By Karolos Grohmann
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece striker Fanis Gekas must have imagined his World Cup year quite differently.
Top scorer across all the European World Cup qualification groups with 10 goals, he is ending his fourth season in the Bundesliga with his current club, Hertha Berlin, relegated to the second division.
Since joining Bayer Leverkusen as the Bundesliga's top scorer in 2007, the center forward has struggled to hold down a starting spot, spending some time on loan at Portsmouth before being loaned to Hertha earlier this year.
"There is no way I am going back to Leverkusen," Gekas said recently. He still has one year on his deal with Bayer but it looks ever more likely that he will have to use the World Cup as his springboard to a brighter future.
That should not be too hard for the speedy, hard-working forward who is among only a handful of outstanding individual players in a Greece squad that relies heavily on teamwork.
Gekas is often underrated despite a consistently superb goal-scoring record and his positioning inside the box has led to comparisons with former Germany striker Gerd Mueller.
The 29-year-old established himself as a dependable goalscorer in his early 20s but could not stay at Panathinaikos because the club wanted to trade him for a bigger name.
He took a risk with a loan spell at relegation-threatened VfL Bochum. The Bundesliga club could not have spent their 700,000 euros ($900,000) more wisely as the striker was crowned Bundesliga top scorer in his first season and Bochum managed to stay up thanks to his goals.
His move to Leverkusen, however, has not been so successful.
Gekas is aware time is running out and the World Cup is his last major chance to showcase his goal-scoring instincts to a global audience and get that elusive big-club deal.
(Editing by Robert Woodward)