took a measure of revenge for their Champions League final defeat to
Internazionale this week, Mario Gomez and Thomas Kraft showed just how
important they are to the German champions.
known as FC Hollywood in the era of Effenberg, Matthaus & co, but it seems
unlikely that even the silver screen could tell a tale seemingly as far-fetched
as Gomez's season so far.
€30 million price tag of the Bundesliga's record buy hanging heavy, 'Mr
Reliable' was as dependable as a second-hand car salesman in his maiden season
in Bavaria, netting a paltry 10 goals in 29 laborious Bundesliga games.
say Gomez's confidence was so low that he wouldn't have been in the position to
score the goal he did against Inter given the same chance last season. The
truth is, he probably wouldn't have even been on the pitch.
injuries to Ivica Olic and Miroslav Klose have allowed Gomez a sniff of a
regular start this season as nothing in the first matches of the campaign
indicated Van Gaal had changed his mind.
striker always plays here," said Van Gaal on Wednesday after seeing Gomez poach
a precious 90th-minute winner. "Mario Gomez is now much better than last year."
there. Eighteen goals in 21 games in the Bundesliga, and seven in the Champions
League now after that precious winner in the Giuseppe Meazza are testament to
just how Gomez's fortunes have been transformed. The goals are not the only
difference either. Oft-criticised for his lack of mobility, Gomez has tried to
add some of Olic's never-say-die attitude to his game, his first touch has been
assured, while he has also re-found the cutting edge that made his name.
meant the matador goal celebration has been given a regular airing, though not
on Wednesday. "From time to time I watch goals on YouTube," admitted Gomez
before revealing the surprise source of 'inspiration' for his unusual display
of joy against Inter.
celebration was done by my idol, Jay-Jay Okocha, during his time in England. I
said to myself that I would also try it."
has seized the opportunity the Fates handed him with remarkable aplomb, Kraft
has also taken full advantage of the chance to shine that Van Gaal's bravado
be excellent, but it also might not work when he's put under pressure," said
Oliver Kahn when Van Gaal's decision to swap Joerg Butt for Kraft was made
public last month. "Therein lies the risk."
not the only naysayer, but after being blooded tentatively in the dying throes
of the Champions League group stage, Kraft has so far proved a winning gamble
for Van Gaal. Though not always wholly convincing in the Bundesliga - hardly
surprising for one who is only 22 and has a handful of games under his belt
behind a whimsical back four - Kraft showed against Inter that he may not be
the new Michael Rensing after all, and could well turn out to be the next Olli
to say Thomas Kraft was absolutely fantastic," gushed Franz Beckenbauer, bowled
over by the young keeper's sure-handed excellence. "Samuel Eto'o has proved
he's world class. But he met his match in Thomas Kraft."
Gomez's ghosts appear to have been fully exorcised, Kraft's initial promise
requires further confirmation. Given the way he has played already this season,
though, you would guess the arrival of Dortmund in Munich this weekend will
give him the chance to sow yet more doubt in the minds of the Bayern bosses
that Manuel Neuer is the man they need between the posts.