Over the last few years on Schwarz und Weiß, I have been running a feature dedicated to those players who only managed to win a single cap for the Nationalmannschaft: the one cap wonders. Players who may have made their name at domestic level, but were, for whatever reason, unable to make it count at international level. Players like Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Karlheinz Pflipsen and Werder Bremen’s Thomas Wolter. Then, those players who quickly faded in and out, like Bayer Leverkusen’s Zoltán Sebescen and TSG Hoffenheim’s Tobias Weis.
On 5th September 1973, West Germany were playing the Soviet Union in a friendly match at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. After 64 minutes, a 23-year-old left-sided attacking winger from MSV Duisburg stepped onto the pitch as a second-half substitute. The young man was called Klaus Wunder. He was not to know it at the time, but he was to become one of the many who would never go beyond that one international cap. He would become, quite literally, the original one cap Wunder.
Klaus Wunder was born in the Eastern German city of Erfurt on 13th September 1950, a year after the establishment of the German Democratic Republic. Wunder’s family would move to the west before the building of the Berlin wall, and by the age of nineteen the young striker was on the books at Regionalliga Nord side SV Arminia Hannover.
Blessed with plenty of pace and a powerful left foot, Wunder quickly made an impression. The talented youngster was picked for the German national amateur team in 1970, and the following year was snapped up by top flight side MSV Duisburg. He scored his first Bundesliga goal in his sixth match for the Zebras against Borussia Dortmund, but his first season was a bit of a mixed bag. In 27 league matches, Wunder scored seven goals and provided two assists, but also collected two red cards as well.
Things would only get better for Wunder. He started the 1972/73 season in fine form with a late brace against high flyers ‘Gladbach, and the goals continued to come after that. Further braces against Hannover 96 and Kickers Offenbach followed.
It proved to be a decent season for the Ruhrpott team. After a two-goal defeat in Munich against FC Bayern, MSV put together a nine-match unbeaten run that took them up to fifth in the table. During this purple patch, Wunder hit his first top-flight hat-trick at the Wedaustadion against Eintracht Braunschweig. 2-1 down after half an hour, Wunder struck twice either side of the half-time break to propel MSV to a 3-2 victory. The highlight of the season was probably the 2-0 win over champions-elect Bayern, where Wunder’s 70th-minute striker sealed a 2-0 win for the Zebras.
Having arrived at the club as a relative unknown the season before, Wunder was a first-choice pick for MSV coach Rudolf Faßnacht. Over the course of the season, he was on the pitch for all of 23 minutes – 99.2% of the total possible time – a staggering statistic for an outfield player, let alone a striker. It is worth remembering that this was the early 1970s, a time when strikers were given very little protection by referees. Wunder’s disciplinary record also improved. In 34 matches, he was not even booked.
While MSV were unable to maintain their form towards the latter part of the season, they would finish in a creditable tenth place. Wunder had netted seventeen Bundesliga goals in 34 matches, an average of one every other game. By now, others were watching him.
One night in Moscow
The start to the 1973/74 season was less emphatic, but Wunder had already put out the signal to Nationaltrainer Helmut Schön. The striker had already netted four goals in five outings for the German Under-23 team, and it was a matter if rather than when he would take the next step up.
On the bench for the friendly in Moscow, Wunder finally got his opportunity. Gerd Müller had just headed the Mannschaft in front, and it was time for a change. Jürgen Grabowski made his way off the pitch. Wearing the number sixteen shirt, Wunder was on.
The Duisburg man was quickly into the action, providing a number of crisp, short passes as he assumed an unfamiliar position on the right side of the midfield. Pickings were slim, and the German attack was unable to break through the well-drilled Soviet defence for a second time. There were few opportunities to him make any real impact, but Wunder’s short spell on the pitch had been more than satisfactory.
There was nothing at all to suggest that his international career would end as quickly as it had begun.
Move to FC Bayern
The rest of the 1973/74 season was not as productive for Wunder, who finished with a return of eight goals and three assists from 33 outings. But he was a capped international now, and bigger fish were lurking. The Duisburg striker had been sought out by none other than FC Bayern München. In what was, according to one source at least, the first 1 million DM transfer between two Bundesliga clubs, Wunder signed for the defending champions.
Wunder was straight into the starting eleven for Die Roten, but his debut was far from auspicious. Bayern were put to the sword by unheralded Kickers Offenbach, succumbing to a dismal six-goal defeat. Even playing alongside the old and the new in the form of Gerd Müller and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Wunder and Co. drew a blank.
Despite the sticky start, it did not take long for the new boy to get his name in the scoreboook. He netted his first goal for Bayern in the second week of September 1974 against VfB Stuttgart, and followed this with another the week after against 1. FC Köln.
After that, there were more misses than hits. Having won three Bundesliga titles on the bounce, Bayern ended the season in a disappointing tenth place. There was no miracle for Wunder either. Having started the season with two goals in his first four matches, he scored only one more in a further 23 outings.
Two-time European champion
It was not all disappointment, however. Despite their dismal domestic season, Bayern had made their way to their second European Cup final against Leeds United in Paris. It was a brutal encounter, where Udo Lattek’s men spent most of their time trying to avoid serious injury from an opponent determined to do anything but play football.
Klaus Wunder would make his way onto the pitch three minutes before half-time, but it was a bittersweet moment for Bayern fans. Having sustained a serious knee injury following a tackle from Leeds’ Frank Gray, talented winger Uli Hoeneß was forced to limp off the pitch. Wunder would get to play his part in the Bavarians’ 2-0 victory as they retained the coveted Henkelpott, but it would effectively mark the end of Hoeneß’ career.
For both players, things would never be the same again. Hoeneß would recover enough to labour through four more seasons before finally retiring at the age of 27. Wunder, meanwhile, would be on his way out of Munich by the end of the year.
Having seen the goals dry up in Bavaria, Wunder moved back north to join Hannover 96 on loan. Back in the city where he had started his career, his first season at the Niedersachsenstadion were far from productive. The team were relegated. Meanwhile, having played in the opening rounds of that season’s European Cup for Bayern, Wunder was awarded a second European Cup winner’s medal after the Bavarians’ 1-0 triumph over AS Saint-Étienne in Glasgow.
He may not have contributed much towards the feat, but Wunder was a two-time European champion.
Despite his being unable to hit the mark in his first half season in Hannover, Wunder’s move from Bayern was made permanent. It would prove to be an astute decision for both the player and the club. The following season in the 2. Bundesliga Nord was far less testing, and the 25-year-old striker quickly rediscovered his scoring touch.
Having netted 33 goals in 75 appearances for the 96er in just under three seasons, Wunder was signed by Werder Bremen at the start of the 1978/79 season. Just shy of his 28th birthday, it gave him another shot at top flight football.
Wunder’s shorter than short international career had long started to vanish into the memory cloud, but any lingering hope he might have had of pulling on the Nationaltrikot again quickly disappeared. His 56 appearances for Bremen garnered a mere dozen goals, and to make matters worse the Green-Whites were also relegated. The one-time international and European Cup winner had turned into something of a Jonah.
Fall into obscurity
Bremen’s drop into the second tier saw Wunder quit professional football, moving to FC Gohfeld – a small amateur team located in the town of Löhne, some 25 kilometres north-east of Bielefeld. Just short of his thirtieth birthday, he had finally decided to wind things down slowly.
After three seasons with Gohfeld, the one-time German international moved to nearby TuS Hessisch Oldendorf. After just one season at the club, Wunder finally hung up his boots.
In many ways, Klaus Wunder was the archetypal one-cap wonder. A player who had come from nowhere, rising to prominence before falling into obscurity. After one successful Bundesliga season, a German international. Germany’s first 1 million DM domestic transfer. Recipient of two European Cup winner’s medals. Very few players today can match these achievements.
This article was originally published on Schwarz und Weiß, the eleventh in a series of portraits of players who only collected one cap for the Nationalmannschaft.
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