By Kris Voakes
On Monday, Bayern Munich confirmed Mario Gomez has played his last game for the European champions. That in itself was not unexpected news, but his destination should come as a jolt to many fans of big clubs across the continent who decided against making this summer’s bargain signing.
His arrival at Fiorentina for €16 million brings an end to many weeks of speculation regarding the German hitman’s future which was first stoked by the rise of Mario Mandzukic in all-conquering Bayern’s lone striking role.
The 27-year-old once was the most expensive player in the Bundesliga when his move from Stuttgart to Bayern in 2009 cost the club almost €35m. But since it became clear Gomez was no longer a key member of die Roten’s first-team squad, the likes of Juventus, Napoli, Manchester City and Chelsea have all been credited with an interest, but none had the conviction of the Tuscans. And that is an amazing fact given Gomez’s goal threat.
At a time when Arsenal are busy earmarking almost €30m for Real Madrid’s sometime reserve Gonzalo Higuain, the purchase of Gomez at around half that price surely represents one of the transfers of the summer - with David Villa's move to Atletico Madrid for just over €5m another bargain buy.
While Higuain has taken six seasons to reach 122 goals with los Blancos since his switch from River Plate, Gomez has netted 113 in just four years in Munich. A year ago, he was coming off a 41-goal season which included 13 on the continent. Mandzukic’s suitability to Jupp Heynckes’ structure hasn't turned Gomez into a bad player. Far from it, in fact.
If anything the 189cm front man, who turns 28 on Wednesday, has an even bigger incentive to show what he can do given his treatment at Bayern.
|GOMEZ AT BAYERN
Whatever the era, there has always been a premium put on goalscoring centre-forwards, making the failure of some of the Champions League’s big hitters to press home a real claim on Gomez nothing short of astounding. But while the 58-cap Germany international will feature in the Europa League rather than the main event over the next 10 months, his arrival in Florence makes for an appetising prospect in Serie A next season.
With only three Champions League slots up for grabs, Vincenzo Montella’s team were left to deal with the anguish of a near-miss when they finished in fourth spot by the narrowest of margins last term.
But their response has been to ramp up the heat on Juventus, Napoli and AC Milan by adding to recent transfer triumphs such as Stevan Jovetic, Borja Valero, Juan Cuadrado and Giuseppe Rossi with the signing of Gomez.
Given the claims that the Italian game is struggling, it can only help the outlook in Serie A to have players of the quality of the ex-Stuttgart striker making their way into some of the more unfancied clubs around the peninsula.
While many seem to believe that a concerted run of high finishes for Juve, Milan and Inter would help to regain Italy’s spot in the upper echelons of the European co-efficient standings, the greater spread of talent can only mean good things for those who tune in to the Italian championship each Sunday. And that’s why the signing of Gomez can only be great news for Italy as well as for Fiorentina.
A man whose 41 goals could well have been enough to claim the Ballon d’Or only 12 months ago had things gone differently for Bayern in their home Champions League final against Chelsea will now be flying the flag of one of Serie A’s less-heralded challengers in the race for the podium.
With Napoli having either Edinson Cavani or a €63m transfer kitty to take them into the new season, Juve boasting an entire new forward line and Mario Balotelli leading Milan for a full campaign, there will be no guarantees for the Viola in terms of their league finish. However, in Gomez they have as close to a 20-goal guarantee as modern football offers.
The rest of Europe will now be left fighting over the scraps of the striker pool in this summer’s transfer market while Fiorentina pause to give themselves a very worthy pat on the back. In Mario Gomez, they have snapped up one the summer’s most reliable signings and paid peanuts for the privilege.