Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ Series. In this edition, we take a look at Claudio Pizarro, the striker who spent ten whole seasons at Werder Bremen throughout his career and also had two stints at German giants Bayern Munich.
Pizarro first joined Bayern as a 22-year old and, after impressing in the Bundesliga, he went on to play for Chelsea and Bremen again before rejoining the Bundesliga giants again in 2012/13 as a 33-year old.
Returning Players – Claudio Pizarro
First Spell at Bayern Munich
Despite originally breaking onto the scene at Werder Bremen in Germany, it was with Bayern where he truly made a name for himself. 29 goals in 56 leagues games for Bremen showed that the striker meant business and, despite only being 20-years old, he proved that he was well capable of producing at the highest level already.
Bayern liked what they saw. They snapped him up and in his first season, he made quite the impression. His club may only have finished third in the league table but a total of 15 goals in 30 leagues games for the side quickly established him as a top talent in Europe.
A season later, he had his first league title at the age of just 24. He showed no signs of slowing down whatsoever – another 15 goals in 31 leagues games meant that in two years at Bayern, he had produced 30 goals. No mean feat for a player of that age.
Two more titles were still to come for Pizarro. He was consistent in his production during those title seasons too, bagging eleven leagues goals per season in each of them.
Pizarro was no one season-wonder. He had titles under his belt and he wasn’t a passenger in those top of the table sides either, consistently bagging goals and proving that he was one of the most clinical finishers in Europe.
With Bundesliga success achieved, it was time for a new challenge. Time for the Premier League.
Teams That Claudio Pizarro Played for Between Bayern Munich Stints
After a disappointing season for Bayern, in which they finished only fourth in the league (and after the player scored only eight times in the league), Chelsea decided to take a punt on him.
They had title aspirations and wanted to ensure they could continue to battle at the top end of the Premier League table. They believed Pizarro could be a valuable part of the squad and a key tool in helping provide the finishing touch they would need to seal a title.
Although Chelsea did indeed challenge for the Premier League crown in that 2007/08 campaign finishing second in the end, Pizarro had a less successful time of it. He scored only two goals in 21 Premier League games (but, some could argue that only four league starts that season played its part and contributed to the lack of production from the then 28-year old).
The Blues decided to ship him out on loan a season later, back to Bremen and back to Germany. Had he lost the finishing touch he once possessed due to the move to England? Not a chance.
17 goals during that loan spell proved he was still an immensely talented finisher and prompted Bremen to bring him back to the club on a permanent basis. He spent the next three years ploughing away at his former club before another previous side of his decided it was time for a reunion.
Return to Bayern Munich for Claudio Pizarro
Pizarro certainly likes familiarity it would seem. After five years away he rejoined Bayern Munich, determined to claim some more Bundesliga crowns, and prove to the doubters that he was still a top-level player and striker.
He certainly could produce the goods when needed. Although not as successful in this second stint, he still regularly put the ball into the back of the net and helped his side win three, back-to-back, Bundesliga titles.
He’d have two more stints at Werder Bremen before he retired, with the striker eventually racking up 250 appearances for the German side. He even joined Koln in between those two spells but started just five games for them.
Impact Upon His Return
Did Pizarro have as much of an impact at Bayern when he returned to the club? Arguably not, as his production rate was a lot smaller. This wasn’t to say he was less of a player, as he still bagged 16 goals and 11 assists over that three-season period. It could also be argued that it was down to a lack of playing time.
A first-team regular when he was first at the club, he was resigned to sitting on the bench for most of his second spell and was in and out of the side, as showcased by just seven, six and then two starts in the Bundesliga for them.
Pizarro though can be considered a high calibre Bundesliga player when people look back at his career. Most of his success and goals came in Germany and he is no doubt both a Werder Bremen legend and a Bayern Munich hero for the goals he contributed to both sides over several stints and because of the trophies he helped lead Bayern to.