Just how Super is Mario Gomez?
Bayern’s centre forward visits his old club Stuttgart on Sunday in the midst of a goalscoring drought that has seen him go 344 minutes without finding the net and raise more questions about his worth to Germany’s biggest club.
Few players divide opinion like Gomez.
For some, Super Mario is the perfect front man: powerful, hard working and scorer of an impressive 114 goals in 196 Bundesliga matches, including a remarkable 39 goals in all competitions last season.
Here’s respected coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, not a man prone to hyperbole.
“Gomez is extremely important for Bayern and you could say that Gomez for Bayern is as important as Lionel Messi is for Barcelona. He not only scores goals, but works for the team, plays a very good pressing game and wins back the ball.”
For others, Gomez is a lumbering centre forward, short on skill. A player who misses too many chances and benefits from penalties and tap-ins against weaker opposition. Gomez may be joint top scorer this season with 13 goals, but for some he is simply ‘Der Chancentod’: The Chance Misser.
We took a look at Gomez’s goals this season:
- Matchday 3: Scored Bayern’s fourth goal in a 5-0 win against Hamburg.
- Matchday 4: A hat-trick in a 3-0 victory against Kaiserslautern, including one penalty and one rebound from his own missed penalty.
- Matchday 5: Four goals in a 7-0 hiding of Freiburg goals.
- Matchday 9: Two goals in a 4-0 victory against Hertha Berlin, including one penalty.
- Matchday11: Two goals against Nurenberg in a 4-0 rout.
- Matchday 12: Opening goal in a 2-1 win against Augsburg.
So Gomez, a €35 million buy from Stuttgart two years ago, may be banging in plenty of goals but the most expensive player in Bundesliga history he has not scored once against a top eight team. And his goals haven’t exactly been decisive.
Germany’s respected Kicker football magazine studiously analyses players’ performances every week and their verdict isn’t kind either.
Despite leading the goalscoring charts with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Gomez is ranked as only the 49th best player in the league, with a mark of 3.21 (Germany rates players with inverse scores, so the lower the mark, the better the player). That’s way behind Borussia Möenchengladbach’s Marco Reus (2.25) and Borussia Dortmund’s Mario Götze (2.35). Even when judged against other forwards, Gomez comes behind Claudio Pizarro (2.67), Jefferson Farfan (2.78), Robert Lewandowski (2.87), Lukas Podolski (2.96) and Jan Schlaudraff (3.11).
FIFA seems to agree: when looking for German candidates for the 2011 Ballon d’Or, they picked Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteiger, leaving Gomez out in the cold.
Irrelevant, say Gomez’s supporters, who have a raft of impressive stats of their own: Gomez has six Champions League goals this season (a total only matched by Lionel Messi), they point out, and he is Germany’s top scorer in 2011 with seven goals, even being named as captain of his country for the first time.
Legendary striker Gerd Muller even believes Gomez can beat his Bundesliga record of 40 goals in a single season.
“Mario is capable of beating my record, there is no doubt about that,” he told German daily Bild. “And I would be happy for it to be beaten by a Bayern player.”
Gomez’s current goalscoring problems shouldn’t be a surprise: he has always been a confidence player, capable of going months without scoring, then suddenly seemingly unstoppable in front of the net.
After scoring a whopping 24 Bundesliga goals in his final season at unfashionable Stuttgart, where he was named German Player of the Year, his big money move to Bavaria initially started poorly. Like Lukas Podolski, Gomez arrived in Munich lacking the tough mentality (some would say ego) to survive at the club dubbed FC Hollywood.
Desperately short of confidence, Super Mario went eight months without scoring a goal under Louis van Gaal, a coach who openly stated that had it been his choice, Bayern would never have even bought the striker. On the verge of joining Liverpool, Gomez grabbed his chance because of injuries to Ivica Olic and Miroslav Klose and hasn’t looked back since.
Gomez’s form gives ammunition to his supporters and detractors alike. He is a striker of extremes: another goalless outing at Stuttgart would be no surprise, but nor would a hat-trick against his old club.
Super for some, frustrating for others.
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This weekend’s Bundesliga action gets underway Friday with Hertha Berlin against Schalke. (20:30 CET). On Saturday, we have Bremen v Wolfsburg (15:30) and Hannover v Leverkusen (18:30). Then on Sunday catch champions Dortmund v Kaiserslautern, and Stuttgart v Bayern. Coverage in North and East Europe. Highlights of all matches at 19:30 on Sunday.