The Bundesliga's highest goal scorers of all-time list makes for interesting reading -at the top of the list is none other than Gerd Müller; to find another Bayern player, one has to go all the way to ninth. The first foreigner's name appears on the list at that point, too. That man is Claudio Pizarro.
His talent was obvious but, if Karl Heinz Rummenigge, is to be believed, he never was quite as good as Andriy Shevchenko. However, Pizarro was a very important part of Bayern's history and should be remembered as such. A star at Werder Bremen after his move from Allianz Lima, he attracted plenty of attraction from Europe's big guns. He scored 38 goals for Werder in two seasons there. He looked through the offers and the one which stood out to him was the one from the reigning European Champions, FC Bayern München.
Pizarro wanted to win the best title Europe had to offer him. He scored tons of goals at his new club. But, playing alongside the likes of Hasan Salihamidzic and Bixente Lizarazu, Pizarro was desperate to experience what they had in 2001. The Cup with the Big Ears seemed far away from him all the time. After a century of goals, Pizarro was ready to pack his bags. His offer to Bayern was simple; he demanded a raise for his services. But, Rummenigge, a shrewd businessman, was not willing to bend down to the levels of his agent, Carlos Selgado. He was happy to let the Peruvian go.
Pizarro loves to take chances. He owns 50 horses in Argentina but has never won anything substantial. Betting is a risk he enjoys. So, at that time, an adventure in England seemed like the kind or risk the Peruvian would jump at. Yet, the risk was calculated. Firstly, Pizarro was not the biggest fan of Felix Magath's managerial style. Magath announced his starting lineup only two hours before every match. Secondly, when Otmar Hitzfeld came on a rescue mission after Magath's sacking, he sent Pizarro tumbling down the pecking order. He seemed to like Lukas Podolski and Roy Makaay more.
But Mourinho gambled because he believed in the Peruvian's class. "I don't judge a player just on his last year. We played against him in my first season at this club and I know the qualities he has" he said at the time. Pizarro seemed happy in training. But, with Shevchenko and Didier Drogba as competition, he never managed to break through to the first team. Two goals in 32 appearances told his story in England. And Werder Bremen took their chance.
They took him back on loan for one season in 2008. He struck 26 goals in 48 appearances; the man with the ponytail was back. He remained with Bremen and was the Europa League top scorer in 2010. Bremen were knocked out in the Round of 16 on away goals after an epic 4-4 draw against Valencia (5-5 on aggregate). Bremen were in decline after Mesut Özil left. Bayern needed a reserve striker. They called up Pizarro, and he was more than happy to sit on the Bayern bench. But he did so much more.
He scored 13 goals in 28 appearances, including four against Hamburger SV and a Champions League hat-trick against Lille. In the process, his dream came true. He became a Champions League winner as well as a treble winner. In the 2013-14 season, he struck 11 times for his favorite Bavarian club. But Pep Guardiola, attracted to youngsters and midfielders, barely fielded the experienced Peruvian in 2014-15. His time at Bayern was coming to an end; the writing was on the wall.
Now, with ample time to go the barber and get a haircut, Pizarro no longer sports a ponytail. He was always the quiet poacher who could do it on any night, be it muddy or be it slippery, anywhere, be it in London (in a red shirt of course) or be it in Turin. He is more Bavarian than most Bayern players. Pizarro leaves quietly, rather unlike a legend, but in his own style. He never seemed to fuss and he continues not to fuss about anything.
He is only seven goals away from becoming the fifth highest scorer in Bundesliga history and it is only reasonable for him to opt to play for another German club. He has spent nine seasons (divided in two spells) for Bayern. A spot in the All-Stars might be in his future. For now, the least we can do is thank Claudio Pizarro and wish him a successful future.