Gomez’s days numbered as Lewandowski signs for Bayern
February 5, 2013 10 Comments
Ever since Pep Guardiola’s signing at Bayern became official, the speculation has been rampant about who would be the first players brought in to a new-look Bayern squad as the highly coveted Spaniard seeks to make his stamp on the team’s identity. Everyone and anyone have been rumoured to be coming to Säbener Straß, ranging from half of FC Barcelona to the Spanish National Team. Indeed, if the rumours are to be believed, even Diego Maradonna and “Fat” Ronaldo (who is actually now rather lean after going on a training regimen on a Brazilian reality TV series) may be rumoured to come out of retirement just to have a chance to play for the Spanish tactician.
OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but I think you all see where I am going with this. Names being thrown around as serious considerations to come to Bayern include Muniain of Athletic Bilbao, Isco of Malaga, Victor Valdes the Spanish and Barcelona goalkeeper, Neymar the fantastic Brazilian prospect who currently plays for Santos and who has been teasing European clubs for nearly two years while he contemplates where to launch what promises to be an astonishing career, as well as the cryptic “Young German Talent” that Bayern have been allegedly closing in on for some time.
It was repeatedly speculated that Bayern were looking to poach much of Borussia Dortmund’s talented young stable of players. This is about as new as the idea of the sky being blue. Bayern are notorious poachers who frequently take the best break-out players in the Bundesliga and make them their own, with Mario Mandzukic and Dante being just two of the most notable recent examples.
Though the chances of Mario Götze coming to Bayern seem remote and Marco Reus repelled Bayern’s advances last year to join Dortmund instead, the persistent rumour that Polish striker Robert Lewandowski is coming to Munich in the summer simply will not go away. To quote the film “The Usual Suspects”, “A rumour isn’t a rumour that doesn’t die.” Despite all the many cases that can be made against the logistics of this move, the persistence of it alone lead me to believe that maybe it is not just speculation. Let’s analyze the move for a moment, shall we?
Lewandowski has quickly become a force to be reckoned with in the Bundesliga since joining BVB from Lech Posen in the summer of 2010. Since then, he has amassed 43 goals in 86 appearances. Any striker who can score a goal every other game is money in the bank in this league, and this statistic alone would be enough to whet the appetite of the Bavarian giants. He is more than just your traditional striker, however. Lewandowski is a tireless runner, an excellent passer, and a highly unselfish teammate.
Much like Polish-born German international Miroslav Klose, what makes Lewandowski incredible is not simply his ability to score goals, but his ability to create chances for his teammates. One-dimensional strikers, often referred to as “Poachers” who simply wait for the ball and try to score with it, are much easier to defend against than dynamic attacking forwards like Lewandowski. By seducing defenders into trying to minimize his threat to get a quality shot on goal, he creates those tiny inches of space that allow him to lay off deadly passes for his teammates, allowing them to score simple goals with extremely high chances of success due to his unselfish play and vision.
Couple this with astounding dribbling technique, excellent passing and vision, a high football IQ, great work ethic and the ability to score goals with either foot as well as knock in the odd header, and you have more than just a “poacher”. Lewandowski is a goal machine. Just feed him the ball in the attacking third, get him into the penalty area, let the players around him get into an attacking position, and wait for the onion bag to bulge.
With all that being said, no one understands his value more than Dortmund do. They will have absolutely no desire to let go of the player but the reality of the situation is that he may decide it is time to move on. As much as they would be loathe to allow him to go to the Bayern, Bayern have built a reputation and a history laden with success by making both footballers and clubs offers that they simply can’t refuse. With a rumoured €22 million transfer fee on the table, Bayern are making sure that Dortmund have plenty of money to chase after a replacement for their star.
Indeed, the secret to BVB’s success lies in their ability to scour the Earth for unheard-of talents like Shinji Kagawa, Robert Lewandowski and Jakub Blaszczykowski to name but a few, and to turn them into household names. There is much more to their success then simply this of course; a strong youth system, extremely high fitness standards, and a dedication to a high-pressure defensive system that deprives opposition players the time to make plays and creates dangerous turnovers and counter-attacking opportunities amongst them.
Oh, and they also have an absolute genius of a coach in Jürgen Klopp, who I will bet my bottom dollar only leaves Dortmund to become the coach of the German National team (barring a clash of egos with the notoriously particular and often egotistical brain trust which governs Die Mannschaft, but that is another issue entirely.)
That being said, it would be a highly disheartening blow to Dortmund to lose such a valuable player. Especially considering this story breaks after Lewandowski played out of his skin in a thriller against Leverkusen, scoring a goal, setting up another and winning 2 penalties, one of which was converted and one of which was not by his teammate and countryman Jakub “Kuba” Blaszczykowski. Indeed, it would not be a surprise for Bayern to have leaked this information at such a crucial time, as the news of the transfer coup of Manuel Neuer was leaked at a similar point in the season last year; throwing an effective monkey wrench into a surging Schalke squad and creating discontent amongst the squad. Well played, FC Bayern. Well played indeed.
Lending credence to the fact that this is more than just mere rumour and speculation is the fact that the same source, namely Sky Italia and football journalist Tancredi Palmeri, was the first to break the story that Pep Guardiola would be coming to Munich in the summer. Much like the Lewandowski rumour, this will dismissed as speculation, lies and deceit. Full credit to Raphael Honigstein for his relentless pursuit of the truth in this rumour after re-tweeting the news and then badgering Munich officials to get word whether there were any truth to the tales.
As is often the case, the rumours were immediately dismissed and debunked as hogwash, since Bayern stubbornly insist on announcing their own business on their own time frame and would deny that water is wet if pressed to admit it without having time to confer that was the stance they were ready, willing and able to take in the public eye as a club at that point in time. (They would later deflect this denial away masterfully, of course, insisting their denial was founded on the fact that water is not always wet, most notably when it is frozen into ice or evaporates into steam, but that’s because they understand the rhetoric involved in football all too well and refuse to play the game on anyone’s terms but their own.)
This is often a matter of courtesy, however, as Bayern are a classy organization who want to ensure that all parties involved are ready to go public with the information. In the Guardiola situation, I’m sure they wanted to make sure Pep and his family were prepared, not so much to be embraced by the Bayern family and their millions of fans worldwide, but moreso for the obvious backlash from the British media and other tradition football pundits who insist on maintaining an archaic view of the Bundesliga as a second-rate league rather than as a thriving, growing, healthy league that is setting the bar higher and higher for football leagues worldwide year after year with record profits and astounding attendance figures.
That being said, there is a very strong possibility that the only thing standing in the way of announcing the finality of the Lewandowski signing officially is the permission of Borussia Dortmund themselves and the player himself. Lewandowski has enjoyed his time at Dortmund. He is a key member of their squad and is a part of a very special team that has taken the Bundesliga and the world by storm. Announcing an imminent move away might disrupt the squad as they hope to tackle the next hurdle in their modern rebirth by going deep into the Champions League in the hopes of bringing another CL trophy home for the Schwarzgelben.
Furthermore, it’s simply considered bad form to make such an announcement at this time. Perhaps, as the season draws to a close, Lewandowski and Dortmund will admit to this deal being finalized, but for now, it is likely an act of courtesy that prevents anyone from making this announcement official until the season draws to a close. The main objection, and indeed puzzling factor involved in this move, assuming the rumours are true of course, appears to be the fact that Bayern already have three competent strikers in Mario Gomez, Claudio Pizarro and Mario Mandzukic. Where would there be room for Lewandowski?
Well, there’s more to that situation than meets the eye. First off, had Mario Gomez never been injured then Claudio Pizarro would barely see any time in the Bayern squad at all. Or would he? Pizarro is the leading non-German scorer in the Bundesliga, but he is also going to turn 34 this March. It is highly doubtful that Bayern will be sporting a 34-year-old striker next season. Even Miroslav Klose, who has aged brilliantly, was let go as his age creeped up past the thirty mark and Bayern’s beloved “Pizza” will be no exception come July.
So that leaves 2 strikers left. Or does it? As unfair as it may be, what this move REALLY says is that Mario Gomez’s days at FC Bayern are numbered. Bayern paid a record fee (which is reported as being between €30 and €35 million) to bring the German International in from Stuttgart in the summer of 2009, announcing the transfer coup a mere 24 hours after destroying Stuttgart’s title hopes with a 2 – 1 win in the final match day of the season.
Despite the huge fee they shelled out, Gomez only received spot duty in his first season at Bayern, scoring a mere 10 goals in 29 appearances and frequently starting on the bench. Indeed, had Miroslav Klose and Ivica Olic not sustained injuries, speculation is he would not have started much at all in the following season either. In that 2010 – 2011 campaign, Gomez netted 28 goals in 32 appearances. In 2011-2012 the departure of Olic and Klose made Gomez the de facto #1 striker, netting 26 goals in 33 outings.
The numbers do not tell the whole story, however, as Bayern are quick to point out the many flaws to Gomez’s game. Though he may have bagged a fistful of goals, Gomez is remembered more for putting balls high or wide of gaping open nets, especially in big games where goals were of the utmost of importance. His play off the ball left plenty to be desired, and despite being an excellent poacher, after being spoiled by the likes of Ivica Olic, Miroslav Klose and Thomas Müller, Bayern expect their striker to do more than JUST score goals.
All of that has basically resulted in a unanimously unspoken opinion amongst FC Bayern and it’s more critical fans that Gomez is simply a step below the quality that Bayern demand. He is definitely a great striker, but is he a world class striker who has earned the right to be the unquestioned number one on a club football super power like Bayern? No, he is not.
In Gomez’s defense, his play has improved a great deal since coming back from injury. Perhaps Gomez saw the writing on the wall and is hoping to stick with the Bavarian Giants. Perhaps the time on the sidelines and in the stands allowed him to see how Thomas Müller and Mario Mandzukic made themselves indispensable to the club by doing more than JUST scoring goals, but providing them, making smart runs off the ball and, God forbid, making passes to their teammates to guarantee goals (that Gomez himself would often sky rather than put home).
Compounding on this is the fact that this same criticism was often made of Mario Mandzukic prior to his arrival at Bayern; that he was a great poacher, but that he lacked the dedication to the off the ball game and unselfish play to make him world-class. What Mandzukic did have, however, was a willingness to learn and accept the tutelage of Jupp Heycnkes to acquire these skills, skills which were on display in Bayern’s recent victory where Manduzkic exchanged places with Müller, dashing out on the right flank before sending a deadly ball into the box that Müller somehow managed to knock into the goal from an impossible angle.
The Mario Gomez of old, the one which sticks in the mind of people like Uli Hoeneß, Franz Beckenbauer, and Bayern fans everywhere, would be the handsome Gomez standing in the middle of the box, his stylish hair flowing, pointing at his feet complaining he didn’t get the service he desired. So, despite a willingness to make more runs and play smarter off the ball, Gomez simply hasn’t grown as much in his 3 years at Bayern as Mandzukic has in a mere half-season with Bayern.
That being said, is it any wonder that he is soon to be replaced by a young Pole who can do it all? Dribble, score, pass, head the ball, score with both feet and play provider for his teammates. The good news for Gomez is that he is re-earning the trust of German national coach Joachim Löwe, slated to get a run out in their hefty encounter with France this coming Wednesday. Also there are plenty of suitors who would love to bring him in to their squad.
Prior to the acquisition of Demba Ba, Chelsea were rumoured to be interested in buying Gomez in the summer and would be willing to pay handsomely to bring the handsome Spanish-German in to play alongside Fernando Torres. Would that not be a match made in heaven? Two over-paid and under-performing Spaniards sharing time on the bench wondering where it all went wrong? If not, there is certain to be some interest in La Liga, with Real Madrid and perhaps even Barcelona willing to bring in the tall Gomez as a poacher and target man for headers from their pacy wingers.
Even Juventus might make a move for Gomez to counter-act AC Milan’s acquisition of Mario Balotelli assuming they cannot bring in Falcao to bolster their squad in the summer as they (and many other clubs including Bayern themselves) would like to do. So, the silver lining to this move for Gomez lies in the fact that many people will embrace him with open arms as a great addition to their squad. Unfortunately, for all the money that Bayern paid for him, his three years spent at Bayern would have to be chalked up as something of a disappointment. Despite his fists full of goals, Gomez has been more effective at selling posters destined to line the walls of admiring young ladies than he was a force on the pitch.
Wherever he is destined to go, there is one thing that is certain. If the rumours regarding Lewandowski are true he won’t be at Bayern for very long, and they can’t get rid of him fast enough.