Bayern swept all before them, winning three European Cups in a row, and when West Germany were crowned world champions in Munich in 1974, naturally Muller scored the decisive goal. 'Everything we achieved we owe only to Gerd,' Franz Beckenbauer insists. 'Without his goals none of our successes would have been possible.'
But fame for Muller became a drug, and when the bright lights dimmed another addiction took its place. Two winters ago, pushed by Beckenbauer and another of the class of '74, Uli Hoeness, he entered a clinic for alcohol dependency. He slipped into a coma during the agony of drying out but survived.
Hoeness, now Bayern's general manager, scorned the hangers-on who 'plied him with booze and paraded him like a dancing bear'. Muller had gone to America after Bayern, but returned heavily in debt from a failed restaurant in Florida. His marriage collapsed and tax demands swallowed up most of his assets, leaving only his fading celebrity to live on.
Now he has a job coaching Bayern's youth players and has not taken a drink for two years. 'Uli Hoeness is No 1,' he says, with the gratitude of a man whose life has been saved. He is reconciled with his wife, Ursula, and celebrates his 48th birthday tomorrow.