Player to watch

Mario Gomez (Germany)

The name might imply he should be appearing in the red and gold of Spain at Euro 2008, but striker Mario Gomez is aiming to become a leading star for Germany at Euro 2008.

Gomez was named Germany’s player of the year for 2007 and has already bagged six goals for his country in nine appearances since making his debut last year. He is still only 22, but is set to muscle Schalke 04’s experienced Kevin Kuranyi out of the Germany side having been a shining light in a dull season for his club VfB Stuttgart.

The son of Spanish immigrants, Gomez was born in Riedlingen. His father was his first coach who insisted his son complete his education and he joined Stuttgart’s academy aged 13. He made his Champions League debut as an 18-year-old against Chelsea and broke into the Germany team in February 2007, since then his form has meant national head coach Joachim Loew can not ignore him.

It is only six years since he was a ball boy in 2002 when the national side lost 1-0 to Argentina

in Stuttgart. Goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, defender Torsten Frings, midfielder Michael Ballack and striker Miroslav Klose were in the side. All are now team-mates.

Gomez has hit 18 Bundesliga goals this season in just 24 games for Stuttgart and is second only to Bayern Munich’s Luca Toni, the league’s top scorer. A tremendous athlete with great pace and strong in the air, Stuttgart know they will struggle to keep him after next season and Euro 2008 may well highlight to Europe’s top club sides what Gomez has to offer.

“I don’t want to use Euro 2008 as an advert to other clubs, I just want us to do well,” he insists. Germany have arguably the easiest group in the competition against Poland, co-hosts Austria and Croatia, but Gomez is wary.

“On paper, we have the easiest group, but that is a dangerous attitude,” he said. “I think Croatia are a strong side with something to prove. The game against Austria is in Vienna, they will be in front of their home fans and would love to beat us. We have to prove we are good enough to win the group, it would be dangerous to go down there expecting things to just happen.”

Loew has riches to choose in attack with Bayern Munich’s Klose and Lukas Podolski, plus Schalke’s Kuranyi competing for two places. “We have a good relationship between us all,” said Gomez. “Kevin and I telephone each other and write text messages. We offer congratulations when the other has done well. It’s really no problem, at the end of the day we all just want to see Germany do well.”