Mario Gomez's Bundesliga debut was a low-key affair. A couple of months shy of his 19th birthday, he came off the bench in the 48th minute of the Matchday 32 game at Hamburger SV in 2003/04, but made little impact as VfB Stuttgart went down to a 2-1 defeat. It proved an untypical start for a player destined to develop into Germany's number one striker, earning the almost inevitable tag 'Super Mario' along the way.
Son of German mother and Spanish father, Gomez's success has led to a small street being named after him in his dad's hometown of Albunan in Granada, Spain. "My father showed me what can be achieved through hard work, which always impressed me," said Gomez who believes friends and family are the two greatest constants in life.
Having impressed in Stuttgart's youth set-up, the precocious goalgetter made his big-time breakthrough during the 2006/07 campaign - so much so that he was voted Germany's Player of the Year after his 14 goals helped propel VfB to a surprise Bundesliga title success.
Gomez's golden touch in front of goal showed no signs of diminishing as he netted 43 over the following two seasons to become one of the most sought-after attacking talents in European football. "I've made the most important decision of my career," said the striker upon joining German record titleholders FC Bayern Munich in 2009. "I want to take the next step." In his very first season with FCB, Gomez won the domestic league and cup double, chipping in with 14 goals himself.
The next couple of seasons were thin on the silverware front for the Munich outfit but Gomez went from strength to strength, netting 28 times in 2010/11 to win the coveted Bundesliga top scorer's cannon for the first time. The following season, he was pipped to the defence of his title by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and had to make do with the runners-up spot for the third time all-told.
On the European stage, Gomez finished the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League campaign on eight goals. He topped that the following year, scoring twelve as Bayern progressed to the final. That would have been a new tournament record, had Barcelona's Lionel Messi not been in the process of topping it in the same season with 14.
In 2012/13 he was forced to play second-fiddle to Mario Mandzukic for large parts of the campaign after picking up an injury early on. Nevertheless, Gomez still netted 11 Bundesliga goals and scored a brace in the DFB Cup final as Bayern secured an historic treble.