Mario Gomez: an under-appreciated Bundesliga great returns home to Stuttgart
If you were asked to think of the all-time Bundesliga greats, who would spring to mind? Bayern Munich legends Gerd Müller, Franz Beckenbauer and Jupp Heynckes are likely among the first names to pop into your head, perhaps even Philipp Lahm or Robert Lewandowski. But Mario Gomez?
Stifle that scoff for a moment, if you will, as the returning Stuttgart striker has at the very least earned the right for the question to be asked following his winter move from Wolfsburg.
The 32-year-old has had plenty of detractors over the years, and while it is true that the striker is not the quickest or perhaps the most technically adept, he has plenty of qualities. Clinical goalscoring chief among them.
Watch: Gomez's top 3 goals
Consider the raw data: Gomez fired in 63 goals in 121 league games for Stuttgart in his first spell at the club from 2001-2009, so it is no surprise the Swabian outfit were quick to hand him a contract until 2020 once he became available again.
"It's only with great reluctance that we're letting a world-class striker like Mario leave," lamented Wolfsburg head coach Martin Schmidt. Emotions were at the other end of the spectrum for his Stuttgart counterpart Hannes Wolf: "I'm delighted with the signing. We're convinced he can help us to have a successful second half of the season and we're looking forward to working with him."
In total the Germany international has hit the net 155 times in 281 Bundesliga matches and contributed a further 47 assists. That is an astonishing return by any standards, and leaves Gomez in 15th place in the league's all-time scoring chart.
To put that into context, only four – yes, four - players have a better goals-to-minutes ratio in Bundesliga history. On average Gerd Müller found the target every 105 minutes, Lewandowski and Borussia Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang every 115 minutes, former BVB forward Amoroso every 124 minutes and Gomez every 125 minutes.
As if that were not enough, Müller is the only player to have scored more Bundesliga hat-tricks (32) than Gomez, who hit the most recent of his 12 trebles against Bayer Leverkusen on Matchday 26 last season.
Watch: Gomez's hat-trick against Leverkusen
His exploits have helped him amass an impressive array of silverware, including three Bundesliga titles, two DFB Cup trophies, the UEFA Champions League and the Bundesliga top scorer's cannon in 2011, among others.
And Gomez himself is excited at the prospect of being back in Stuttgart, where he won his first Bundesliga medal in 2007. "I'm really happy to be back home, where it all began for me," he told the club's official website.
"Over the last few days I've increasingly realised how much I wanted to come back to Stuttgart, back to the club that formed me. I know there are a lot of expectations and that we're in a difficult situation. We have to give our all to stay up. I'm looking forward to the club, the city, the people, the surroundings and my family. I can't wait to get started."
Lucky Stuttgart. Gomez's gifts may not be universally appreciated, but by bringing in a genuine goalscorer who is fit, eager and determined to win his place back in Germany's squad ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, they can look forward to the second half of the season with renewed optimism.