By 90Min
March 07, 2019

A career spanning two decades is a rarity at the highest level of professional football, let alone spending almost every minute in one country on a foreign continent. 

But Peru legend and fan favourite striker Claudio Pizarro has been able to etch his name into the Bundesliga history books for eternity doing just that.

His career, albeit far from over as of yet, has taken him from Bremen to Munich and back again, via west London and the cultural capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, going toe to toe with legends of the game, and even racing horses with Joey Barton.

Pizarro spent three years at the senior level in his home country with two different clubs, where a strike rate of 37 goals in 85 appearances had some of Europe's biggest clubs on alert for an emerging Peruvian striker in the late 1990s.

It was SV Werder Bremen who took a punt of a then 20-year-old Pizarro for €1.5m, the fourth most expensive transfer in the club's history at the time.

Claudio PIZARRO/WOLFSBURG - WERDER 2:7

In the first instalment of Pizarro's quartet of spells with Die Werderaner, the Peruvian striker scored 29 Bundesliga goals in 56 games. Unsurprisingly, that caught the eye of German giants Bayern Munich - who had just lifted their third consecutive league title in 2001.

Interest from the Bundesliga's biggest club was impossible to resist for the striker, who was just two years into his career in Europe, and Pizarro travelled the length of Germany to sign on the dotted line in Bavaria for €8.2m.

Pizarro spent six years at the Allianz Arena, earning the nickname Der Andenbomber which was a nod to Bayern Munich legend Gerd Müller, scoring 71 goals in 174 appearances as the club went on to lift three more Bundesliga titles, as well as three DFB Pokals.

After dominating the Bundesliga for almost a decade alongside strikers like Giovane Élber and Miroslav Klose, Pizarro moved on a free transfer to join José Mourinho's Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.


He scored on his top-flight debut in England during a 3-2 win over Birmingham City, but that was as good as things would really get for the Peru international as Mourinho was only in charge of the club for another few months before being replaced by Avram Grant in September.


Under Grant, who didn't offer Pizarro a single Premier League appearance from March onwards, the forward only scored one more goal - once again against Birmingham City - and he also picked up his one assist for the season at home to Newcastle United.

Clive Mason/GettyImages

By the time the summer came back around it was clear that Pizarro wasn't going to stay in west London. The goals just weren't coming for him, something which caused the likes of Salomon Kalou to move ahead of the Peruvian in the club's pecking order.

Werder Bremen offered him an escape route from the Premier League, which both Chelsea and the out of form striker jumped at. A €4m transfer fee was agreed between the clubs, and Pizarro started his 10th season in Europe back at the Weserstadion.


It was during Pizarro's second spell with Werder Bremen that he formed one of the most unusual partnerships of his entire career, but it was off the pitch. The Peruvian wound up co-owning a horse with former Newcastle United midfielder Joey Barton. Named Crying Lightning, the horse raced at the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse in January 2011.


Back on the pitch, Pizarro once again showed his goalscoring prowess during a four-year spell at Werder Bremen. He only failed to reach double figures in one season, scoring a further 60 goals in Bundesliga before his contract in northwest Germany ran out.

Lars Baron/GettyImages

Some 13 years after Pizarro first left Weder Bremen for Bayern Munich, the Peruvian once again made the journey south for a second spell in Bavaria.


This time, Pizarro only spent three years at the Allianz Arena before leaving as a free agent in 2015. He'd scored 16 goals for the club during that time, winning another batch of domestic trophies as well as the Champions League.


His future was very much up in the air at the start of the 2015/16 season and he remained without a club until a few weeks into the season.

Werder Bremen's decision to re-sign Pizarro for his third spell at the club proved to be a masterstroke too, as his 14 goal haul that year helped Die Werderaner fight off relegation by the skin of their teeth, finishing just two points above Eintracht Frankfurt in the relegation play-off place.


His performances warranted a one-year contract extension by Werder, but an underwhelming return the following season saw Pizarro once again become a free agent.


That was until a relegation-threatened FC Köln brought Pizarro to the RheinEnergieStadion in 2017. He arrived after the Billy Goats had picked up just one point from the opening six games but they remained winless until December 16.

Pizarro couldn't help keep Köln in the top flight, with his only goal and assist coming in defeats to Stuttgart and his former club Werder Bremen respectively.


That summer, he made the move that - if it wasn't already set in stone - immortalised him as a certified Bundesliga legend. 


For the fourth time in his career, just a few months shy of his 40th birthday, and some 19 years after he first arrived at the Weserstadion as a fresh-faced Peruvian wonderkid, Pizarro returned to Werder Bremen. 

Pizarro was never going to be starting week in week out for Florian Kohfeldt's side, but even the most optimistic of fans would have struggled to predict just how important he has been this season.


His first goal of the campaign in a defeat against Bayer Leverkusen saw the Peruvian become the Bundesliga's second-oldest goalscorer ever, a record which he extended one week later by finding the back of the net against Mainz.


But it was a match-saving, deflected free kick in the 96th minute against Hertha BSC on matchday 22 which cemented Pizarro's place as the oldest goalscorer in Bundesliga history, overtaking former Bremen midfielder Mirko Votava.

Stuart Franklin/GettyImages

"Piza's a great player, very clever," former Chelsea teammate Kalou - who is on the books at Hertha - told bundesliga.com. "I played with him so I know he's a goal-getter. I knew what was coming when he came on. He changed the game. I'm happy for him. He deserves it. He's a great guy and a true professional."

It was Pizarro's 195th goal in the Bundesliga, a record which has since been matched by Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski, and the pair are now joint top as the highest scoring foreigners in Bundesliga history.

Pizarro's move to Werder Bremen at the start of the season appeared to be a nothing more than a swansong, but he's already admitted that this might not be his last season in professional football after all.

While he might remain as one of the most underrated strikers of a generation across Europe, Pizarro's impact on the German football will stand the test of time, and there could yet be more to come from Der Andenbomber before he hangs up his boots for good.

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