Gomez keen to help turn Bayern around
Mario Gomez has a simple answer to those who question whether he can to live up to his billing after his mega-money move to Bayern Munich this summer.
Pressure, it seems, is a burden he relishes, even amid the Himalaya of hype surrounding his £27.2m switch from Stuttgart to Bayern, a move which made him the most expensive player in Bundesliga history.
The first few weeks of Gomez's Bayern Munich career could not have been more difficult; with the club enduring their worst start to a Bundesliga season in 43 years, yet 'Super Mario' seems convinced the tide will turn under new boss Louis van Gaal.
At the age of 24, Gomez appears to be relishing his challenge of spearheading Bayern's bid to re-establish themselves at the top of the domestic pile after their 2008-09 campaign ended in disappointment.
"I don't intend to be intimidated by the transfer fee or the size of this club," begins the supremely-confident Gomez, who still seems to be in bullish mood despite Bayern's poor start to the Bundesliga campaign. "Bayern made an offer, Stuttgart accepted. In fact, I'm pretty proud of the amount Bayern paid for me as it shows how highly they rate me as a striker. It's a wonderful boost to my self-belief as well as a great source of motivation. I know I have to repay the faith they have shown in me.
"I won't change the way I play. My method is to always give everything I have on the pitch, to make sure that at the end of 90 minutes I have no regrets. I'll be the same at Bayern and I'm sure it will work out well."
Confidence is vital for any sportsman, but Gomez should be warned that Bayern is never the easiest of working environments to succeed in. The media spotlight is trained on the place constantly and sporting expectations are, to say the least, sky-high.
Last season's second place finish was regarded as failure and, just to make matters even more difficult for Gomez, he has to live with the fact that Bayern do not have a good recent record when it comes to buying front-men. Their failure to get the best out of talents such as Lukas Podolski, Jan Schlaudraff, Ali Daei, Vahid Hasemian and Landon Donovan does not bode well for the latest would-be saviour.
However, Gomez seems undaunted by the prospect of plying his trade within such a bubbling cauldron: "At this moment, I feel that Bayern is the best possible address for me," he states. "Until now, Stuttgart was my only club and while I had a fantastic time there, helping them win the Bundesliga in 2007 and taking part in the Champions League, I was keen to take the next step up and Bayern was the logical choice.
"Even though I'd never criticise Stuttgart as they made me the player I am, Bayern is another world. All over the planet their name means something and, by moving here, I think I've given myself the best possible chance to win more trophies and improve as a player.
"I'm under no illusion as to what I've let myself in for. I know there will be intense competition for places up front and I have enormous respect for the abilities of Miroslav Klose, Luca Toni and Ivica Olic. They are fantastic players and I don't for an instant assume that I will start automatically.
"The coach, Mr (Louis) Van Gaal, is not the sort to give guarantees. He will not look at reputations or fees when choosing his first-eleven. He'll be judging us solely on how we perform on match day and on the training ground and I'm not put off by the need to constantly prove myself and fight for a place.
"If I was even one per cent uncertain about signing for Bayern, I would not have come. If I'm not ready to take up the Bayern challenge now, I never will be. I've been ready for some time, I think.
"Of course, strikers are in the business of goals and are judged on numbers, but I've never set myself a target at the beginning of a season," he continues. "Anyway, my main target is to do my bit to push Bayern to the top of the table. For instance I'd rather score the decisive goal in a 2-1 victory than the last four in a 5-0. Team trophies are far more important than scoring awards.
"I've always backed myself to get into decent positions in the box and put the ball in the back of the net. It can only be to my advantage that Louis van Gaal stands for attacking football so I should get plenty of chances."
News that Franck Ribery has stated his intention to stay at Bayern should give the team a massive boost and Gomez hopes it can be the key to his success at the club. "Franck is an exceptional talent and completely unselfish to play with," he says. "The coach is talking about playing him just behind the strikers and if I can establish a good relationship with him, I'll do well here. We are all delighted he is staying with Bayern."
The striker has certainly set his bar high as he has been nothing less than a Bundesliga goal-machine over the past three seasons, racking up 14, 19 and 24 strikes respectively. A colossus of a man who is combines pace with mobility; he can hold the ball up and is a master finisher with head or either foot.
Yet for all his prolific work at club level, he has yet to strike a truly convincing note with the German national team, especially disappointing at the 2008 European Championship finals.
"Naturally Bayern is my top priority, but I hope to benefit as an international player from this move," he concludes. "With world-class players all around me at Bayern and the experience I gain from the Champions League, I should develop my game in so many different ways. The aim is not to stand still and I want to reach new, even higher levels.
"Euro 2008 was a setback, but I have left it far behind me. I'm a positive character and have taken heart from still being in the plans of the Bundestrainer (Joachim Low). I'm not one to be easily satisfied. My secret is to always look for the next objective. I'm certain the best is yet to come from me for both Bayern and Germany."
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