Five players far better for country than for club

Date published: Saturday 4th June 2016 12:18

Miroslav Klose
Miroslav or Lukas? Lukas or Miroslav? The man with the middle name Josef, or the man whose middle name is also Josef? The man born in Poland who became a Germany international, or the man also born in Poland who became a Germany international?

As impressive as Lukas Podolski’s record is for Germany – he is both their third-most capped international and third-highest goalscorer – Miroslav Klose’s is quite remarkable. The 37-year-old earned his 137th and final cap for his country in the 2014 World Cup final, departing the Maracana field as a substitute for eventual goalscorer Mario Gotze against Argentina. He had scored a record 16th World Cup goal against Brazil in a rout of the hosts in the semi-final. That strike was to be the 71st for his country – the most of any player, including the legendary Gerd Muller (68).

While Klose’s club record is impressive, it pales in comparison. The striker scored 52 goals in 147 games for Kaiserslautern, 63 in 132 for Werder Bremen, 53 in 149 for Bayern Munich, and 64 in 170 for Lazio. His 71 in 137 games for Germany, who never lost when the forward scored, trumps all.


Jan Koller
The 1994/95 Czech first division title. The 1996 Czech Cup. Both the 1999/2000 and 2000/01 Belgian league championship. The 2000 and 2001 Belgian Supercup. The 2001/02 Bundesliga.

Jan Koller is a remarkably tall man. His roll of honours at club level is hardly inspiring, however. The 6ft 7ins forward scored 232 goals in 547 games throughout his career, including spells at Anderlecht, Borussia Dortmund and Monaco. A record of 20 goals in 44 games at his final club, Cannes in the French third division, slightly distorts the record of a striker who was useful, but hardly prolific.

For the Czech Republic, it was a different story. Koller played 91 games for the national team from 1999 to his final appearance in 2009, scoring 55 goals. One-time Czech Footballer of the Year, Koller scored in every calendar year for his country aside from 2001 and 2009, in which he played only one game.


Peter Crouch
Kevin Keegan. Steven Gerrard. Jermain Defoe. Dixie Dean. David Beckham. Paul Scholes. Teddy Sheringham. Paul Gascoigne. John Barnes. Ian Wright. Robbie Fowler. David Nugent.

Peter Crouch can be described as a ‘solid Premier League footballer’ in a way only a man set to enter his 17th top-flight season can. But the list of players who he has outscored for England almost defies belief. The Stoke striker has won only three trophies throughout his club career – the 2003/04 First Division title with Norwich, and the FA Cup and Community Shield of 2006 with Liverpool. He has scored more than ten goals in just two top-flight campaigns: for Southampton in 2004/05, and for bitter rivals Portsmouth four years later.

For England, Crouch was a different beast. The 35-year-old’s last appearance for the national team came in a 2-1 friendly defeat to France in November 2010, the same game which heralded the debut of Jay Bothroyd. Fittingly, Crouch scored within seconds of his introduction as a second-half substitute. It would be his 22nd goal in 42 games, including a haul of 11 goals in 12 in 2006, which remains a post-war record for England goals in a calendar year.


Sergio Romero
Of course you can fight David de Gea for the first-choice goalkeeper spot at Manchester United, Sergio. Definitely mate. We believe in you.

That it seems so laughable a keeper who was integral to Argentina’s run to becoming World Cup silver medalists starting for Manchester United sums up Romero’s career:

In 2013, the keeper played 19 of 41 club games for Sampdoria and Monaco; he played ten of 12 for Argentina, missing only two friendlies.

In 2014, the keeper played 18 of 42 club games for Sampdoria in 2014; he played 13 of 15 for Argentina, including every World Cup game.

In 2015, he played eight of 52 club games for Sampdoria and Manchester United; he played 13 of 14 for Argentina.

So far in 2016, he has played just two of 26 club games for Manchester United, both in the Europa League against FC Midtjylland; he has played all three of Argentina’s fixtures. In short, he has played 47 games of a possible 161 at club level since 2013, and 39 of 43 for his country in that time.


Nicklas Bendtner
Most free agents formerly of Arsenal and Juventus, with a Serie A winner’s medal and two trophies in Germany sitting proudly on their résumé, would be an in-demand commodity this summer. But there is a reason that Zlatan Ibrahimovic is being courted by the world’s finest sides and the similarly unattached Nicklas Bendtner is not.

Looking at his goal record at club level, is it hardly difficult to understand why Bendtner is being treated as an undesirable. He was branded a “menace” soon after most recent club Wolfsburg released him in April. He has registered double figures in a league season only once – with Birmingham in the Championship in 2006/07. He scored two goals in 13 games this season, and just one in 18 in the Bundesliga last campaign.

On the international scene, Bendtner is still hardly prolific for Denmark, but is at least useful. He ranks joint-seventh on the country’s list of all-time top goalscorers, behind the Jon Dahl Tomassons, Ole Madsens, Preben Elkjær Larsens and Michael Laudrups of this world. He has scored more goals for Denmark – 29 in 73 games – than he has ever managed at any one club.


Matt Stead

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