In amongst the rumblings of a nation's dreams collapsing, in between the smoke of a thousand thousand NEYMAR 10 shirts being consigned to ashes, spare a thought for Miroslav Klose. Germany's 36-year-old veteran became the World Cup's all-time leading goalscorer last night, dethroning one of the great Brazilians in the process, yet chances are even his mum began this morning's phone call with "Seven! Seven? What on earth happened there then?" Only probably in German.
While Ronaldo — the original one — has been nothing but gracious about his record being broken, there has been a fair amount of kvetching from others about the appropriateness of somebody like Klose taking the record of somebody like Ronaldo. Two main objections seem to dominate this line of thought. The first is that Ronaldo is one of the greatest and most exhilarating strikers ever to run really quickly past a load of defenders before poking the ball past the keeper, over and over again, whereas Klose is, well, a bit unglamorous. A bit dull, if we're being frank.
Secondly, Ronaldo's World Cup story follows an romantic arc of hope, tragedy and redemption, from the joys of most of France '98, through that tournament's cruel and inexplicable final, and then on into 2002 when he got a silly haircut, exorcised his demons and lifted the trophy. Conversely, Klose's World Cups have lacked the Disney: turn up, score a handful, get knocked out at some point, repeat. Not only that, but his hair has been defiantly sensible throughout.
Basically, Ronaldo is the goalscorer as hero, whereas Klose is the goalscorer as accountant. But what accountants know better than anyone is that a goal is worth precisely one goal, whether it's the greatest of all time or it's bounced off a shin from three yards out. Whether it's pregnant with symbolism and meaning or whether it's a third against Saudi Arabia, it's worth the same. Klose's goals may not fire the imagination or stir the soul, but they move the scoreboard.
There are many more sides to football than the fancy and the thunderous, and while being in the right place, at the right time, with the shin held at just the right angle may not be the stuff of which dreams are made, it's certainly the stuff of goals. Looking at Klose's sixteen goals — that's one goal fewer in the last four World Cups than England — is an exercise in the baser things in life. Obviously, the relentless peeling off the marker at the far post isn't to everybody's taste, and the fact that he's scored 16 goals from an average of about eight yards is bound to irk as many people as it amuses. His persistence with the endearingly awkward somersault, however, cannot be but admired.
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In any case, what are these records, if not exercises in accountancy? What, exactly, has been lost? The notion that the top goalscorer award is somehow devalued now that it belongs to somebody who merely scored the most goals is a weird one; there's no style multiplier, no narrative modifier. Even more peculiar is the implication, buried deep therein, that no longer being top goalscorer in some way diminishes Ronaldo. Which is to entirely miss the point of everything. The fact that Ronaldo's no longer the top scorer in World Cups doesn't in any way make him or his career any less enjoyable, and if it does then you didn't deserve him or it in the first place. Nor, by the same token, does it make the World Cup any less of a brilliant thing.
If counting individual goals is important (as opposed to just mildly interesting), then the world must be prepared when somebody knocks the record over. In essence, this is sadness over the fact somebody's favourite footballer was the answer to a quiz question, but now isn't. Football's overwhelming standards of sentimentality perhaps make that understandable, even inevitable, but in the final count it matters not a jot. Ronaldo didn't need the record to be Ronaldo, and Klose's earned it by being Klose. Of all the myriad greatnesses of O Fenomeno, a player who will be celebrated as long as memory allows, this was by far the most disposable.