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Courtesy: www.goal.com

In the run up to the World Cup final, the one discussion that dominated the media was: ‘Who will play the bigger hand in deciding the World Cup? Argentina's Lionel Messi or Germany's Miroslav Klose?’ Actually, it was all about Messi, the Golden Ball winner - could he join the likes of Diego Maradona in the pantheon of World Cup greats?  The true World Cup hero was lurking in the shadows mouthing ‘dankes’ with a high clap. We put together a tribute drawn from various media reports…

“It's easy to forget about Miroslav Klose,” wrote Cody Brunner in Yahoo Sports. “Germany's 7-1 demolition of Brazil… captivated the world, but lost amid the calamity now known as the "Mineirazo" was the 36-year-old's historic achievement. Klose's goal in the 22nd minute against Brazil broke one of the more coveted records in all of sports – the most goals in World Cup history – and nobody seemed to notice.”

Brunner goes on to explain how it wasn't the most beautiful goal ever scored, but it was textbook Klose.  “He doesn't score with drive like Messi or panache like Ronaldo; he just positions himself perfectly and capitalizes on every opportunity, regardless of how slim the window. That day, he was given a dump-off pass in the box with a great angle, but was denied by Brazil goalkeeper Julio Cesar with his first attempt. It didn't matter. Klose collected the rebound and calmly slotted the ball into the right corner of the net for his World Cup-record 16th goal.”

Klose, if he chooses to retire now, as is being speculated, would be doing so with two very big achievements as the World Cup’s all-time leading scorer and member of a World Cup winning team.

Interestingly, it did not seem to matter to Klose when he was substituted in the 1-0 win over Argentina in the final at the Maracana Stadium. He came off for Mario Goetze, who went on to score Germany's title-clinching goal in extra time.

That meant Klose, playing at his fourth World Cup, finally got to lift the trophy after losing in the final in 2002 and the semifinals in 2010. He also got to be a World Cup winner five days after he scored his 16th goal at the tournament, overtaking Brazil's Ronaldo as the most successful striker at football's main event.

“It's simply overwhelming. This was the icing on the cake,” Klose was quoted in the world media soon after parading the glittering World Cup trophy around the Maracana with his teammates.

Klose has shone at every World Cup he's played. He was the top scorer and Golden Boot winner at the 2006 World Cup in Germany with five goals. He also scored five goals in his first World Cup, in 2002. He scored four at South Africa in 2010 and two this year in Brazil.

He may now call it quits with the German national team after a 13-year international career. But coach Joachim Loew did warn everyone not to jump to conclusions about the veteran forward giving up.

“Perhaps he will also be playing in four years’ time. Everything is possible with him,” Loew said.

After all, there is much more to Klose than his football triumphs.

To know about that we need to go back to 1986, when Klose escaped communist Poland with his father and arrived in Germany. As Aditya Iyer wrote about the father-son duo in The Indian Express: “So sudden and dramatic was his escape from communist Poland that when Josef Klose arrived on a railway platform in West Germany in 1986, his eight-year-old son, Miroslav, carried just a football in his bag and two German words on his lips — “ja” and “danke”, yes and thank you respectively.”

As Reuters revealed: “He spent five years as a child living in France, where his father Josef played for AJ Auxerre. His mother Barbara Jez is a former Poland international at handball and Klose’s family speak Polish at home. “

Three decades later, Klose is, of course, fluent in his adopted country’s language. “From the days of owning just one air-filled bladder, the Lazio striker’s assets have ballooned to over Euros 25 million. But on the football field, the shy and soft-spoken 36-year-old is said to go back to being that awestruck child on the cusp of entering an alien world. A boy with a two-word German vocabulary,” Iyer adds.

Iyer narrates how in 2002, coach Rudi Voeller raised several eyebrows by picking an unheralded striker from a little-known club called FC Kaiserslautern. Klose, though, had a lot more belief in himself than his critics did, and ever since, it has been a remarkable run.

As Reuters noted: “As well as being the World Cup record scorer Klose—who often brings his nine-year-old twin boys to train with the team at their World Cup training ground in northeastern Brazil—is also Germany’s all-time leading scorer with 71 in 136 games.”

Alongside his record-breaking goal tally, Klose will long be remembered for his sportsmanship with his acts of fair play often making headline news in Germany. He is reported to have told a referee in Italy in 2012 to disallow a goal he had just scored because he used his hand. Seven years earlier, playing for Werder Bremen, he had declined to accept a penalty because he did not think he had been fouled.

In Iyer’s words, “Ja”, he says, when alerting a midfielder of his presence, calling for a pass. “Danke”, he is often caught mouthing with a high clap, after a great cross has allowed him to trouble a goalkeeper or simply destroy his reputation. When it really matters, such as at the World Cups, you can catch him clapping rather often and constantly chanting “dankes”, considering few have dazzled at the grandest sporting stage quite like him.

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