What might have been had Mario Gómez left Bayern Munich for Liverpool?
What a difference three games make. Only two or three weeks ago, Bayern Munich were said to be in the middle of a crisis. Three games and twenty goals later, and normality is near to being restored in Munich. Albeit against largely mediocre opposition, Bayern’s 7-1, 7-0 and 6-0 wins against Hoffenheim, FC Basel and Hertha BSC respectively see them reassert their position as the most feared team in Germany.
So why the sudden change? It is not by chance that Bayern’s recent return to their default psychological state of supreme, but justified, arrogance has coincided with the return to fitness of their talisman Bastian Schweinsteiger. Nor is there a false correlation between Bayern’s revival and the resurgence in the form of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry. But of the twenty goals that Bayern have scored in the last two weeks, eight of them have been scored by one man alone.
Mario Gómez has been one of the few Bayern players whose form doesn’t seem to dip with the rest of the team’s. In their disappointing, trophyless season last year, Gómez scored 28 goals to become the Bundesliga’s top scorer, and a year later, he looks set to defend his crown with 22 goals in 25 games. His four goals against Basel last week nearly equalled a record that Lionel Messi had set a mere six days previously, and with ten Champions League goals in total this season, he is second only to the best player in the world.
Not that he scores in the same way as Messi, of course. With Gómez, there are rarely any glorious 40 yard runs, or effortless chips over a helpless goalkeeper. Despite his Spanish heritage, Gómez’ goalscoring theory is Teutonic to its core. His ability to poke ball after ball into the back of the net from six yards is a sepia tinted visual homage to the glory days of Gerd Müller. He is the Messi of tap-ins, Der Bomber reincarnated, except with much better hair.
Such a portrayal of the 27-year-old striker is, perhaps, bordering a little on the caricature. To say that Gómez only scores tap ins is to ignore his ability to hold the ball up, his remarkably impressive footwork for a man of 6′2”, and not to mention his blistering strike into the top corner for his fourth goal against Basel. But scoring, and scoring frequently rather than gloriously, remains Gómez’ greatest ability. 103 league goals in the last five seasons are testimony to that.
It is an ability, moreover, which has inspired incessant interest from the self proclaimed Best League In The World. Hardly a transfer window goes by without some rumour being cooked up about a Gómez move to the Premier League. As recently as January, both Chelsea and Liverpool were reported to have had high value bids turned down by Bayern.
It is Liverpool, however, who have come closest to signing the former Stuttgart striker. In the summer of 2010, after a turbulent first season at Bayern, Gómez looked set to leave the Bundesliga. Under Louis van Gaal, he had been Bayern’s fourth choice forward (albeit one who managed to score 10 league goals), and Roy Hodgson saw an opportunity. A £16m bid was lined up, and, one year after leaving Stuttgart for around £30m, Gómez was days away from calling time on a disappointing Bayern career.
In true FC Bayern style, though, the club refused to make a £15m loss on one of Germany’s most prolific strikers. Manager Christian Nerlinger, with the appropriate Bavarian hypocrisy, declared that “FC Bayern is not a superstore, where other clubs to come and help themselves to our players”. It was also reported that Liverpool did not want to pay Gómez £125,000 a week wages. So frugality won out, and six months later, they shelled out £35m on Andy Carroll.
With Liverpool reduced to rejoicing over a Carling Cup victory and Bayern third favourites to win the Champions League, it is a severe, and very Liverpudlian, case of what might have been. Bayern, having perhaps learnt their lesson after letting Mats Hummels go to Dortmund in 2008, and seeing him beat them to the title three years later, were either very fortuitous or very insightful when they decided to hang on to Gómez. He has repaid them handsomely for their loyalty, and while his nicknames, from Super Mario to Gomessi, may constantly change, the day when Mario Gómez stops scoring goals is a long way off yet.Tagged in: arjen robben, bayern munich, Bundesliga, live, Liverpool, Mario Gomez, Premier League
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