One sole error of judgment, a little slip or loss of concentration, and your entire career can go do down the drain. That's the frightening reality of life as a professional goalkeeper. The idea that an outfield player could be similarly affected by a single mishap seems absurd. But perhaps that's exactly what happened to
In the summer of 2008, the then-23-year-old forward from Stuttgart was widely hailed as
Gomez, the son of a Spanish immigrant and German mother, didn't have to wait long for his chance to make an impact on the big stage. Less than five minutes into Germany's Euro 2008 championship opener against Poland in Klagenfurt, Austria,
Germany ended up winning the game 2-0, so Gomez's miss hardly mattered. However, the attacker looked unsettled in the subsequent defeat to Croatia. In the must-win third group game against Austria, Gomez was again terribly unlucky: He somehow managed to scoop a ball over the crossbar from 2 yards out. Germany eventually progressed thanks to
"You play your first game at a tournament for Germany. After four minutes, a golden opportunity comes along and you miss it," Gomez said at the time. "After the game, I asked myself again and again: Why did this ball have to run that little bit too far? I'm sure the whole Euros would have turned out very differently for me, if that ball had gone in."
In a way, "Super Mario," as nicknamed by the German newspaper
At the club level, his fortunes have also taken a turn for the worse. In his final season with Stuttgart, in 2008-09, Gomez scored 24 goals. Bayern, however, seemed to have bought the national-team version of the player for a club-record $48 million last year. Gomez scored three goals in the first five games and managed nine more strikes in total before the season was over, but as third-choice attacker behind
"He seems to have lost the mobility from his Stuttgart days," honorary Bayern president
Much worse was said in the stands of the Allianz Arena.
"It's difficult when you come in for only a few minutes and get only one chance or so to shine," Gomez explained. "You're lacking the kind of confidence that can only come from playing a lot."
In the preseason, Van Gaal would have loved nothing more than to trade him for Wolfsburg striker
"I've spent years training and struggling to play for a European top team like Bayern, I won't run away after a year," Gomez told the newspaper
It might not be his decision to make, however. Gomez, who came close to leaving Bayern for one-year loan to Liverpool in August, hasn't started a single game for the Bundesliga champions this season. Even a switch to a 4-4-1-1 system in the wake of injuries to wingers
He can find some solace in the fact that all Bayern strikers have looked out of sorts thus far. Neither Klose nor Olic has managed to score in the league, a stat that reflects a distinct lack of cutting edge in the final third.
"I thought I was the problem," Olic said on Friday, his tongue firmly in cheek. "But then I sat on the bench and we still didn't score."
Gomez can't see the funny side: "I'm a footballer because I enjoy it," he said, "but you only enjoy it when you're playing."