Having not started a game the past five weeks after moving to Bayern Munich for €35 million, Mario Gomez returns to Stuttgart this weekend in the Bundesliga as no longer the star of his team.
Gomez arrived at Bayern in the offseason as the top German striker in the Bundesliga, his 24 goals helping Stuttgart finish third. Now, a frustrated Gomez sits on the bench and Stuttgart is reeling.
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Gomez scored three goals in his first five games for Bayern in the Bundesliga. But coach Louis van Gaal now sometimes ignores him even when he is substituting strikers, like in the 4-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the German Cup on Wednesday.
Italy striker Luca Toni has been preferred since returning from an Achilles’ tendon injury and, even though forward Ivica Olic is out, Gomez has still hardly had any quality playing time.
But Gomez appears to have heeded the advice of Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge “to quit complaining and start working hard.”
General manager Uli Hoeness says he is not worried about Gomez.
“I am relaxed when it comes to Mario, I am sure he will succeed here with us,” Hoeness said.
Gomez himself says he hasn’t regretted his move “for a single minute,” but his body language is not that of a happy man.
Now comes the trip to Stuttgart, where Gomez was the star. It’s anyone’s guess, though, if he will get to play against his old team.
Without Gomez, Stuttgart has fallen to 14th place in the league having lost five of its last six matches. After the team lost 1-0 at second-division club Greuther Fuerth in the German Cup on Tuesday, many predicted the immediate departure of coach Markus Babbel.
Babbel stayed but another loss Saturday would probably force his exit. Babbel came to Stuttgart in November when the club was in similar trouble and engineered a remarkable recovery.
Stuttgart’s problems has been the failure to convert its chances. Filling the gap left by Gomez, in other words. In 199 games for Stuttgart, he scored 104 goals.
Without the injured Franck Ribery, Bayern has lacked flair but has won two in a row and dominated Frankfurt in the Cup, after struggling in a 2-1 league win four days earlier against the same team.
In another big match, leader Bayer Leverkusen visits Schalke. Leverkusen is one goal ahead of Hamburger SV, with both undefeated teams on 22 points. Hamburg drew 3-3 at Schalke last weekend and next hosts Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Schalke is fourth with 20 points, one behind Werder Bremen, which plays at Nuremberg. Bayern is fifth with 18 points.
The game in Gelsenkirchen also pits Germany’s top two goalkeepers against each other – Bayer’s Rene Adler and Schalke’s Manuel Neuer. Both are competing to have the starting job next year at the World Cup in South Africa.
Borussia Dortmund kicks off the 11th round Friday against Hertha Berlin.
In Saturday’s other games, defending champion Wolfsburg hosts promoted Mainz and Cologne plays Hannover. On Sunday, Freiburg hosts Hoffenheim and Bochum travels to Eintracht Frankfurt for the first game under new coach Heiko Herrlich.