13. April 1960, Hanau
1977-1980 Kickers Offenbach
1980-1982 TSV 1860 München
1982-1987 Werder Bremen
1987-1992 AS Rom
1992-1994 Olympique Marseille
1994-1996 Bayer 04 Leverkusen
232 appearances, 132 goals (Bundesliga)
142 appearances, 45 goals (Serie A, Italien)
58 appearances, 24 goals (Ligue 1, Frankreich)
UEFA Champions League Sieger: 1993
Italienischer Pokalsieger: 1991
90 caps (47 goals)
On the terraces, where the fans are capable of creating an electric atmosphere, they like first names like Siegfried and Wilfried. Or Rudolf. Especially when one of their favourites goes by one of these names and, using the obvious short form, they urge them forward in their thousands with a long drawn-out Siggi or Willi. Or Ruuuuudi! With some players, it's almost as if their popularity is more down to their first name than their footballing prowess. Not so with Rudolf Völler. As his backer Otto Rehhagel put it: "Rudi was an exceptional player, a complete striker. Two-footed, good in the air, very quick, with excellent dribbling ability and an instinct for goal."
Rehhagel brought the gifted striker and leading second division goalscorer to Werder Bremen in 1982 and watched him finish the season as leading Bundesliga scorer and Footballer of the Year. With his signing, Werder established themselves among the German elite. Völler's goals, 97 in total in 137 appearances spread over five seasons, earned his team three runners-up spots and a place in a European competition every season. The way Völler operated on the pitch was intoxicating. His combative running action, his desire to win every challenge and his bustling style, not just in the penalty box, elicited shouts of "Ruuuuudi" from the fans as soon as he came anywhere near the ball. His popularity spilled across club boundaries. When Völler was sidelined for months after a foul, practically the entire nation was left worrying whether he would recover in time for the 1986 World Cup.
Though Völler did make the plane to Mexico, he was not 100 per cent fit. He dropped out of the team from the quarter-final but did make a decisive contribution by coming on to score against France in the semi-final. His equaliser after Germany had trailed 2-0 against Argentina briefly raised his side's hopes in the final, only for them to be dashed a little later by Jorge Burruchaga.
That Germany gained revenge four years later was in no small part down to Ruuudi. Like most of his teammates, he had a fantastic tournament, despite being sent off against in the round of 16 in the wake of some incredibly unsportsmanlike conduct by Holland's Frank Rijkaard, a decision that earned him a one-match ban and remains inexplicable to this day. Völler suffered an early injury in a dramatic semi-final against England, but was instrumental in the final four days later, again against Argentina, winning a penalty that Andy Brehme converted to crown a magical night in Rome, "his" city in his adopted country. In 1987, Völler moved abroad to join AS Rome. Unsurprisingly, he quickly became a crowd favourite. One reason why most of the Italian fans at the Stadio Olimpico di Roma, where the 1990 final took place, backed the German team.
Italy was at that time the promised land for the 'Who's Who' of international football. The Bundesliga lost other greats to Serie A besides Völler, but they all returned as international stars to enrich the Bundesliga and plug the gap they themselves had created. At Bayer Leverkusen, the fans behind the goal were delighted about the return of "Ruuuuudi", even though his prematurely greying hair had led to him being given the new nickname of Auntie Käthe.