi: "I enjoy myself, playing just as I did when I was a boy. My playing style remains the same; I try to enjoy myself every time I step on to the pitch. I know I have my responsibilities and we have objectives, but I try to have fun because I do something that I love doing."

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