Three days ago, Mario Gomez was unveiled in front of more than 20,000 supporters at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence.
Handed the number 33, the same he had worn in the scarlet of Bayern Munich, the German’s broad, beaming smile in the fading sunlight heralded his arrival in Italy as he joined one of a select few of Germans to play their football outside the comfort zone of the Bundesliga.
In moving to Florence, he joins a company of Germans so small you could count them on your fingertips. Marko Marin, Andre Schurrle, Lukas Podolski, Per Mertesacker, Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil are the first names that come to mind and the reason they have moved abroad is because they achieved everything they could with the clubs they played with in the Deutscher Vaterland.
At the Allianz Arena, everybody is a star. But some of them are bigger stars than others.
If one were to take stock of Bayern Munich’s team in terms of star value, Gomez, in spite of all the goals he has bagged during the four seasons he has spent at Bayern. Despite the slightly condescending look he is afforded once we have managed to take our eyes away from Franck Ribery’s dribbling, Bastian Schweinsteiger’s passing and Phillip Lahm’s determination, we must remember that the striker is made of sterner stuff than we credit him for.
Indeed, he is one of few players to win the Bundesliga with two different clubs: Stuttgart in 2007 and Bayern in 2010 and 2013. There aren’t many in the current Bayern side who can lay claim to that achievement.
That he is going out of Germany when he could have chosen to rest on his laurels and move to another Bundesliga club or stay on in Bavaria after winning everything he possibly could in Germany is testament to how determined a footballer he is.
And although he did lose his starting berth to new arrival Mario Mandzukic, it is in large part due to the presence of Gomez that Die Roten were so successful last year.
It was Gomez who blocked off Thomas Muller’s marker at the Mestalla to allow his countryman the time and space to equalise as the German giants confirmed their place in the Round of 16 along with Valencia.
A minute after announcing a return to the German domestic league after his injury layoff which saw him lose out to Mandzukic in the first place, he scored his first goal of the season, in a 5-0 rout against Hannover. Having one on-song striker is a scenario clubs would often grab with both hands but to have in possession a second you can rely on is one few can dream of.
He may have not been a regular in the Bavarian’s starting ranks but he showed the world that his penchant for sniffing out goals had not eluded him when he scored his team’s first against BATE Borisov in a 4-1 drubbing of the Belarusians to afford his team top spot in the UEFA Champions League group stage…
…and showed them what exactly what he was capable of when he plundered two against Werder Bremen and set up another to cap Jupp Heynckes’ 1000th match as player and manager in the Bundesliga.
Given the service the likes of Ribery, Muller, Arjen Robben and Xherdan Shaqiri constantly provide to their strikers, it is hardly surprising that Bayern regularly rack up score lines that rival cricket scores. What makes Gomez an excellent addition to any team is his ability to contribute goals irrespective of whether he was afforded a starting berth or called upon to deliver from the bench.
Strikers who come off the bench are often valued for how often they can pierce the back of the opposition’s net and Gomez underlined his value to Bayern Munich when he scored three in his team’s DFB Pokal semi-final 6-1 rout of Wolfsburg at the Allianz just as the visitors were attempting to mount a fight-back.
That march to Berlin would have special memories for Gomez and he showcased his predatory qualities against the club who had made him the man he is today. The 28-year-old scored two against a Stuttgart side who threatened to derail the Bavarians’ dreams of becoming the first team to sweep to a German treble.
For all he has done over the last four years, Gomez deserves to go down in Bayern’s history as one of their most prolific strikers: 113 goals in 174 games for Bayern and a further 87 in 156 for Stuttgart lend credence to his prowess in front of goal.
Capable of operating as a fox in the box, either in tandem with another striker or leading the line on his own and blessed with the capabilities of playing in a more withdrawn, supporting role, it is small wonder that Bayern did fork out close to 35 million Euros for him.
The ability to shoot with both feet and a reputation of being in the right place at the right time have earned him the tag of ‘Mr Zuverlassig’ (Mr Reliable) and the 14.4 million Euros invested in him by Fiorentina are a signal of intent by the Italian club to push further up the table and break the dominion that Juventus, AC Milan and Napoli have on the Champions League spots in Italy.
Moving to the Viola was suggested to Gomez by new Bayern Manager Pep Guardiola and his arrival at the Artemio Franchi means coach Vincenzo Montella can build on a highly successful maiden season in Tuscany.
The arrival of a proven player like Gomez will also mean he is a more than capable replacement for Stevan Jovetic, who seems to be on course to join the Sky Blue brigade at Manchester City and with a talented striking partner in the form of Giuseppe Rossi and a support cast that includes Alberto Aquilani, Mati Fernandez, Juan Vargas, Adem Ljajic and Massimo Ambrosini, Fiorentina laying the foundations that they hope will one day see them become one of Italy’s heavyweights.
Which means that Florence will not just be known as the birthplace of Ezio Auditore da Firenze.