Golden Boot Greats – Part Two

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Golden Boot Greats

The World Cup has always been the showcase for the top strikers to prove their worth. Football Espana highlights some of the men who have etched their names forever on the history of the tournament with their exploits in front of goal.

Gerd Muller – West Germany 1970, 1974

‘Der Bomber’ was the most prolific striker in World Cup history – with 14 goals in two tournaments – before the recent exploits of Ronaldo and Miroslav Klose. Born in 1945 in Nordlingen, he began with his local club before joining Bayern Munich and helping them into the Bundesliga in 1965.

His international debut was in October 1966, Germany's first match after the defeat in the 1966 Final. By the 1970 World Cup, he was averaging a goal every international appearance and then hit 10 in six matches, including successive hat-tricks, as the Germans reached the semi-finals.

Muller scored four goals in the 1974 event, including the winner in the Final against Holland, which was his last international. He helped Bayern to many domestic and European honours, was European Footballer of the Year in 1970 and twice won the Golden Boot, scoring 365 goals in 628 senior games all told, including 68 in only 62 internationals to pass Uwe Seeler's record.

Mario Kempes – Argentina 1974, 1978, 1982

Although he appeared in three tournaments, Mario Kempes made his name in front of his home fans in 1978, finishing top scorer with six goals – including two in the Final against Holland when Argentina won in extra time.

It was with his move to Spain in 1976 that this beautifully balanced and speedy striker, with a powerful shot, first became noticed although he'd made his international debut three years earlier as a 19-year-old playing for Cordoba and then Rosario Central. In his first full season with Valencia against tight Spanish defences, he was the League's top scorer, his 24 goals the highest total for 10 years. His 28 the following year was the highest since Alfredo Di Stefano's 31 nearly 20 years earlier. Kempes figured in Valencia's penalty decider in the 1980 European Cup-Winners Cup Final win over Arsenal.

A million-pound deal took him to River Plate before playing in his third World Cup in 1982. Like in his first he again failed to score and, after being substituted against Brazil, his World Cup career ended after 18 matches, three behind the record. Later that year he was back at Valencia before finishing his career in Austria and finally Chile.

Paolo Rossi – Italy 1978, 1982, 1986

The man who won Italy the World Cup for the third time. The striker from Tuscany finished as top scorer in 1982 with six goals – not bad considering he failed to score in their first four games. Yet Rossi was fortunate to be involved at all. A year after catching the eye during the World Cup in Argentina, he was caught up in a match betting scandal that rocked the Italian game. Playing for Perugia, Rossi was banned for two years. This was lifted just two months before the 1982 World Cup.

Nobody in Italy expected Enzo Bearzot to select Rossi who’d just signed for Juventus. But remembering his wonderful three-goal contribution in Italy’s excellent 1978 campaign when they finished fourth, the Italian Coach gambled and it paid off sensationally. ‘Pablito’ scored a hat-trick that dumped the brilliant Brazilians out and, in the semi-final against Poland, Rossi scored both in the 2-0 win.

In the Final, Rossi grabbed the first in a memorable 3-1 win over West Germany. Later that year he was named European Footballer of the Year. He won more trophies – the Coppa Italia in 1983, the Scudetto and the Cup-Winners Cup in 1984 and the European Cup in 1985 with Milan. His inclusion in the 1986 World Cup squad was more for morale than form. Injuries returned to plague him and he kicked his last ball in April 1987.

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