This is Miro.
This is the son of two Polish athletes, born in Opole, who will end his career as a legend.
This is a superstar who will follow his father to Germany at age eight, barely knowing how to say his name in the Rhineland’s language. After he turns 18, he won’t hold a Polish citizenship again for the rest of his life.
This is a striker, long desired by his kin’s national team. At 22, he makes a choice. He spurns Poland for a shot at a German call-up. It’s a gamble, sure, but it’s one that pays off. He enters play in the 73rd minute of his first game as a member of the national team. In stoppage time, two minutes short of the whistle, he scores his first goal.
This is the 2002 World Cup.
This is Miro, now the team’s starting striker, leading Germany to the World Cup final for the first time since 1990, when a directional prefix was attached to the title card. This is Miro scoring 5 goals in his first chance on the sport’s biggest stage. This is Miro, experiencing total and utter failure at the hands of a superior Brazilian squad.
This is Miro, the club disappointment. In only one season, 2005, does he score more than 16 goals in the Bundesliga or Serie A. He will never be the prolific playmaker others around him are. He simply positions himself to score, and does, but only on the big stage.
This is Miro, refusing to accept a penalty he does not believe he deserves. He is awarded for his honesty.
This is Miro, the hometown savior in 2006. Playing his second World Cup, this time in Germany, he leads the tournament with 5 goals, and carries a youthful German squad to the semifinal. This is Miro, giving people a chance to embrace their nation for the first time in nearly a century.
This is Miro, runner-up once more, this time to Spain in Euro 2008. Disappointment, like a nervous tick, follows his international career. Again and again, he comes so close to glory, only to see another group swipe it away.
This is Miro, now 32, tying his former coach’s record for fifth in all-time World Cup goals. In the round of 16, he ties Pele with 12. Two names, forever linked in history by statistics, yet never mentioned when discussing skill. Spain again ruins his summer, this time in the quarterfinal. He has 14 World Cup goals — second most all-time, tied with Germany’s greatest striker, and behind the Brazilian who ended his first tournament.
This is Miro, discarded by his country’s most prestigious club, Bayern Munich, after scoring just once in 20 Bundesliga appearances. This is Miro, looking for a fresh start in Italy, and finding one with Lazio.
This is Miro, again tasting failure, this time to Italy in Euro 2012. Losing in the limelight is all he knows.
This is Miro, scoring on a hand ball. He does not celebrate, and marches toward the referee, confessing his sins. The referee extends his hand for a shake. Miro avoids a booking.
This is Miro, 36 years old, on the outside looking in. He is no longer the dominant international strike man he once was. He’s lost his spot to a newer, younger model. This is Miro, never raising the trophy.
This is Miro, invited to Brazil by accident. An injury makes him necessary. A striker is needed. Goals must be scored.
This is Miro, netting his 15th World Cup goal against Ghana. He is tied for first all-time. This is Miro, scoring his 16th, and final World Cup goal against Brazil in the semifinal. He stands alone at the top. He is the highest scoring player in the history of the tournament.
This is Miro, the only player to reach four consecutive World Cup semifinals.