With two goals in as many outings for Germany in their warm-up games before UEFA EURO 2016, former VfB Stuttgart and FC Bayern München man Mario Gomez is likely to be a key player for Die Nationalmannschaft in France. bundesliga.com takes a closer look…
A Bundesliga record transfer when he swapped first club Stuttgart for FC Bayern in 2009, Gomez won the Torjägerkanone with 28 goals in his second season in Bavaria. A three-time Bundesliga champion who won the treble in Munich as recently as the 2012/13 campaign, there should perhaps be little surprise that Gomez - still one month shy of his 31st birthday - will be one of the first names on Joachim Löw's teamsheet when Germany go in search of a fourth UEFA European Championship. However, it was not ever thus.
"It was my big motivation to be part of this great [Germany] team once more," said Gomez, looking back on a successful 2015/16 campaign that saw him fire Besiktas JK to the Turkish Süper Lig title with a league-high 26 goals. "Now I'm just proud and happy that I am going [to EURO 2016]."
From the archive: Gomez's time in the Bundesliga
Gomez scored on his debut for the Nationalmannschaft in February 2007 - a 3-1 friendly win over Switzerland at Fortuna Düsseldorf's ESPRIT arena - and was part of the squads that finished as runners up at UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland as well as third at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. So often the nearly-men with Gomez in their ranks, Germany ended an 18-year wait for an international title when they went all the way at the World Cup in Brazil two years ago. Gomez watched the tournament at home nursing a knee injury, though the free-scoring form of the ever-green Miroslav Klose left lingering suspicions that Gomez would not have been on the plane anyway.
"There was no call," said Gomez of his omission from Löw's 23-man party. "Obviously 2014 was hard. I had already anticipated that I might not go to Brazil because I was injured for a long time, but I always had a little hope. When he [Löw] announced that I was not going, I was disappointed. It became real at this moment. That hurt."
Between a September 2014 4-2 friendly defeat to Argentina and a 2-0 loss to France last November, Gomez spent an unfortunately fitting 13 games in the international wilderness. At club level, his move from Bayern to ACF Fiorentina in July 2013 failed to live up to expectations, with Gomez finding the target just seven times in two years before last summer's loan transfer to Besiktas. Once again, injuries played their role, but they were not alone in holding up the striker's progress in Italy.
"I had a lack of planning," he said. "I did not look at my career. When you are young, you imagine what the course of your career will probably be, for which clubs you want to play. My plan was to go to Florence and then to Spain. That did not work out."
Spain might have been an ideal semi-retirement destination for Gomez, who, as his full name Mario Gomez Garcia betrays, is of Spanish extraction. Gomez was born in the Baden-Württemberg town of Riedlingen to a German mother and a father - Jose 'Pepe' Gomez Garcia - who hails from a village in Granada near Spain's southern coast. Instead, Gomez has rediscovered his goalscoring touch at the opposite end of the Mediterranean basin, firing the Istanbul-based Black Eagles to their first top-flight triumph in seven years.
"I had no idea what to expect in Istanbul. If we are honest, we do not read many good things about Turkey, especially with regard to the political situation, but then I got to Istanbul and I thought: 'Hey, see it out, the only thing that matters is the football.' One of my biggest goals was to return to the national team. That was going around and around in my head. It is probably why I was more motivated than ever before."
Return to the national team Gomez has, and with a vengeance. Germany's results may have been stuttering in recent weeks and months, but the striker's own form has been anything but. Germany's top scorer in 2016 with two strikes against England and Slovakia, Gomez would have had three goals in two games had his first-half header in the 3-2 loss to England in Berlin not been wrongly ruled out for offside.
Following his international hiatus Gomez now has 27 goals in 64 caps. With Klose now retired from the national team and Gomez in the form of his life, it would not be safe to bet against him adding more goals and perhaps silverware to his footballing CV.
"The coach will decide who plays, and if he calls on me, he'll get everything out of me. I am confident in our team. My ambition is great," he said. The teams in France this summer have been warned.