mario gomez – the most talented german striker

it had become a running gag. not only here in bremen, where i live, but basically everywhere in germany. playing football with your friends, someone has a perfect chance and misses the goal incredibely – and someone will shout his name. “mario gomez”, followed by some laughter. but how did this relatively young striker get to become the laughing stock of a nation?

young mario gomez

to find that out, one has to go back. quite a few years, actually. mario gomez emerged as another young talent from the greatest talent producing club of the decade, vfb stuttgart. many young players in many positions really started showing first promise playing for the team from south germany. phillipp lahm might be the most famous one; although he always belonged to bayern, it was during his loan at stuttgart that he became a bundesliga player and a national team player. kevin kuranyi is another example. he started his career at stuttgart and scored many goals for them. kuranyi left stuttgart for schalke 04 after three superb seasons, where he scored 39 goals in 94 matches. who would replace the german brazilian?

hopes were high for the young mario gomez. he was born in south germany, to a spanish father and german mother. when kuranyi left, gomez was still 19 and had only played a hand full of matches for his home club. the first season after kuranyi marked gomez’ rise into the main team. 30 matches and already six goals for the youngster showed promise. the season 2006-07 catapulted him to stardom, 14 goals in 25 matches and his debut for the german national team. he was surely the promise for the german attack, to finally replace aging miroslav klose. and he couldn’t have done better in the season right before euro 2008: he scored 19 goals in 25 matches, made the squad and started in the first match against austria.


gomez has often been frustrated when playing for germany...

that’s were the image began to appear. mario gomez managed to miss a certain goal in that match: 2 meter in front of the empty goal, he shot the ball over the bar towards the night sky. after that, he was so nervous that he didn’t get anything right in the match. germany won it, but gomez, still 22, lost his spot. and became the tragic figure of that team.

gomez went back to business for stuttgart, though. he had his best season to date, scoring a whopping 24 goals in 32 matches, much more than any other german player. but he spent that whole season without scoring even once for the german national team, and reporters started to pick on that. mario gomez had proven himself in the season after the tragedy in austria, but he still was very unlucky on international duty for germany. even his eight goals in ten international matches for stuttgart, with whom he won the german championship in 2007, didn’t seem to rid him from the tragic image. people were now trained to focus on the goals he missed, and not on the goals he scored.


the success in stuttgart continued, though...

this is why his move to bayern munich was blessing and risk at the same time. a blessing, because the 35 million euros payed from munich to stuttgart, the highest ever fee in the bundesliga’s history, showed his importance. if bayern wanted you and paid a record fee to get you, you must be good. and the numbers showed it: 82 matches from age 21-23, and 57 goals – in the bundesliga alone! for a young player, this is a spectacular record. and its reasons were easy to explain. mario gomez is an intelligent player, strong physically, solid technically. and he is rare in that his left shot is as good as his right shot, and that he is tall and a great header; so basically he can score goals from any situation, and that he did!

the risk was two-fold. would he be able to perform as well at the high pressure existing at bayern, much higher than in stuttgart – and with the price tag? and with a team tactic that wouldn’t be taylored for him, after the new coach louis van gaal declared that buying gomez wasn’t his idea. and when the dutchman arjen robben arrived, the change in tactics would really be to gomez’ expense. bayern would play a 4-3-3, which meant two things: only one central attackar (either klose, or luca toni at the time, or gomez), and two attacking wingers (robben & ribéry) who like to shoot on goal and not cross the ball to the center. tough times for gomez or klose? well, even under those circumstances, the young striker used his chances and scored a total of 10 goals in the first half of the season. he then was injured, and klose did a good job after that. since gomez is a horrible “joker” (never performing well when entering the match late), he almost lost his place in the 2010 world cup squad – and it was klose, even after a bad season, who started for the german national team, with great success.


things are going well for him now, at bayern...

gomez was the looser again. bad second half for bayern, bad joker at the world cup. his time was supposed to be there, and things looked even worse, since klose came back from the world cup as the starting attacker for bayern. mario gomez even though about joining liverpool and leaving munich, but he stayed, klose got injured, and then the following happened: 8 goals in 12 bundesliga matches, 6 goals in 5 matches at the champions league, and even 2 goals in the last 3 national team matches. spectacular numbers for a truly gifted striker.

by the way: that “mario gomez” jokes have vanished from the amateur football fields in germany.

Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 22:35  Leave a Comment  
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germany’s football culture has changed

it was just germany x azerbaijan. a mere qualifier for euro 2012. but it was still a very important match for the fans of german football. and maybe, just maybe, for any football fan.

klinsmann is a symbol for the old germany: athletic, enthusiastic, soloist...

germany has been famous, over decades, for its efficiency. yes, there were some quite brilliant players, and some memorable teams; but it was the german physis, tactics, discipline and efficiency which took the national teams to 6 titles in euros and world cups, and inumerous 2nd, 3rd and 4th places in the biggest international tournaments.

in 2006, the german team showed first signs of a new, exciting way of playing the game; mostly, the round of 16 match against sweden comes to mind. but even the 2nd place in the euro 2008 couldn’t hide the fact that germany was playing like germany again… with a lots of will and strength, the final was reached; but netherlands, russia and spain were the teams getting the praise at the end. at the end, results count; but really memorable teams have a way of playing, a style that fascinates the world.

german teams are still united, but now they have a better playing philosophy...

i think it’s safe to say that spain did not fascinate the world in this world cup, and netherlands never really came close. actually, the dutch played quite a little like the germans. and the germans? they played… differently.

hungary in the 50ies, brasil in 58, 70 and 82; the netherlands in 1974. those teams played a special kind of football, each of them different from the other. 1986 is an exception, since it was maradona who was memorable, not the argentinian national team. and since that world cup in mexico, here has not been one team to really stand out and become memorable.

i can’t really say that this was the case for the first time in 24 years in “waka waka” land. it’s to early to judge. but a great team is developing, a team that might become as great as the spaniards are now – but even more admired and loved.

thomas müller is a symbol of the new germany...

the fact that i’m talking about the young german national squad seems surreal, but it is, nonetheless, true. beyond a doubt, the most exciting football in the last world cup was celebrated by the germans. it’s fast, vertical and risky on the attack, but envolves lots of running, positioning and discipline in the defense. “umschalten” is the word in german, to “change” the switch. when someone gets the ball, everyone else should be in offensive movement, and the ball should be played as fast and vertical as possible to the front. there is room for plenty of creativity and intelligent play, and there is room for mistakes; because of the organization and the traditional good goal keeping.

part of the new germany: now they have cacau, özil, khedira, boateng, podolski... so many nations into one!

even the germans were taken by surprise with the team. özil only really started to play for the team not even a year ago, müller played his first match in march of 2010, toni kroos had his debut the same day; schweinsteiger left the wings and only started to play in the central midfield position in the weeks before the world cup, and boateng had his first match october last year. everyone saw the potential, but no one could have dreamed of seeing it all really work well, at least in three memorable matches.

podolski is playing much better, with the company of özil and müller.

the victory against australia is underestimated. germany were the first team to shine in the world cup, and they completeley dominated australia; but not in a typical german way, but playfully, light, fast and dangerous. it could have been 8×0, easily. but even if it had been only 2×0, it was the way they played that was so different. by the way, australia beat serbia and tied against ghana… the germany game was their only loss. even in their loss to serbia, they played a breath-taking second half – with only 10 men; but no goals.

the matches against england and argentina are most likely the best a german team has ever played. spain plays the game of patience, of total ball control, of waiting and then scoring, of not letting the other team play. germany do not show such patience, they’re play is less mature, but more youthful – and nice to look at. in the old days, if you had one great combination of offensive passes, it was reason for great praise; now you can’t count them anymore, simply because it has become the philosophy to try, and try, and try.

klose scored two goals yesterday, one against belgium friday - he's playing much better football now, with the young fellows.

so yesterday’s match, the first one on home soil since the strange world cup events, was a looker. first of all, german teams have traditionally had problems against the so-called “smaller football nations”; a 1×0 or 2×1 was not a rare result, and the game was rarely interesting to watch. second, azerbaijan have shown that they are difficult to play, having tied in russia and even beaten the czech republic, all pretty recently. so normally there would be no reason to expect a goal festival. but this was the exact expectation, based on the world cup feeling.

and even under that pressure to perform, and even not at 100% after a short vacation: what we saw yesterday was a german team demonstrating that they will continue their path and have no intention to stop. many talented players are on the outside and want in. after the 3×0 half time lead, normally the second half would be a total bore, but the new germany attacks until he very last minute, no matter the score. klose scored the final goal in over time.

badstuber played a great game yesterday and looks like the future as a full back.

it is just good to know that something definetley is growing in german football. a team that has the potential to be memorable not for titles or dramas, but simply for a way of playing football. thomas müller, who didn’t have a good day yesterday, represents this new germany; only very few bayern fans knew him a year ago, and now he’s conquered the world. and: he is here to stay, for a long time.

talent, mentality, added to the team spirit, defensive discipline and the willingness to attack always, as much as possible, with everyone moving all the time and avoiding to commit fouls: this is the germany that might be considered memorable in years to come. the germany in 2010, and maybe the germany in 2014. the way is long, but yesterday proved that no one has the intention to change the direction.

germany and the world will be thankful. the 6×1 yesterday could only be the continuation of what started in the winter miracle of 2010…

michael ballack’s final downfall

it is a saturday, may 15 2010. one of the most despised players in german football, kevin-prince boateng, has left the bundesliga for good. and more, he has put his talent to work and reached the fa cup final with his already relegated team, portsmouth. boateng, who was born in berlin, where he grew up and turned pro, had recently decided to play for ghana, his father’s homeland, instead of germany, where his chances seemed very slim after various ugly fouls in and outside of the pitches. it was certainly not his luckiest day, in retrospect, when ghana and germany were drawn into the same group for the fifa 2010 world cup in south africa. at least not on may 15.

that day, he felt provoced by opponent michael ballack, a starter for chelsea fc in that final, at wembley. the next chance he got, boateng attacked ballack quite brutally. little did he know that he had just kicked the german captain out of he world cup. and maybe even out of his international career, as it turns out.


schweinsteiger seems to have replaced ballack as main german player in the world.

german midia went bezerk. special reports even in all channels and newspapers, ballack’s drama became the main subject for quite a few days. and boateng was the perfect bad boy, since he had that image even before the incident. germany had lost there one world class player, and to a player who would play against germany at the world cup, and who was even born in germany. no one could have imagined what would happen not even two months later.

“prince” boateng became at least a little world star due to his good play for the best african team at the first african world cup. he will now play for milan, with the likes of ibrahimovic, pato, robinho and, of course, ronaldinho. on the other hand, ballack lost his job at chelsea, moved back to bayer leverkusen, and saw himself questioned not only by a good part of the public opinion, but also by his own national head coach. philipp lahm, questioned in a press conference if he would like to remain the captain after the world cup, used the timing right after the 4×0 victory over argentina to answer with a “i’m having fun and i like it, why should i not want to continue to be the captain?”. of course, that had sounded quite differently right before the tournament, where lahm had made clear that he was the world cup captain, but ballack was the national team captain. löw had said the same thing.

so when löw was questioned by journalists about what lahm had said, they were surprised to find out that he would not give a definite answer to that question, and that he would think about some general things after the world cup.

what a set back for ballack. and how unfair it seemed, after all he was injured and couldn’t defend himself. and he trully didn’t think he needed to, anyway.


as a young player: successful at kaiserslautern.

this last fact might seem misterious to many football fans who are not german. after all, what had ballack ever really achieved, as an individual and as a team player?

his career began at kaiserslautern, where he moved to from his native chemnitz. in his first bundesliga season with the recently promoted 1.fc kaiserslautern, he became german champion in 1998, at age 22. one year later, bayer leverkusen acquired his services, and he young offensive midfielder started a little bit of a bad luck streak.


at leverkusen, he had his best moments playing for clubs... but lost the champions league final to real madrid.

in the year 2000, leverkusen needed only a point to seal their first german national title at unteraching, one of the worst teams of the season, but they lost 0x2 – with an own goal by Ballack showing the way. in 2002, leverkusen lost a 5 point lead in the last three rounds of the bundesliga, lost the final of the german cup – and where defeated by real madrid in the champions league final. ballack, though, had an outstanding season, with great matches against liverpool and manchester united, and bayern signed him for the next season. at the world cup, he became germany’s darling by either scoring or assisting to all the important goals in the runners-up campaign of japan/korea 2002. in the semis, he became a national hero after seeing his second yellow card which would see him absent from the final, and still score the decisive goal for germany after the fact. it is because of that yellow card that the rules were changed, and a player has no yellow threat in a semi final, currenlty.

this had not been the true beginning of ballack’s legendary career playing for germany. that legend was born in dortmund, november 2001, when germany was facing elimination in the qualifying phase for the first time ever. in the play-offs, germany had tied 1×1 in the ukraine, with a ballack goal. and in the convincing 4×1 home win that night, ballack was the saviour of german football, already hurt badly after the shame of the euro 2000, where a lackluster squad left the tournament without even scoring a single goal.


always a leader for germany, on the pitch and in merchandising... the "handsome" michael.

ballack mantained his status for the german national team over the years, and became its captain after the disappointing euro 2004 campaign. he was successful nationally with bayern, but never really loved by the munich fans. he scored quite a bunch of goals, some of them even important ones, but he was never the boss at bayern. in the german team, though, this was different. he had some great performances at the confed cup in 2005, and he was the emotional leader of a really good world cup 2006 squad. this international renomée led him to a chelsea contract, where mourinho offered him 9 million euros a year – and michael ballack seemed at the top, at least his salary was in he top 3 of the world. but he had never really played exceptionally well for his club since his leverkusen season in 2001/02, which ended with four runner-up places.


he has won five national titles, four of them in the bundesliga, three of them with bayern.

effective, but not loved: ballack at bayern.

ballack played four years for chelsea. he wasn’t allowed to play as offensively as in germany, and defensively, he was outshined by the likes of lampard and essien, which is no shame; but it really shows that you are not superstar material. in the german national team, though, he was never questioned, and he was considered to be the one mega-star of german football. he did pay back all the confidence in usually convincing performances – and lots of goals! 42 in 98 matches is impressive for a defensive midfielder, it would be quite impressive for any striker, actually. and most of these were decisive goals.


not always a starter in chelsea's star ensemble: ballack played four years for the london side.

and then it was time for africa. no ballack. but what a great football from germany. the 4×0 win over australia had the whole world putting germany back into he title race after the first match, because of the way it was achieved, and not because of the result itself. even the 8×0 win germany scored in its opening match 2002 against saudi-arabia was a shadow compared to their brilliant performance, with fast and highly technical football, still with he typical german disciplin and team effort. and the 4×1 win over england, who had arrived at the world cup as favorites second only to the spaniards, was maybe the best football a german team had ever played in any world cup match – or any football match. who could’ve imagined that even more was to come, an incredible and deserved 4×0 against the argentinians, up to then the best team of the competition alongside the germans.

who would have though that germany could play like that? and without ballack! all at once, he didn’t seem that important any more… even his replacement khedira got a contract at real madrid after south africa, a contract that would’ve pleased the aging ex-hero of german football. mourinho did say that ballack was always an interesting option, but he opted for sami khedira.

and so did jogi löw, before the first euro qualifiers in belgium and against azerbaijan. ballack is not yet in form; in the past, that wouldn’t have been enough o keep him away from his national duties, as a captain and the only real star. but now, lahm (who is at least a little world star since 2006), schweinsteiger, müller and özil, even podolski and klose are quite well known themselves, and have quite a lot of merit in the recent developments. the change in perception of german football does not have the name ballack in it, an at the next euro, the “capitano” will be close to his 36th birthday.


back in leverkusen: ballack still dreams of the international title as captain, the euro 2002. it doesn't seem to likely, right now...

löw has chosen to give ballack the choice. if michael, back at bayer leverkusen, can reach world-class level for his club again (this was last achieved at the same club, eight years ago), then he might get back his place in the national team, and his captany. if not, his international career will be over, caused by kevin-prince boateng’s kick. good for germany, since only a ballack at top-level would help, but he would always be welcome. good for löw, who has the public opinion behind him, should ballack come back or not. actually, it’s quite good for everyone, even for leverkusen, who will have a motivated ballack, trying to show it to everyone.

good for everyone, but ballack. he has lost his prestige, that he had earned mostly through his national team performances. he must get back to the top, and he has it all to loose. to me, it looks like he won’t make it anymore, and that philipp lahm is actually the captain of he german team, not only tomorrow against azerbaijan. but i would wish ballack that he makes his comeback, it would be definetly exciting to watch!