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How do Gerd Müller, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo compare?

How do the modern greats compare to 'Der Bomber', who scored over 500 goals for his clubs.

Gerd Müller: the greatest marksman of his age?
Gerd Müller: the greatest marksman of his age? Getty Images

The football world lost one of the finest strikers of all time at the weekend when Bayern and West Germany legend Gerd Müller passed away at the age of 75.

A clinical predator in the box, Müller scored at a phenomenal rate for both club and country – and amassed a trophy collection befitting his talents, including three European Cups, a UEFA European Championship and a FIFA World Cup. But how does his career stack up when compared with modern greats Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo? UEFA.com takes a closer look at 'Der Bomber' and his fellow goal machines.

GOALS

Gerd Müller's European Cup final goals
Gerd Müller's European Cup final goals

European top flights (games/goals):
Müller 427/365
Messi 520/474
Ronaldo 610/479

Domestic cup (main competition only: no league cups or super cups):
Müller 62/78
Messi 80/56
Ronaldo 69/41

UEFA competition:
Müller 71/62
Messi 153/123
Ronaldo 184/137

Overall club total:
Müller 560/505 – goals per game average 0.90
Messi 753/653 – goals per game average 0.87
Ronaldo 863/657 – goals per game average 0.76

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

International:
Müller 62/68 – goals per game average 1.10
Messi
151/76 – goals per game average 0.50
Ronaldo
179/109 – goals per game average 0.61

Messi and Ronaldo's remarkable longevity has allowed them to compile staggering goal tallies, but Müller more than holds his own in terms of his scoring rate. The Bayern ace found the net at a faster pace for both club and country – indeed, his haul of 34 goals from 35 European Cup games puts him in a class of his own. Not that his overall totals are anything to sniff at, with his 365 Bundesliga goals still a competition record.

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
10 Liga (2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019), 7 Copa del Rey (2009, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021), 4 UEFA Champions League (2006, 2009, 2011, 2015)

Ronaldo
3 Premier League (2007, 2008, 2009), 2 Liga (2012, 2017), 2 Serie A (2019, 2020), 1 FA Cup (2004), 2 Copa del Rey (2011, 2014), 1 Coppa Italia (2021), 5 UEFA Champions League (2008, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018)

Major international trophies:
Müller 1 World Cup (1974), 1 EURO (1972)
Messi 1 Copa América (2021)
Ronaldo 1 EURO (2016), 1 UEFA Nations League (2019)

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

While time is running out for Messi and Ronaldo on the World Cup stage, Müller reached the apex of the European and world games with West Germany – and in fact held both titles at the same time. He did it by leading from the front too, scoring twice in a 3-0 success over the Soviet Union in the 1972 UEFA European Championship final before burying the winner against the Netherlands in the World Cup decider two years later.

HONOURS

Ballon d'Or:
Müller 1 (1970)
Messi 6 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019)
Ronaldo 5 (2008, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)

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

European Golden Shoe:
Müller 2 (1970, 1972)
Messi 6 (2010, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019)
Ronaldo 4 (2008, 2011, 2014, 2015)

European Cup/UEFA Champions League top scorer:
Müller 4 (1973, 1974, 1975, 1977)
Messi 6 (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019)
Ronaldo 7 (2008, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)

Cristiano Ronaldo with the Ballon D'Or in 2016
Cristiano Ronaldo with the Ballon D'Or in 2016Real Madrid via Getty Images

Domestic league top scorer:
Müller 7 (1967, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, 1974, 1978)
Messi 8 (2010, 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021)
Ronaldo 5 (2008, 2011, 2014, 2015, 2021)

In Ballon d'Or terms, Messi is the all-time leader with six titles, closely followed by Ronaldo and his five. One of these two modern titans snared the prize in every year from 2008 to 2017, and although Luka Modrić ended the sequence in 2018, Messi reclaimed the throne 12 months later. Müller was crowned just once, meanwhile, and finished lower on the podium on three other occasions: behind Johan Cruyff, Gianni Rivera and Franz Beckenbauer.

EXPERT TESTIMONY

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

On Gerd Müller

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

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

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

On Lionel Messi

Josep Guardiola: "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: "What I've seen him do, I've never seen anyone else do and I don't think I will."

Gerd Müller: "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."

All 14 of Ronaldo's EURO goals
All 14 of Ronaldo's EURO goals

On Cristiano Ronaldo

Zinédine Zidane: "When you play with Ronaldo on your team, you are already 1-0 up."

Eusébio: "He has magic in his boots … He believes he can do anything with the ball, and that confidence makes him very special indeed."

Luís Figo: "Ronaldo can do whatever he wants as a player. There are some things he does with the ball that make me touch my head and wonder how he did it."

PERSONAL STATEMENT

Watch Lionel Messi's 120 Champions League goals for Barcelona
Watch Lionel Messi's 120 Champions League goals for Barcelona

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 onto 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."

Ronaldo on Ronaldo: "I am not a perfectionist, but I like to feel that things are done well. More important than that, I feel an endless need to learn, to improve, to evolve – not only to please the coach and the fans, but also to feel satisfied with myself."