- Position: Centre-forward;
- Born: Riedlingen, July 1985 (age 28);
- Club: ACF Fiorentina (2013-present);
- Former: Bayern Munich (2009-2013), VfB Stuttgart (2003-2009);
- International: Germany (59 caps, 25 goal),
- 2014 Serie A Statistics: 5(4) games, 3 goals, 1 assists,
- Estimated Value: €18-22m
Rewind two years and Mario Gómez was undoubtedly one of the brightest talents in German and European football – the forward would end 2011-12 boasting one of the finest goalscoring rates in world football, having scored 94 goals in 142 games in all competitions during three seasons with Bayern Munich. Gómez then led the line for Die Mannschaft during the 2012 European Championships, scoring against Portugal and twice against the Netherlands in the ‘group of death’ (also containing Denmark), whilst helping the Germans in a run to the Semi Finals where they lost to eventual Runners-Up Italy.
Mario Gómez’s progress was curtailed as he was forced to undergo ankle surgery at the beginning of the 2012-13 season and, despite scoring within a minute of making his Bundesliga return against Hannover 96 in November, the former VfB Stuttgart forward failed to displace Mario Mandzukic in the Bayern side during the remainder of the campaign. He ended the season with a fine goalscoring rate of 19 goals in thirty-two games, actually bettering Mandzukic’s 22 in forty, but the Croatian proved fundamental to the tactical approach of Jupp Heynckes’ side as Bayern marched towards an unprecedented German league, cup, and European treble.
The arrival of former-Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola, following a year’s sabatical spent in New York City, would spell the end of Mario Gómez ‘s stay in Munich. During a period of astonishing success over four seasons at the Camp Nou, Guardiola had demonstrated a penchant for utilising a ‘false nine’ (namely Lionel Messi) – by no means a new concept, but one which gained renewed traction as Barca claimed three successive La Liga titles, won two Copas del Rey, and two European Cups. Upon arrival in Munich, Guardiola encountered a squad which, in the most basic categorisation, consisted of the forwards Mario Mundzukic, Claudio Pizarro, and Mario Gómez – with Thomas Muller also often appearing as spearhead.
Mario Gómez rose to prominence at VfB Stuttgart where, between 2003-2009, he scored 87 goals in 156 senior games and helped Die Roten to the 2006-07 Bundesliga title (their first since 1991-92, and fifth overall). He is one of a considerable succession of Bayern forwards, including Miroslav Klose, Luca Toni, and Lukas Podolski, who, though wielding undoubted and varied talents, never truly settled in Bavaria for the long-term and who were never wholly embraced by the supporters despite, in some cases, exceptional goalscoring records. As previously mentioned, injuries-aside, Gomez’s opportunities at Bayern last season were hampered by the arrival of Mario Mandzukic, who offered greater interplay and ability to press and defend from the front – those factors ultimately ending Gomez’s time at the Allianz Arena. It is significant to note, however, that Bayern have agreed a deal with Robert Lewandowski, of rivals Borussia Dortmund, for 2014-15 and beyond – the Poland international seems a happy and frugal compromise between the talents of Gomez and Mandzukic but his arrival poses questions about the future of the Croatian, with Chelsea and Arsenal reportedly interested.
It was Fiorentina, rebuilding impressively under Vincenzo Montella after a difficult few years, who offered Mario Gomez an opportunity to play first team football during this World Cup season – the lack of significant interest in the German was puzzling, and £13m (potentially rising to £17m) represented a major bargain for La Viola. The forward started life in Florence promisingly, netting a brace and providing an assist in the second game of the season away to Genoa as Fiorentina made an encouraging start to the season. Injury would once again strike, however – in just his fifth competitive game for his new Club, Gómez hit the turf at home to Cagliari and his season was put on hold for five months as he was ruled out with a Grade II medial collateral ligament tear to his right knee.
Gómez made his long-awaited and much-anticipated return to action on February 15th, in an away loss to Internazionale – his first start would come nearly a fortnight later, in the second leg of the Europa League Round of 32 match against Denmark’s Esbjerg fB at the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Gomez scored in successive substitute appearances during mid-March, away to Juventus the Europa League and home to Chievo in Serie A, but, in just his fourth start since making his return, Gómez was withdrawn late in the game at Napoli’s Stadio San Paolo with another knee injury (this time his left) – the German has not featured since and Montella recently declared that “we won’t see him again this season”.
Mario Gómez holds dual German and Spanish citizenship but, German born and bred, opted to follow his maternal line and represent the German national team. He made a goalscoring debut in a February 2007 friendly against Switzerland in Dusseldorf, during his Bundesliga-winning season, and added a brace from the bench in his second appearance, a Euro 2008 qualifer against San Marino in Nuremberg. Since his introduction to the National Team, he has largely played second-fiddle to the duo of Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, evergreen and formidle at international level – nevertheless, Euro 2012 represented a real breakthrough tournament as Joachim Löw selected Gómez to lead the line and he ended joint-top scorer with Spain’s Fernando Torres. The Riedlingen-born forward has in impressive return of 25 goals in 59 appearances for Die Mannschaft but has not scored since his double against the Netherlands in 2012 – indeed, only featuring twice (in friendlies against France and Paraguay) due to his injury woes.
The latest injury is a major setback for Mario Gómez , who was already facing a race against time to prove himself worthy of a starting berth in the World Cup Group G opener against Portugal. Lazio’s Miroslav Klose, having led the line for much of the qualifying campaign, is almost certain to travel to Brazil – on fourteen tournament goals (2002, 2006, 2010) he is just one short of Ronaldo’s World Cup goalscoring record and will back himself to beat the Brazilian’s record. Thomas Muller, having netted five in 2010, is one of very few active players to have made inroads into that record and is also set to travel but is albeit more likely to occupy an inside-right position. Centre-forward is a position in which Germany seem uncharacteristically short – Bayer Leverkusen’s Stefan Kießling, despite an excellent club-record, is inexperienced and lacking a goal at international level; Andre Schurrle has looked out of sorts in just a couple of opportunities as striker for Chelsea; and Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Max Kruse is without the experience of international or even European tournament football. Joachim Löw did experiment with a ‘false nine’, usually Marco Reus or Mesut Ozil, during the qualifying campaign but Muller ultimately represents the best option in such a role – the expectation is that it will be Klose, as a lone centre-forward, or Muller, with wide support, who gets the nod.
Despite being presented with many reasons to let his head drop, Mario Gómez has remained optimistic – he recently spoke of his desire to achieve success with Fiorentina, stating “I want to play in the Champions League with this team and win trophies, maybe even the title”. Though the German missed out on his target of helping La Viola in the Coppa Italia Final (which they lost 3-1 to Rafa Benitez’s Napoli at the weekend), his dream of making Germany’s squad for the 2014 World Cup has not yet been entirely extinguished. German Manager Löw implied earlier in the year that he was “counting on” Gómez , along with Klose, and Gómez himself sounded defiant prior to his recent injury: “a World Cup Brazil is the greatest event in which a footballer can play […]. I do not want to have the feeling that I’m a sparring partner for preparation. I want to make a difference”. A nightmare two-year spell largely spent on the treatment table has severely hampered Gómez’s World Cup prospects, but a dearth of striking options is one of very few notable deficencies in the German armoury and circumstances may yet just come together to render the forward an invaluable wild-card during a summer in which many expect Germany to challenge very hard for a World Cup that has eluded them since 1990.
Mario Gómez was unfortunately, though not entirely unexpectedly, left out Germany’s provisional World Cup squad by Joachim Löw – Hoffenheim’s Kevin Volland was the surprise attacking inclusion, alongside stalwarts Klose and Podolski. Gómez was unable to hide his disappointment, referring to the “ugliest season of [his] career” in a message of gratitude to supporters and well-wishes to his teammates. Nevertheless, the forward will hope that this latest setback can represent a line in the sand – his international Manager has offered him hope of of a future recall, whilst Gómez himself has expressed his desire to commit to a positive future with Fiorentina: “I’m very happy and I want to play in this shirt next season in order to give my contribution and to repay this club […]. I cannot wait to start the new season”. A fit and prepared Mario Gómez will be a great asset to Fiorentina next season, as Vincenzo Montella looks to built on two encouraging fourth-place Serie A finishes and secure La Viola a return to the Champions League after a five-year absence.
© Jack Harte, 2014