Gerd Muller v Ronaldo

Player Head to Head: Gerd Muller v Ronaldo

This contest is between the two greatest goal scorers in World Cup history. Forget Just Fontaine; his 13 goals in 1958 included 4 goals in the 3rd place match. Forget Sándor Kocsis; amongst goal scorers he was perhaps the best header of a football ever, but his feat of 11 goals in 1954 was really down to the brilliance of that great Hungarian team, completely dominating opponents and scoring 5.4 goals per game. And finally, forget Miroslav Klose; his total of 14 may have equaled his compatriot Gerd Muller, but it took him six more games.

For sure this is the contest for the main striking position in the all time World Cup dream team, a head to head between two strikers who set the bar on how to operate at the business end of the pitch.

The key statistics are shown in the table.

Muller v Ronaldo: Head to Head Report Card  
Playing Time
World Cups24
Winning Finals11
Overall win %85%84%
Goals scored1415
Goals per 90 min1.020.83
% of team goals48%36%
Goals after Round 143%53%
Decisive Goals64
Decisive %46%21%
Red cards00
Yellow cards22

Playing time: Ronaldo was selected for 4 World Cup squads, but did not play in his first tournament in 1994. He played 19 matches across 1998, 2002 and 2006, which is a lot for a man in his position, especially with his lack of pace towards the end of his career, and he top scored in 2002. Muller only played in 1970 and 1974, top scoring in 1970, and has played 6 matches fewer than Ronaldo.

Winning: Both players have a World Cup winners’ medal: Muller in 1974, scoring the winner against the Netherlands in the final, and Ronaldo in 2002, scoring both goals against Germany in the final. Both also have excellent overall win ratios, with 85% and 84% respectively, defined as total games won when selected divided by total games played when selected. This is right up near the top of the tree: Pele had a win ratio of 86%, so it is extremely close.

Goals: Whilst Ronaldo edges Muller in total goals, 15 to 14, Muller is more prolific, scoring slightly more than one goal every 90 minutes to 0.83 for Ronaldo. And it seems that West Germany relied on Muller’s goals to a greater extent, as he scored 48% of his team’s goals when he played, compared to Ronaldo’s 36%.

Importance: It is one thing to score a lot of goals, but quite another to score them when they really matter. Ronaldo scored more than 50% after the group stage when the opposition is tougher, compared to 43% for Muller. In fairness, Muller’s two group stage hatricks in 1970 do skew this result. Perhaps a better indicator is how often their goals proved decisive to the match result. In Muller’s case his goals made the difference to the overall result in 6 of his 13 matches, whereas Ronaldo’s goals only really counted in 4 out of 19 matches. It seems Brazil have shared the goals around more and generally have won by bigger margins more often than West Germany.

Discipline: It is two yellow cards each and no reds, so both have decent disciplinary records, though Roanldo is better on a ‘per games played’ basis.

Here is the end of term school report card, and it is a narrow win for “Der Bomber”. Ronaldo has a terrific record too, but it will be Gerd Muller playing up front for the all time World Cup dream team, looking to the likes of Pele, Maradona and Zidane for service. You would back him to score at least a goal every game!

Muller v Ronaldo: marks out of 10  
Playing Time89
Total out of 504442

To sum up Gerd Muller’s qualities, I will turn to David Winner who wrote in his book “Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Football”, “Müller was short, squat, awkward-looking and not notably fast; he never fit the conventional idea of a great footballer, but he had lethal acceleration over short distances, a remarkable aerial game, and uncanny goalscoring instincts. His short legs gave him a strangely low center of gravity, so he could turn quickly and with perfect balance in spaces and at speeds that would cause other players to fall over. He also had a knack of scoring in unlikely situations”.

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