It almost hurts me to write the above headline, and I don't think the rest of this article will get any easier. When Fiorentina signed Mario Gomez in the summer of 2013, part of the celebration among the Viola faithful was that we finally weren't gambling. This wasn't some "maybe they'll fulfill their early promise" type of player, or a "talent" or "journeyman." We had signed Mario *censored* Gomez. He had scored everywhere he played since he was 21, had been in Champions League finals, won 3 German titles, and had most recently been co-top scorer of Euro 2012 (weirdly enough, he shared the top honors with one Fernando Torres… Eep). But I mean, just look at this:
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Even if you didn't follow the Bundesliga, it's painfully obvious from the quality of those 7 minutes of highlights that Mario Gomez is a very good center forward. Maybe not a world beater, no, but a striker who has a great nose for goal, and a rare combination of speed and strength. And now you'd be hard pressed to find any of his signature attributes on display for Fiorentina this season. Speed? Strength? Uncanny knack for finding the back of the net? No, a bit, and not even close.
Not that all of this is big Mario's fault. Much of his current predicament is the product of bad luck and some aging, and his work ethic and attachment to the club are plain to see. Looking back over his time in purple, and one notices an abundance of false dawns. Mario looked promising in the two games he played for Fiorentina in 2013 - especially in that rollicking win away to Genoa, where he bagged his only brace for Fiore - but then sustained a serious knee injury that kept him out until the spring. When he returned in 2014 he again showed promising signs, scoring a huge goal away to Juventus in the Europa League before again succumbing to injury complications. And the offseason friendlies proved to be the biggest teases in retrospect. Gomez scored several nice-looking goals, one against Real Madrid in an exhibition victory, before sputtering through the beginning of the Serie A season.
What's most frustrating about the current state of Mario Gomez is the cocktail of various conditions that are making him ineffective leading the line for Vincenzo Montella's side. These couple years of injuries while on the brink of 30 have clearly robbed him of his pace (perhaps for good). He is either offside or unable to latch onto balls through the defense. And as for leading a counterattack? Not happening. Combine his current physical limitations with his fragile mental state and lack of confidence, add a dash of "not being on the same page as his teammates," stir vehemently, and serve over ice. Bitter, ice cold, and not alcoholic enough.
Montella has been hard at work trying to bring him back to his best, even publicly posturing on Gomez to the media in order to "get a reaction." But the fact of the matter is that now Fiorentina have a responsibility to start thinking about cutting their losses. Not in January, to be clear, unless a truly excellent offer were to waltz through the door. This coming spring should function as a "valuing" period, where the coach, bosses, and fans will closely watch for signs of improvement from Mario Gomez, but without expecting a miracle, more a consolation; Fiorentina can still hope to increase his potential trade value.
Even if Mario Gomez were to score 10 goals from here to the end of May, his return over two seasons would remain horribly disappointing for someone who makes €4.3 million net per annum, nearly €1.7 million more than either Juan Cuadrado or Giuseppe Rossi, the next highest earners at Fiorentina. If he scores 20 goals from here to the end of the season, then yes, maybe the club should reconsider, but at present most of the Viola faithful are eagerly anticipating the return of Khouma Babacar to full fitness and the starting eleven, a player who is looking for a contract renewal and certainties from the Fiorentina directors.
Not only would it be irresponsible to squeeze out an academy product that looks to be blossoming (Babacar) to continue searching for the real Mario Gomez as he enters his 30s, it would be damaging to the team. Since Mario's disastrous performance at Parma, it is clear that he is often a liability at this point, and you can't accommodate liabilities - whatever they're earning - when the team (somehow) remains poised for a run at 3rd place and the Champions League. Fiorentina remain only 4 points off of high-flying Lazio.
Don't get me wrong. I would love nothing more than to see Mario Gomez come good in Florence a after a long period of suffering. He deserves it and we deserve it.. But the "sure thing" purchase of the German champion - at the time the most expensive purchase ever made by Fiorentina - isn't working out. Even without Gomez, the current team is good enough to challenge for the top 3 with some minor improvements; improvements which could be made without the German's salary on the books. It's becoming increasingly clear that going "double or nothing" on Mario Gomez is a roll of the dice that Fiorentina simply can't afford.