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Monday, June 24, 2024

Bayern recruits could spell bad news for Mario Gomez

BERLIN: Despite scoring 41 goals in 52 games for Bayern Munich last season, Mario Gomez is unsure of his place in the team.Bayern has bolstered its attacking options in the off-season by bringing in Croatia striker Mario Mandzukic and Peru forward Claudio Pizarro after finishing runner-up in the Bundesliga and then losing in the German Cup and Champions League finals.As Gomez recovers from ankle surgery, Mandzukic has started the season with three goals in two games, while Pizarro took only seven minutes to score his first competitive goal on his return to the club.Off-season signings scored all the goals in Monday’s 4-0 German Cup win over Jahn Regensburg.The deal to bring Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri from FC Basel was already agreed, but Gomez’ inability to score in the Champions League final against Chelsea prompted Bayern to look for alternatives up front.”Gomez is good, but not very good,” Bayern president Uli Hoeness said. “Otherwise we’d be Champions League winners now.”Criticism is something Gomez has had to live with since his glaring miss from about a meter (yard) out against Austria at Euro 2008.While the 27-year-old has always scored plenty of goals –he a set German record by averaging 0.52 goals a match in three seasons for Stuttgart — they rarely live in the memory as long as his misses do.Perhaps the Bundesliga record (euro) 30 million that Bayern paid for his services in 2009 has created expectations of him that simply can’t be met.His statistics are impressive –54 Bundesliga goals in 65 games during the past two seasons, 20 in his last 20 Champions League matches, including 12 last season –but Gomez is not seen to do enough.Former Germany player Mehmet Scholl, who coaches Bayern’s second team, said while working as a TV commentator during Euro 2012 that he was afraid Gomez would develop “bedsores” because he found himself on the ground so often.”You score the winner against a tough opponent (Portugal) and you still get heaped on,” Gomez replied.After first targeting Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski and Manchester City forward Edin Dzeko, Bayern turned its attention to Mandzukic at Dzeko’s former club Wolfsburg as a more economical option.__PAGEBREAK__Mandzukic arrived for a reported (euro) 13 million after impressing at the European Championship, at which he was one of six players — including Gomez– to finish as top scorer with three goals.What impressed Bayern’s management most, however, was the Croat’s selfless workrate, his ability to hold up play while waiting for support to arrive and pose problems for opposing defenses.”He’s a player of international quality and class,” Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer said when the deal was done.Mandzukic repaid Bayern’s faith by impressing on his competitive debut, scoring one goal and instigating another in the 2-1 victory against Dortmund to win the German Supercup. It was Bayern’s first title since 2010.He then scored twice in the German Cup on Monday.Mandzukic intends to keep his starting place even when Gomez returns from injury.”Everyone wants to play from the start. Me too. I always fight (for my place) but the coach decides,” Mandzukic said. “I’ve prevailed everywhere I played up to now and I’m convinced that I’ll make it here, too.”Pizarro is also convinced he’ll make it. He has 160 goals in the Bundesliga, a record for a foreigner, and is undaunted by the competition.The 33-year-old Peruvian remembers arriving for his first spell at Bayern in 2001 when “we had five strikers at the time, so it was even more difficult.”Pizarro scored 18 league goals for Werder Bremen last season.”Last year you asked yourself: who can come off the bench?” Hoeness said. “Now I’m happy with the squad.”Either Mandzukic and Pizarro will spur Gomez to further improvement, or replace the man who was eclipsed only by Lionel Messi in goals scored in the Champions League last season.”The new arrivals haven’t only convinced me, they’ve excited me too,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said.That may be bad news for Gomez.AP

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