For some fans of Bayern Munich, the sight of Mario Gomez on the pitch of the Allianz Arena conjures up memories of goals, celebrations and trophies. However, when the 33-year-old takes the pitch this weekend, he will not be wearing the red and white of the German champions, but rather the white and red of a club in trouble.
VfB Stuttgart currently sit third from the bottom of the Bundesliga table with 14 points and are in desperate need of a positive result. Their last win came back on December 15th against Hertha Berlin. Now in the Rückrunde, Stuttgart will be looking to Gomez to help improve their goal tally (a league low 14 goals).
Gomez couldn’t help but feel nostalgic when discussing his return to the Bavarian capital. When speaking to SportBild (via Bundesliga.com), he reflected on the start of his career with Die Roten, and how it almost ended prematurely:
Louis van Gaal wanted to sell me after my first year at Bayern, demoting me to the number four striker and saying it would be best for everyone if I moved on. But when I subsequently went to [Bayern CEO] Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and [Bayern President] Uli Hoeness with an offer from Liverpool, Hoeness held his stomach and said ‘my gut feeling says you have to stay!’ A few months later van Gaal told me that he had come to realise that I was his number one striker. That was perhaps the biggest personal victory of my career.
Gomez played four seasons in Munich, scoring 75 goals over 115 appearances. During his time in Bavaria, he played in three Champions League finals, including an appearance as a sub in the 2013 Final that Bayern won. Gomez said he was grateful for the opportunity to play against top-level clubs:
I’m aware that I was allowed to swim with the biggest fish, even though I’m not the best striker in the world. Yet in 2012 I suddenly had 12 Champions League goals to my name, and was only two behind Lionel Messi.
The striker joined Fiorentina in the summer of 2013 before moving to Wolfsburg, and then transferring to his current home in Stuttgart. He is the team’s leading goal scorer with five goals to his name. If the team hopes to make it out of the relegation playoff zone this weekend, they’ll need to channel more than nostalgia to generate a good result.