Exclusive: Has Mario Gómez regained his peak form?

Updated: June 30, 2016

Mario Gómez is currently in France with the German national team after being offered a chance by Joachim Löw to revive his international career over the past few months. And the near 31 year old striker has rarely looked better.

After clinching the title with Beşiktaş last month, Mario Gómez mentioned several times in interviews on live television – and for German media outlet Bild – that he’s “never felt better”. He even went as far as to say “I might be in the best form of my career”. Surely this raised a few eyebrows, as the Turkish Süper Lig is not exactly at the same level as the Bundesliga or the Champions League, both competitions he’s shined in for Stuttgart and mostly Bayern München.

However when we take a closer look at Mario’s statements, perhaps what he said wasn’t as far off the truth afterall. Mario Gómez has been one of the most prolific strikers in Europe over the past decade, but still frequently faced heavy criticism in his home country Germany. We spoke to Kathryn B. (@kcb_42 on Twitter), a 24 year old football fan who currently resides in the US and has followed Mario Gómez’s career closely since his time at VfB Stuttgart.

The enigmatic Mario Gómez calmly walks away after scoring his second against the Netherlands at EURO 2012

The enigmatic Mario Gómez calmly walks away after scoring his second against the Netherlands at EURO 2012

Could you describe how Mario Gómez’s Germany career went during his ‘first stint’?

“He was always the scapegoat for whenever anything went wrong and was heavily criticized for being a poacher and not a huge playmaker. And so much of the negativity surrounding him came from the “chancentod” title he was given after a missed opportunity against Austria at the 2008 Euros” she starts describing Mario Gómez’s tumultuous Germany career prior to his 2015 return.

“He became one of the most disliked players in Germany after that and would be criticized even after a technically perfect match or even after scoring a hat trick. And I think that mentally took it’s toll on him on the pitch. He’s free of that at Beşiktaş and I personally think that is a huge reason for him being in such good form currently”, Kathryn continues, “In Germany he could never do anything right even after his best matches, he was called lazy and useless even after being named man of the match in Champions League play.”

Do you think that Mario Gómez is a more mature and perhaps complete player today then for example back in 2012?

“Yes and I think it says a lot that Jogi [Joachim Löw] has stated that Mario is carrying the frontline, and it’s obvious he’s really working with the younger players and is helping to lead them, which is something I don’t think he would have been capable of had he been called up even in 2014. I think mentally he’s at his strongest right now and physically he’s looking strong too.”

And was he this heavily critcized only for Germany or did it also apply for his time at Bayern?

Mario Gómez misses a huge chance during the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B match between Austria and Germany at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 16, 2008 in Vienna, Austria.

Mario Gómez misses a huge chance during the UEFA EURO 2008 Group B match between Austria and Germany at Ernst Happel Stadion on June 16, 2008 in Vienna, Austria.

“It definitely applies to both Germany and Bayern, when he transferred to Bayern he had a horrible first season [14 goals in 45 appearances] and it was soon after the [2008] Euros, so Bayern fans that hadn’t turned against him after Euros were very quickly unhappy with him and he never fully got them on his side. He never got out of the shadow of that slump in the eyes of Germany. And it didn’t help that he was criticized so much by management and that Mario Mandzukic was purchased too “to have a striker that would help winning the Champions League” since there was so little respect and trust in Mario’s abilities”, she continues, “I think Bayern fans were initially hopeful with him because he was a huge signing and had done so much for Stuttgart, but the 09/10 season really dampened that hope and strengthened his naysayers’ claims. There was a lot of excitement about him when he first arrived in Münich and his relationships with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thomas Müller did endear him to the fans, but the criticism was still heavy. When he became top scorer, his ranking with the fans did climb, I would say that’s one of the highest points of his career in the “fan love” department. But it didn’t last long because of the never ending negativity. After the summer of 2012 – despite his great performance at the Euros (where he was still criticized for being slow and lazy by a fave Bayern legend Mehmet Scholl, which did a lot of damage) – there was really no coming back in the fans’ eyes. The bitterness of losing the Champions League final at home in the Allianz arena and the arrival of Mandzukic really dropped his popularity which he had previously managed to gain with his successes with the club and his antics with fan favourites like Basti and Müller.”

In your opinion, what would be best for Mario Gómez’s career after the Euros? Should he remain in Turkey or try his luck elsewhere again?

“I think he should stay at Beşiktaş. After seeing how unsettled he can get at a club that he doesn’t fit well at [Fiorentina], I think the best thing for him is to stay the course with Beşiktaş and continue this good streak he’s on. Why mess with a good thing, especially now with Champions League football ahead.”

She continues, “I think a return to the Bundesliga would be highly unlikely aswell, because he doesn’t seem to want to play for any BuLi clubs that isn’t Stuttgart (no longer an option) or Bayern (highly unlikely), he’s too loyal to go to a rival. If he was to leave Beşiktaş, I think it would be a big risk to the consistency and confidence he’s built up and I think especially a return to Germany could shake him up again because there’s no guarantee that he will be accepted with open arms. A lot will depend on his status after the Euros. If he continues scoring and they win, it could change everything. Though even then I think it’s so deep at this point that it may not be enough to turn the ship around in his favour.”

Why do you think he did so well at Beşiktaş this season compared to his time at Fiorentina?

“I think the difference in Fiorentina and Beşiktaş are two main things, playing style and the coach. I think the football played at Beşiktaş suits him, it’s more similar to his comfortable rhythm at Bayern than anything Fiorentina could manage. And I think Mario gets more support from the coaching staff at Beşiktaş than at Fiorentina, he seems very supported and comfortable and there’s a mutual respect. He was also so injury plagued at Fiorentina (which seems to be a club wide issue) that he never could find his rhythm and build any lasting confidence in front of goal or chemistry with his teammates.”

As always, ahead of the Euros you had a lot of negative voices because Gómez wasn’t able to bring at Fiorentina what was expected of him. His performances at Beşiktaş were put down as it was “just in Turkey”, but with his performances now for Germany and the ease he’s had to settle back in the team, do you believe he’s close to his peak form of the past?

“I absolutely do believe that. I think his current form with the national team shows that it’s not just “He can play in Turkey, so what?” because he’s become such a key player for the German frontline [in a short amount of time]. I would definitely say this is close to the best Mario I’ve seen. He’s getting back to the reliable goal scoring form he had at his Bundesliga glory days and I think if he continues with the confidence and form he has, he could go back to being a regular hat-trick scorer and a very dangerous striker at a high level. He’s on the road back to that status he had at his highest point. That said, I think mentally, he’s at his best.”

Has the attitude of the German media changed at all regarding Mario Gómez since his return?

“It’s definitely shifted to be more positive and he’s more accepted as a valuable player. Of course there are still plenty of people who openly doubt him, but there has been a very dramatic shift towards supporting him this summer and that’s definitely a product of his current form as well as respected players like Miroslaw Klose and Oliver Kahn endorsing him.”

With Mario Gómez seemingly so close to his glory days and mentally perhaps being in the best place he’s ever been, the big German has perhaps found his ideal home at Beşiktaş. And is disproving the naysayers by every goal he bags in to the net for ‘die Mannschaft’. Will he stay or will he got? Only the future can tell, but one thing is certain. Mario Gómez is back and perhaps, better than ever!(?)

Source: Beşiktaş International exclusive

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Kaan Bayazit

Editor-in-chief at Beşiktaş International
Freelance sports writer specialized in Turkish football and Beşiktaş. Co-host of the Black Eagles podcast. Frequently featured in World Soccer Digest Japan and many other international media outlets. Following Turkish football for close to two decades. Proud father to Aedin.
Kaan Bayazit
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