The Making of Mario
When Mario Gotze burst onto the scene during the 2010/11 season it looked as though Germany had found their very own Lionel Messi.
The 18-year old went from youth team player to an instrumental member of a Bundesliga winning side in the space of 18 months. He was the poster boy as Jurgen Klopp’s youthful Borussia Dortmund side shocked many by brushing the mighty Bayern Munich aside.
While it was very much a team effort, it was Gotze who caught the eye. He was like Houdini with the way he could get himself out of the most impossible situations. He executed the sublime and his creativity was limitless. His play was fearless, his touch was deft and he had a ruthless mentality to complete the package.
Gotze helped Dortmund secure back-to-back Bundesliga titles and it was during their second victorious campaign that he penned his long-term future with the club. In March 2012, he signed a new contract with Borussia Dortmund which extended his deal until 2016.
The new deal contained a €37million release clause, which at the time would have been a record for a German player, and it looked as though he was happy to continue his development at the club.
He spoke about his contract extension at the time, saying, “Everyone knows how comfortable I feel in Dortmund. The club are far from finished with their recent resurgence. And I want to be part of this development.”
The following season saw Gotze step it up yet again as he helped BVB reach the Champions League final. For a period it seemed as though he was peerless. He finished with 12 goals and 14 assists in all competitions. This, in a team nowhere near it’s peak.
Matthias Sammer, a UEFA Champions League winner with Dortmund in 1997, described Gotze as “,
“He's an exceptional player, has good speed, is extremely creative, and has outstanding technical skills.”
“The world-class footballer in him still lies dormant. It's like cycling — you can't unlearn it.”
The compliments didn’t end there either. German legend Franz Beckenbauer was full of compliments for the BVB player during the 2012/13 season and in an interview with Bild:
“At Barcelona Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta and Xavi are building a triangle,
“But as a classic duo there is nobody better than the prolific [Marco] Reus and Gotze. How they split Ajax in the Champions League impressed me. I hope they do not succeed in Munich.”
One step forward, two steps back
“He [Götze] is a Pep Guardiola favourite.”
Jurgen Klopp had that to say after revealing how he failed to convince the player to stay at Dortmund and ignore the advances of Bayern Munich.
Just two days before Dortmund played their Champions League semi-final match against Real Madrid news broke that Bayern had matched the release clause in Gotze's contract, agreed terms with the player and it would be official in the July. The Guardiola factor was pivotal in twisting the arm of the player to turn his back on the club he’d signed his long-term future to just 12 months earlier.
On paper it looked like a match made in heaven. He’d be plying his trade under the man who helped develop Messi into the one of the best players in history.
Bayern Munich was Guardiola’s new blank canvas and Gotze was destined to be his paintbrush. It should have been a masterpiece waiting to happen.
Gotze filled a variety of positions in his first season under Guardiola and, like Messi, even occupied the false nine position. He finished the season with 13 goals and nine assists. He was involved in a goal every 107 minutes.
As debut campaigns go it was something to build on. His fine form carried over to the international stage and he wrote his name into German history by netting the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup Final.
The Decline of Gotze
The 2013/14 season should have been the foundation for Gotze to build on. Instead, to date, it’s when he peaked.
Robert Lewandowski’s arrival from Dortmund was supposed to help Gote evolve but if anything it hindered him. Guardiola tweaked his position and although he continued to find the back of the net (13 during 2014/15) his influence on the team began to wane.
The pressures of playing for a big club appeared to weigh heavy on the player's shoulders and the player's mentality became the topic of discussion. Guardiola appeared not to trust Gotze and he was often found on the bench for the Bavarian’s big games.
Beckenbauer once again voiced his opinion on the player but this time he wasn’t so complimentary: “Sometimes he seems to me to be like a youth player, who loses two duels and stands still. That does not fit with FC Bayern, of course. It is time that he grows up.”
During his final season at the Allianz Arena he started just 11 Bundesliga matches. Injuries and fitness concerns saw him slip down the pecking order as new stars started to shine.
Gotze’s agent, Volker Struth, tried to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the Catalan native stating the player didn’t feel as though the manager had any faith in him. However, even with Guardiola moving on, the club nailed their colours to the mast by revealing that they wouldn’t be renewing his contract and he was free to move during the summer of 2016.
Liverpool, with Jurgen Klopp at the helm, appeared to be at the front of the queue but to the surprise of many Gotze turned down the offer. Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rumenigge has no idea why Mario Götze wants to stay at Bayern Munich.
“We made everything clear to Mario, he knows what the club thinks and he knows what the future coach thinks. Mario has to consider for himself whether he wants to constantly get minutes,
“I talked to him, also Ancelotti. Mario knows Bayern's thoughts,”
The Return of the Prodigal Son
“With the experience I have now, I would make the decision [to leave Dortmund] at a later stage, but I wanted to take the risk at the time and make the next step. Looking back at it, I would have made a different decision now,
After completing a €26million move back to Dortmund he took to to Facebook to explain his actions of yesteryear.
“I can understand that a lot of fans couldn’t comprehend my decision. And I wouldn’t do it over again.”
Unfortunately for him though the decision might not be his this time around.
He’s failed to set the world alight since his return to the Westfalenstadion. One goal and one assist, ironically against Bayern Munich, is all he has to his name after nine starts.
The return to Dortmund was supposed to be an adrenaline shot but it’s as though he’s still flatlining. Is he ever going to recover from his Bayern Munich nightmare? If a team can harness the ability of the 24-year-old they would have quite the player on their hands.
Can he escape from footballing purgatory or is he destined to just live off of his past achievements?