Today, I want to make a case for Mario Gomez. You'd think that after 44 goals in 58 appearances this season, it would not come to this. But the FC Bayern München striker simply does not get the credit he deserves.
Now, some of you might point out that two days ago I wrote a tribute to Miroslav Klose and, given his international record, the S.S. Lazio forward will surely start against Portugal on Saturday. This is something else, though, this is about acknowledging the prolific form of a man, still only 26, who picked himself off the floor, dusted himself off and came back with aplomb.
His nadir came at UEFA EURO 2008, when a remarkable miss against Austria created an avalanche of questions about his Germany future. He was nearly buried by the negative reaction that greeted subsequent outings for the Nationalmannschaft. I was among the few urging patience and understanding – only to be ridiculed.
Before you accuse me of being sanctimonious I will add that I also once insisted an 11-year-old I was watching would never amount to anything. Twelve years later the kid, Germany's Marko Marin, joined Chelsea FC.
But back to Gomez. He has been criticised for his build, athleticism, technique, profligacy, even an unfounded arrogance. Excuse me? He has scored 127 goals in 215 Bundesliga matches, 22 in 52 games for Germany. "With Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben delivering, you or I could have scored all those Gomez goals this season," someone in my club in Frankfurt recently said. Erm, no.
This is a striker who continues to improve, to make his a more rounded game. Once a counterattacking threat, he has learned how to slow things down, to get involved deeper in midfield. Technique? Did you see his goal against Israel last week? The criticism has evolved with this success – now he fails to deliver in "big games".
That's right, Gomez, who scored 12 goals in the UEFA Champions League this term, which any other season would have earned him the top scorer prize but a certain Lionel Messi notched 14. I think he would get into every squad at UEFA EURO 2012 – Germany should be glad he is in theirs.
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