Over the last couple of weeks, German football bid adieu to two of its most cherished jewels — Claudio Pizarro and Mario Gomez.
The two forwards weren’t Ballon d’Or contenders, nor did they bag individual accolades like many of their contemporaries.
Yet, they’d be remembered for generations, through folklore and songs of sacrifice.
Mario Gomez – The evergreen
Mario Gomez isn’t the first name that comes to mind when we think about Germany’s modern-day greats.
Surprisingly, his exclusion isn’t due to a lack of technical prowess, but It’s because of his selfless and PR-free image.
Gomez was never the poster boy of the biggest clubs in Europe, he wasn’t the quickest on the pitch, and he didn’t score screamers regularly. What he did do, however, was leave every fibre of his being on the pitch.
Mario Gomez graduated from VfB Stuttgart’s famed youth system in 2003 and immediately joined Stuttgart II in the Regionalliga Sud — the fourth tier of Germany’s league system at the time.
Soon enough, he managed to impress his coaches and earned himself a call-up to the first team in the German first-division.
For the first two seasons, between 2003 and 2005, Gomez hardly got the opportunity to prove his mettle. From his third season, the young forward started making a name for himself.
In the 2005-06 campaign, Mario Gomez racked up eight goals in 38 appearances across all competitions. Next season, he doubled his tally — 16 — in eight games fewer and helped his team beat the heavyweights to the Bundesliga title.
An out-and-out star at Stuttgart, he found himself in a sea of world-beaters in Bavaria. However, that didn’t stop him from realising his own potential. Here, too, he endured a slow start but came to life in the 2010-11 campaign.
The perfect-haired centre-forward racked up 39 goals in 45 appearances across all competitions, emerging as one of the finest forwards in Europe. He extended his fine run into the next campaign as well, this time providing a return of 41 goals.
After his stint ended with Bayern, the forward swapped a few jerseys — Fiorentina, Besiktas, and Wolfsburg — before landing back to where it all started, at Stuttgart.
The team suffered one of their worst ever campaigns in 2018-19 and dropped down to the second division.
Mario Gomez, instead of looking for better opportunities, remained determined and helped the club clinch promotion in the final days of the season.
The 34-year-old pitched in with seven goals in 24 appearances, which is invaluable to a team fighting for promotion, before hanging up his boots.
Claudio Pizarro – Werder Bremen’s messiah
Peruvian forward, Claudio Pizarro, was one of the most gifted players of the game.
Yes, he didn’t shatter records, left, right, and centre, but that didn’t keep him from attaining immortality, both at Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich.
Like Mario Gomez, Claudio Pizarro wasn’t hailed as one of the greatest of the game.
He didn’t dazzle with his footwork or score Puskas-worthy goals. Yet, he was omnipresent, always at the heart of something important.
The forward, who went on to score 337 goals in 872 games throughout his career, got his big break in 1999, signing for Werder Bremen.
Only 20 at the time, Claudio Pizarro had a mountain to climb and a million doubters to prove wrong.
He got to feature in 25 Bundesliga games that season and paid back with 10 important goals, emerging as one of the most prominent youngsters of the league.
His apex, however, came in the UEFA Cup third round, when he helped his side nick a 4-3 aggregate win over Olympique Lyonnais after Bremen endured a 3-0 defeat in the first leg.
Claudio Pizarro scored the fourth and decisive goal of the tie.
Another successful season later, Bayern Munich came calling and eventually signed him in the summer of 2001.
Over the next six years, he became an integral part of Bayern and racked up 100 goals in 256, helping the Bavarians to three Bundesliga titles and three DFB Pokals.
Claudio Pizarro then completed a brief stint at Chelsea — becoming the first Peruvian to play for the club — but was quick to return to Germany, to the comfort of Werder Bremen.
Again he proved to be decisive for the German outfit and ended up netting 88 goals in 144 appearances across four season. Bayern Munich once again identified Pizarro as an ideal candidate and snatched him up. He paid back their faith by pitching in with 25 goals in 71 appearances.
Claudio Pizarro enjoyed spells at Werder Bremen and then FC Köln before finally settling down with Bremen in the 2018-19 campaign. He scored only two goals in the final season — 19/20 — but had the privilege of seeing Bremen prevail in the Bundesliga playoffs before calling it a day.