The Resurrection of Mario Götze at Borussia Dortmund

The Rise and Fall of Young Mario Götze

Mario Götze was once hailed as one of the greatest talents Germany has ever seen. He was a key component of the Jürgen Klopp Dortmund sides that dominated the Bundesliga from 2010-2012 and advanced to the 2013 UEFA Champions League final. His incredible pace, on-ball skills, and unmatched passing ability had many comparing him to a young Lionel Messi. He has featured on the German National Team since 2010 and looked to become a club legend at Borussia Dortmund, joining the ranks of Andreas Möller, Jürgen Kohler, Sebastian Kehl, Stefan Reuter, and Ballon d’Or winner Matthias Sammer. Unfortunately for Dortmund and the neutral Bundesliga fan, yet another phenom would be plucked away from a top Bundesliga competitor by the rekordmeisters,  FC Bayern München. Götze’s meteoric rise would suddenly come into question as the young superstar would face extremely strong competition for a desired spot in the Pep Guardiola Bayern line-up.

As many would forecast, so too did it happen. After what can only be considered a sub par three years at Bayern, “Super” Mario Götze returned to his first home in the Bundesliga, Borussia Dortmund, during the 2016 summer transfer window. The move to Bayern is something the player himself now regrets in hindsight. Götze had a strong desire to make things right with the “Yellow Wall” as well as attempting to resurrect a stalled career. Once the most popular player on the pitch for Die Schwarz-Gelben, Mario would have to rebuild his relationship with the BVB faithful from scratch, healing the wounds he left behind in their hearts upon his departure to hated rivals Bayern. As a result of a substantial drop in form in Munich, Götze would now have to earn a spot in the Dortmund starting XI, something that was once considered a mere formality.

The road to Götze’s Dortmund redemption has been a bumpy one to say the least. After an inconsistent first few months back in a black and yellow shirt, Mario had seemingly found his footing. Unfortunately though, he was forced to shut his 2016-17 season down in February after only 786 Bundesliga minutes played. At that time he was rated as one of the top ten central attacking midfielders in the German top flight, having completed 83% of his passes overall, and an incredible 55% in the opponents’ box. Götze was well on his way to re-joining the Bundesliga’s elite, but still had a ways to go.

A younger Mario

Götze’s season coming to a sudden halt was due to something far more than a mere injury. It was discovered that Mario had a rare metabolic disorder which is now believed to have affected his performance dating back to his early days at Bayern. This called into question much of the criticism he had received during his three years at the Säbenerstrasse. The often-injured star never quite found his fit within Pep Guardiola’s Bayern. Where does the blame lie though? Was he a poor tactical fit? Did Pep simply not have a need for a player with his skill set? Or was it because Götze could not remain healthy long enough to carve out a place for himself at Bayern and be featured consistently? Whatever the case may be for his disappointing stay in Munich (a topic that can debated for many hours), Götze was now not only fighting for his spot in the Borussia Dortmund lineup, but in fact, for his very career.

To go from the highest of highs and scoring the goal that won Germany the 2014 World Cup to the lowest of lows while fighting for your very existence as a professional football player requires the utmost courage. Götze displayed this in exemplary fashion this past spring as the treatments to remedy his rare disorder began. Never once did he resemble the look of a defeated person. Instead, his positive attitude sent a loud message that not only would he return to the pitch for Dortmund one day, but in fact, would be a better player than during his first stint with the Ruhrgebiet giants which included two German championships. This process would be a long uphill battle with great uncertainty. Mario Götze’s belief that he would persevere and overcome this ordeal never wavered.

The Second-Coming of Super Mario

Götze began his lengthy and grueling rehabilitation immediately after the disease was discovered. Mario had been diagnosed with myopathy – a rare disorder that causes muscle weakness and fatigue. He received a customized rehab program tuned specifically to him and his situation which intensified on a weekly basis. After nearly five months of intense training Götze re-joined his teammates this past July on BVB’s 2017 summer Asia tour. The player played his first minutes of football since February in a pre-season friendly against Japanese side Urawa Reds.  Götze said of his return to the first-team line-up

Yes, it has been a superb moment, definitely. I have been in rehab for five months, so I could not train with the team and have not been with the team. So this just makes it more beautiful for me to be with the team again and train with them

Peter Bosz was hired in June to replace the sacked Thomas Tuchel, which was positive news for Mario Götze. Götze never quite seemed to fit into Tuchel’s system and was often left out of the line-up even when healthy. He was a natural selection for Bosz’s 4-3-3 formation which the manager had brought with him from Ajax Amsterdam. As the 2017-18 season got underway Mario went through a brief adjustment period of having to regain his full match fitness. He finally played a full 90 minutes in his fourth start of the season, a 6:1 victory over rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach. Unlike under Tuchel, Götze’s skills seemingly fit Bosz’s offensive philosophy perfectly.

Mario would hit the ground running as the season got underway in Wolfsburg. Dortmund won the match 3:0 and Götze played well in his 61 minutes on the pitch, assisting one goal. BVB soon found themselves top of the table after seven matches. This euphoria would only be temporary however. Despite Borussia Dortmund’s best efforts they could not avoid a massive drop in form midway through the Hinrunde. Injuries combined with Peter Bosz’s poor decision-making and tactical stubbornness saw Dortmund drop points for eight consecutive weeks within the league.  Götze continued to perform at a high level and has consistently been rated as one of the best players on the pitch in every match in which he has appeared, featuring in ten league fixtures for BvB along with five Champions League matches before an ankle ligament injury ended the midfielder’s Hinrunde four weeks early.

What the Future May Hold

As a result of Peter Bosz’s short-comings on the Dortmund touch line, the front office had no choice but to sack him following an abysmal performance against Werder Bremen. In charge of Borussia Dortmund now is Peter Stöger, the man responsible for leading 1. FC Köln all the way from the 2. Bundesliga to their first European competition in a quarter century. Despite Köln’s difficulties this season, Stöger is a fantastic manager and may just be the right man at the right time for Borussia Dortmund.

At this current moment Mario Götze is recovering from an injury he suffered in the Revierderby against FC Schalke, the player’s best performance since the early-season win over VfL Wolfsburg. He should be cleared to play when the Rückrunde gets underway in January. How that looks and exactly what his role will be remains to be seen as Stöger’s philosophy is vastly different that than of Peter Bosz. It is certainly a strong possibility that Götze will remain the anchor of the Dortmund midfield regardless of the formation or Peter Stöger’s tactical approach. One possible formation could be the 4-1-2-3, which also maximizes the talents of Julian Weigl at the “six” position.

At the time of his injury Götze was rated as one of the top five central attacking midfielders in the Bundesliga. So far in this campaign the player has a pass completion percentage of 84% including a respectable 53% in the opposition’s box. Additionally, Götze leads all CAMs in the league with 2.8 successful key passes per match. With some work yet be done before Götze can claim to be back to his pre-Bayern form, the future is certainly bright for the 25-year-old. Having won his battle against myopathy, Mario Götze is in the best shape of his life, clearing the path once again to becoming one of Germany’s brightest stars, both for Peter Stöger’s Borussia Dortmund as well as Joachim Löw’s German National Team.


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Critty Smith

Critty grew up in Amberg, Germany, but now resides in Charleston, South Carolina in the USA where he follows the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga on a weekly basis. He is an avid Borussia Dortmund fan, but enjoys all German football from top to bottom. His favorite players are "Super" Mario Götze and Christian Pulisic. You can follow him on twitter @crittysmith

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