Mario Götze’s move to Bayern München has not gone quite as it might have been planned. Will Götze fulfil his potential and be Germany’s next superstar, or will he simple be yet another fallen idol?
When I watched Mario Götze run on to the pitch to replace Mario Gómez with just over ten minutes remaining in the recent friendly international against England in Berlin, I wondered if it was just a sympathetic gesture from the Nationaltrainer. Here was a player who has hardly featured for his club this season, winning yet another cap for his country.
Yet four days later against Italy on his home ground in Munich, the same player showed just how good he could be. Having scored the second goal in Germany’s 4:1 win over the Azzurri, Götze then helped set up the third with a nonchalant little flick that was simply world class. Nationaltrainer Joachim Löw had maintained his faith, and Götze had delivered.
Back in the summer of 2014, Götze was on top of the world. He had just scored the winning goal in the World Cup final, joining Helmut Rahn, Gerd Müller and Andreas Brehme in the glorious list of German winning-goal World Cup heroes. For many, the talented young star had reached the ultimate pantheon.
For many however, Götze’s glorious finish – arguably the best of all of the four World Cup winning goals for the Nationalmannschaft – was the only real bright spot in what was a disappointing tournament for the Memmingen-born youngster. Until then his performances had been at best ordinary, but that magnificent chest down and left-footed finish changed all that.
Still, if we look more closely, the winning goal in Rio was not just one bright moment in what was a poor World Cup for Götze. It has arguably been the brightest moment since his controversial move to FC Bayern München from rivals Borussia Dortmund in 2013.
As an integral part of Jürgen Klopp’s Dortmund, Götze was seen by many as the rising future star of German football. His debut for the national team as an eighteen year old against Sweden quickly followed, and a stunning goal in the Nationalmannschaft’s 3:2 friendly win against Brazil in Stuttgart in the late summer of 2011 looked to have sealed the deal.
The “German Messi”
Germany had seen the likes of Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller and Toni Kroos roll off the successful talent factory line, but for many observers the real star in the making was the young Götze. When he made the decision to break with the Ruhrpott side and head down to Munich to join Bayern, it was seen as the perfect career move for the fledgling German international.
Picked up for the hefty sum of 37 million Euros, Götze seemed to click when he first arrived in Munich. If there was any place where the young player compared by Franz Beckenbauer to the great Lionel Messi could develop his potential, it was with the German champions and treble winners.
Then there was the new coach Pep Guardiola, arguably the most talented coach in the football business and self-professed fan of the “German Messi”.
At first, things seemed to be firmly on track. Having recovered from an injury that had kept him out of the Champions League final for Dortmund against Bayern, Götze initially adapted well to the new coach’s style of play – even with his being moved into a “false nine” position. The German media looked on approvingly; it was just one more stage in the development of a player who would one day stand alongside the likes of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Götze remained injury free and more than played his part as Bayern notched up another domestic double – fifteen goals and thirteen assists was more than a decent return on the 37 million Euro investment – but the problems had already started. His development as a “false nine” had not turned out as well as either the Bayern coach or the player had hoped. Götze was no longer at the middle of things as he had been at Dortmund.
This started to spill over into Götze’s form for the Nationalmannschaft, and there was a growing sense of confusion over his role in the team. Was he a midfield playmaker, a winger or a “false nine”? With the plethora of midfield talent at his disposal, Löw must have felt compelled to include Götze, but had no real idea where to play him.
To nobody’s great surprise, Götze was left looking lethargic and detached. Rather than become an integral and important part of the World Cup squad, he was at best a bit-part player.
A dreadful performance in the second phase match in Brazil against Algeria saw Götze hauled off at half-time, and many critics chose to decide there and then that his World Cup was over. He was given just seven minutes as a late substitute in the quarter final against France, and after watching the team’s 7:1 semi-final demolition of hosts Brazil from the dugout he found himself on the bench again for the final.
We all know what happened next.
A waning lustre
The winning goal in Rio would increase Götze’s stock massively, yet the reality was that while he had bested Messi as a World Cup winner he was still a considerable distance away from matching the diminutive Argentinian on the global stage. Being an established star is not just about one memorable performance, but producing results on a consistent basis – and after his World Cup heroics Götze was unable to live up to his billing both for club and country.
Götze didn’t have a particularly bad season in 2014-15, but it soon became apparent that the bright star created on that evening in Rio had started to wane. The young player quickly became a source of frustration for FC Bayern fans; if he was not trying to walk the ball into the net and failing, he was lumbering around the pitch looking like he did not want to be out there.
It also didn’t help that he had even started to look unfit – a marked difference from the highly skillful dribbler who had impressed everybody at Dortmund. It reached the point where even one-time supporters like Beckenbauer were starting to doubt the player’s commitment and question his fitness.
By the start of the 2015-16 season Götze was struggling to find a role at Bayern, with starts more the exception than the rule. Whether it was his being played out of position, a lack of fitness or simple lethargy, Götze was far from the player who had arrived in Munich in 2013 with so much promise.
In German, the word Götze means “idol”. In 2014 when the German team were holding up the golden trophy in Brazil, the name was more than appropriate. “Super Mario” Götze was, indeed, Deutschland’s Götze. However, as we approach the close of his third season in Munich, the idol has clearly toppled over.
Götze still remains part of the national team setup, but has clearly reached a crossroads in his patchy career at FC Bayern. It is becoming increasingly clear that he no longer has a key role to play under current coach Pep Guardiola, and the weeks following the Catalan’s exit this summer will be crucial. Will “Super Mario” stay on under incoming coach Carlo Ancelotti, or will he decide that enough is enough in Munich?
There is still time for Götze to turn things around at Bayern and make up for all of the lost time. A naturally gifted and talented footballer does not automatically turn into a liability overnight, and a thoughtful man-manager like Ancelotti may be just the thing the player needs to get his career back on track. Götze is a player who needs to feel loved, and the genial Italian may be just the man to pull the rabbit out of the hat.
Götze’s excellent display against Italy is unlikely to sway Guardiola too much, but many are hoping that it could signal a turn in fortunes for a player who at the age of twenty-three is yet to reach his peak and maximise his potential.
It is unlikely that Götze will ever live up to the early hype and become the “German Messi”, but to see him simply waste away and turn into another lost talent – ending up at HSV or Werder Bremen after a spell at Liverpool – would certainly border on the criminal. With the right environment and care, Germany’s icon could soon be shining again.