Mario Gomez started this season as Bayern Munich’s third-choice striker, tucked behind Ivica Olic and Miroslav Klose in the pecking order.
Despite netting 14 goals in his debut season at the Allianz Arena, the 25-year-old had seemingly not done enough to persuade manager Louis van Gaal he was deserving of a starting berth.
Gomez became the German Bundesliga’s most expensive player of all-time when he moved from Stuttgart in 2009, but less than a year later it appeared he was heading for the Bayern exit door.
Liverpool was the much-mooted potential destination for the Germany international, who had become disgruntled at a lack of first-team action.
“I had a conversation with head coach Louis van Gaal to discuss my future,” said Gomez. “I knew that I was under contract with one of the best clubs of the world.
“Nevertheless, this didn’t bring me any joy for as long as I wasn’t playing. You need to get regular first-team action if you want to achieve certain goals.
“That’s why I had a meeting with the coach. I told him that it was perhaps better for me to leave the club on a one-year loan deal and to return to the club as a better player.
“However, he immediately made it clear that I wasn’t going anywhere.”
And Van Gaal’s decision to keep Gomez has paid dividend in some style.
In just 15 Bundesliga appearances the striker has plundered 12 goals, scoring a further six to help Bayern progress in the UEFA Champions League as Group E winners.
Gomez has established himself as the focal point of die Roten’s attack this season, becoming the club’s undisputed number nine in the process.
“I am really happy with the situation at the moment, and that is also down to the fact that I stayed with Bayern,” said the Riedlingen-born striker.
“I was told back then in that talk that they had faith in me and that I would get my chance.
“That is exactly what I worked towards. At the moment, we are seeing a Mario Gomez who is currently in very good form.
“Even I can see my own potential now. One can always improve, but I know my strengths and I know that I am complete.
“To me, one must not worry. I always knew what I can do. If for half a year you only get 10 minutes to play from the bench, then you have no rhythm. Now I’ve rediscovered my rhythm.”
But while Gomez is bristling with confidence, reigning champions Bayern languish in fifth place in the German top tier.
Borussia Dortmund are 14 points ahead of Van Gaal’s side and seem set to win the Bundesliga at a canter. Gomez, though, thinks otherwise.
“When you look at how strange things have gone in the first 17 games of the season, then anybody really can beat anybody and that means anything is possible for us,” he said before the winter break.
“Of course we can still win the league. First position may be a long way away, but when you see how a team like Frankfurt can beat this runaway league leader, then it shows that the league is going crazy this season.
“Each weekend, there are results that you would not predict in a thousand years.
“Why shouldn’t Dortmund suddenly lose a few games in a row? We have not lost our belief of getting back up to the top after the winter.”
Having helped both Bayern and former club Stuttgart to the Bundesliga crown, Gomez has a taste for success.
There are reports, however, that the 32million euro man may not taste much more in Bavaria as he may well be subject of a big-money January bid.
Juventus, Manchester City and Tottenham are reported to have joined Liverpool in the hunt for his signature, and the player’s agent believes an offer may be forthcoming during the transfer window.
“Mario Gomez is one of the best strikers in Europe, the best German striker, and the best in the Bundesliga,” said Oliver Mintzlaff.
“There is no concrete interest, but it is early, we expect interest.”
With clubs looking for a proven goalscorer, it should come as no surprise that Gomez is the top of many managers’ shopping lists this month.