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Mario Gomez - Under-rated or underperforming?

Mario Gomez was in blistering form last season and started Euro 2012 with three goals in Germany's first two games, and also assisting one along the way.

He was in very close contention for the Golden Boot having the same statistics as his namesakes - Balotelli and his new Bayern Munich team-mate, Mandzukic but he lost out to Fernando Torres, who won the award having played less minutes than the aforementioned Marios.

Gomez, has being working hard for over 10 years to get to this point in his career and still hasn't got to where he would have liked to. 

After six years at his local team VFB Stuttgart, signing for their B team when he was only 14, he moved to Bayern Munich in a fee that was a record for a player transferred internally in the Bundesliga, estimated to be around £30m.

Impressive conversion rate 

He won the Bundesliga title at Stuttgart in 2007 as well as scoring 63 goals in 121 appearances. That's a conversion rate of roughly one goal every two games.

This is an impressive record, which only improved at Bayern. In 94 appearances the 27-year-old hit the back of the net 64 times. 

In 2007, he won German Player of the Year and also got his first call up for Germany, at the tender age of 22.

As his father is Spanish he qualified to play for Spain, but since his mother is German and he was raised in Germany, it was inevitable he would choose to play for the latter.

For the multi-lingual striker, who speaks impeccable English, this was probably a regrettable decision as he claims that he is more appreciated in Spain than his home country.

"I know from my Real Madrid team mates, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira, and my family in Andalusia that people look up to me in Spain," Gomez said half-heartedly.

"The recognition and appreciation is higher abroad than back home. They think I'm a good player. At the Euros, I felt under observation whenever I played, and I didn't play as freely as I would've liked.

"Whenever I play well or score, like I did against Portugal and Netherlands - twice, they praise me and put small stories about me in the newspapers.

"But if I do anything slightly wrong, they exaggerate it and put it on the cover of the newspaper - 'typical Gomez' would be the headline or 'just when we thought he'd improved.'

Under pressure 

"It's hurtful and doesn't help the situation. It increases the pressure I'm already under.

"The other players don't receive half of the criticism I do, in fact, they're adored by the German fans, and I love the fans, but unfortunately the feeling isn't mutual."

The German has been out of favour with both his national team and club managers.

However Joachim Low did give Gomez an opportunity in all the group stage games of Germany's Euro campaign, in which he did not disappoint. He scored three goals, two of which were against arch rivals Holland.

Uli Hoeness, the Bayern president has publicly said: "We now have alternatives for Mario Gomez. This is a prerequisite for success. He is good - but not very good."

He has a fantastic relationship with his Bavarian team-mates and fellow international regulars, Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Holger Badstuber and Manuel Neuer specifically.

His discretion is unbelievable though. Despite having everything he does potentially criticised, he still plays with a unique flow and movement, and stops to take photos with fans and sign autographs for them.

In his first three seasons at the Allianz Arena, Gomez has proven to be vital for his team, helping them get to the Champions League final twice.

However his team didn't manage to lift the trophy on either occasions and in both matches, a lot of the blame was on their striker.

Loves wearing the shirt 

Although it probably would have been better for the 27-year-old to have sat in the crowd and watched, like he decided to do in the World Cup game v Argentina in 2010, when he wasn't even named in the squad, because he indeed 'did not turn up' like the German newspapers and websites claimed.

He loves wearing the Germany and Bayern Munich shirt, in which he is amongst the top shirt sellers, behind team-mates Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm respectively.

Josef 'Jupp' Heynckes, the current Bayern Munich manager, does not appreciate Mario's 'side job' of modelling.

His side won 6-1 against Gomez's former club Stuttgart last weekend without their main striker and he joked in a post match interview: "By the looks of it Mario can hang up his boots, and continue modelling, he doesn't even need my consent."

Later, he continued with a serious comment, "we need to strengthen our defence."

Mario Gomez is currently recovering from successful ankle surgery, and should be available for selection in Bayern's first Champions League game against Valencia.

The Spanish team finished third in La Liga and are no underdogs, so Bayern cannot underestimate them.

Gomez was the second highest goal scorer in the Champions League last season, netting 12 times and only finishing behind the one and only Lionel Messi.

Will it be third time lucky on the main European club stage for this talented striker?

By Simran Sangha

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