VfB Stuttgart striker Mario Gomez has said that perhaps his biggest personal achievement was proving to Bayern Munich and Louis van Gaal that he deserved a place at the club.
The 33-year-old freely admits that he was never one of the world’s very top forwards but – having won the league with Stuttgart in 2007 – he is proud to have gone on to show his worth under former Bayern manager van Gaal.
“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,” Gomez told SportBild.
“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 for Bayern between 2009 and 2013, and scored 14 goals in all competitions in his first season at the club – helping them to a domestic double and to reach the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League final.
After convincing ex-Ajax and Manchester United boss van Gaal that he warranted a longer stay, the Germany international finished his time in Bavaria with five major titles.
“I’m aware that I was allowed to swim with the biggest fish, even though I’m not the best striker in the world,” he said.
“Yet in 2012 I suddenly had 12 Champions League goals to my name, and was only two behind Lionel Messi.”
In the 2011/12 season, when Gomez finished as the second-top goalscorer in the Champions League behind Barcelona attacker Messi, Bayern ultimately fell at the final hurdle against Chelsea. A year later he would get a winner’s medal in the competition after scoring twice – including against Barcelona in the semi-finals – before Bayern beat Borussia Dortmund in an epic final at Wembley.
That formed part of a remarkable treble of trophies in the 2012/13 campaign for the five-time European champions, with Gomez registering 11 goals in the Bundesliga and six in the DFB Cup – including two against Stuttgart in the final.
Following spells at Fiorentina, Besiktas and Wolfsburg, Gomez returned to his first professional club in January 2018. Stuttgart’s leading scorer with five goals this term, he will be hoping for another memorable victory this weekend – against his former employers this time – to help lift his current side out of the relegation play-off position.