Beside the final outcomes, it’s almost impossible to draw any similarities between Bayern München’s successive exit from the semi-finals stage of the UEFA Champions League.
A year ago, Pep Guardiola’s Bayern was under a lot of pressure for possessing too much of the ball without penetrating the eventual champions Real Madrid, and conceding too much space at the back for Cristiano Ronaldo and company, whose straightforward counterattack strategy at Allianz Arena handed Pep what seemed to be the worst match of his managerial career to date.
A year later, Bayern were far more cautious and courageous in their sensational two-legged tie against Barcelona, a side they defeated heavily a couple of season ago in same stage of the competition. However, this time around, a lapse of concentration and Lionel Messi’s magic defeated the Bavarians late in the first-lag at Camp Nou to seal all but progression to the final in the Berlin for Guardiola’s former employers
However, if you really insist on finding commonality between these two aggregate UCL defeats, then look no further than the World Cup final hero, Mario Götze.
The former Borussia Dortmund wunderkind began each of the four outings against these two Spanish giants on the substitute bench, and mustered a mere 50 minutes overall on the pitch, during which he was mostly anonymous, squandering the best opportunity at the Bernabeu last season, while coming under heavy scrutiny from the die-hard Bayern supporters for sharing a laugh with ter Stegen following the final whistle of the 0-3 defeat at Barcelona.
Joachim Löw famously got the best out of the youngster by drawing comparisons to Lionel Messi a little before his all-important goal at Maracanã, but the attacking midfielder is struggling to even feature in big games ever since, let alone building his case “Germany’s Messi.”
What is Mario Lacking?
Thomas Müller made plenty of noise in the media expressing his dissatisfaction after Guardiola took him out with only ten minutes left on the clock during the first-leg at Barcelona. However, for Müller’s replacement that day – and fellow World Champion to boot – Götze, the situation couldn’t have been more dissimilar.
In addition to the crucial Champions League ties, Götze has made the starting lineup in only half of Bayern’s matches against fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund, despite being free of serious injuries, unlike his time at Dortmund when der Klassiker rolled around.
What makes Götze’s bench-warming against Barcelona more curious was the absence of Bayern’s so-called “Robbéry” duo, Robben and Ribéry, who were injured. Additionally, Götze still sat on the bench, despite the absence of Xherdan Shaqiri, who transferred out in January. Yet Guardiola chose against Götze.
The other former BVBers, Robert Lewandowski, was also once under fire – despite scoring every now and then in his early Bayern days – but while the Pole seemingly won the Bayern faithful over by the end of his first season at the Allianz, Götze has yet to produce a match-winning performance on the big stage, as hoped for when he traded the Yellow-Blacks for the Record-Champions.
There is no doubt that Götze is a very skilled player, but his work rate and motivation have never been guaranteed. Players like Sebastian Rode and Mitchell Weiser have made the most of their rare opportunities this season, but despite a bright start to this campaign, things are not clicking for Mario Götze, who nonetheless managed to clinch his 4th league title (!) at the tender age of 23.
Götze’s New Chapter: an Ideal Start
Bayern’s acquisition of the most sought-after youngster in Germany a couple of seasons ago was nothing short of controversial.
Just before Jürgen Klopp’s side played its UCL semi-final first leg against Real Madrid, Götze’s pending summer move was made official, fueling speculation about Bayern’s mind games with their eventual UCL Final opponents. Unfortunately, Götze left the Real Madrid match early due to a serious injury, and couldn’t future against his future team in the first ever all-German Champions League final at Wembley.
The following season (’13-’14), Götze slowly settled into his new surroundings, finishing the Hinrunde strongly. For example, coming off the bench, he was involved in all four goals when the Bavarians registered a comfortable win against Mainz after trailing at half-time. Later, Götze’s big moment came at the Signal Iduna Park when he broke the deadlock shortly after entering the match, provoking ire from the home fans. Götze capped off the ’13-’14 season with a fine display at Hamburg in the Bundesliga then later, featuring all 120 minutes, in a hard-fought Pokal final win against Dortmund.
However, but Götze’s 15 goals and 13 assists from his maiden season at Bayern didn’t silence the critics.
The small matter of the World Cup final followed when the Wunderkind subtly converted (fellow substitute) Andre Schürrle’s delivery, sending Germany back to the top of the footballing world. Once again the tournament was far from a perfect ride for Götze, who lost his pre-tournament starting berth, signaled by being substituted off midway through the slender win against Algeria in the 2nd knockout round. However, the script was all the same for the Memmingen-born attacking midfielder, who exerted his influence when coming off the substitute bench.
Taking the Next Step?
With only the season finale against Mainz and a title celebration remaining on Bayern’s calendar this season (’14-’15), Götze’s numbers are similar from the previous season.
Götze managed to repeat his double-figure tally of goals and assists in all competition, but when compared with his final season at Dortmund, one stat stands from the rest. In his final BVB season, Götze provided a whopping 21 assists, one better than his two seasons at Bayern combined.
Bearing in mind both Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben aren’t getting any younger, it’s reasonable to assume that Götze will get more playing time in the future, but crazy transfer gossips goes as far as linking him with a possible return to Dortmund – a place where the Bavarian has been plying his trade since he was eight-years-old. Although this rumor seems far-fetched, especially considering how the BVB supporters have responded whenever Götze has returned to the Signal Iduna since his transfer, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Götze signed elsewhere this summer, given the narrative developing around the player.
However, for now, Bayern’s losing form has grabbed headlines as die Roten lost their 3rd Bundesliga match in a row, leaving their respectable exit in the second-leg of the Champions League against Barcelona as their only win in May. Additionally, rumors swirl around how much longer Pep Guardiola will at the Allianz.
As far as Götze is concerned, the rather controversial Matthias Sammer followed the footstep of the Mannschaft trainee by saying “he has been better at Bayern than he was at Dortmund.” Observing from the outside, this doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment. However, there is certainly plenty of time left for the 23-year-old World champion to catch up.
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