June 23, 2017

Season 3 of BVB’s “The Returned”: the Mario Götze Story

A few Saturdays ago was an important moment in Borussia Dortmund’s history. For the first time, the Schwarz-Gelben faced RB Leipzig. The result was … yeah, no further words needed.

However, the match was important for another reason: Mario Götze made his first Bundesliga reappearance for his old club. For some fans, Götze is the “lost son who found his way back.” For others, he still is something like a traitor who just could not achieve his goals in Munich. In Leipzig, Götze was not only part of BVB’s squad, but Thomas Tuchel went one better by starting him. And, to be honest, he was one of the better players on the day.

The BVB Door Never Closes

Hans Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc have a history with players who wanted to dream big, failed, and then found their way back to the Westfalenstadion. Mario Götze is not the first and probably will not be last of this group.

These moves lead to much discussion among fans. For example, some fans really loved the return transfers of Nuri Sahin and Shinji Kagawa. Mario Götze also has been welcomed, although his story is a bit more complicated. Some fans thought that this “Open Door” policy sends the wrong message to young stars: “You can leave BVB to achieve for big dreams. And We will take you back if you fail.”

No matter how you see it, BVB sometimes reminds me of a drama series on the likes of Netflix or Amazon. Let’s give it a title: “The Returned: A Original BVB Series.”

So far, we have three seasons of the show:

Season 1 – “Nuri Sahin: the Original Lost Son”

Sahin’s performance was fantastic. He was voted the best player of the 2010-11 season by many people. Personally, I never will forget his freekick-goal against Bayern Munich in Dortmund.

What a great player.

Nuri Sahin was the main reason Borussia Dortmund won the race against Bayer Leverkusen in 2011. The central midfielder scored six goals and contributed eight assists. These are just statistics, because Sahin was the perfect player for the fast counterattack tactics of Jürgen Klopp. Overall, Sahin had 40 appearances with eight goals and 13 assists.

His adventure in Madrid only lasted one year. Next, he went out as a loan player to Liverpool and found his way back to Dortmund in the early winter of 2013. By then, his “time” was more or less over. Ilkay Gündogan and Mats Hummels took over his role.

Nuri Sahin admitted that it was a mistake to go to Madrid and even if fans of Borussia Dortmund really liked his comeback, we have to face the truth. He never found his old form again. While he had (combined) 49 appearances between winter 2013 and summer 2014, injuries forced him to become more a spectator than a player. This year, at 28 years old, he’s trying to find his way back against strong teammates like Julian Weigl, Sebastian Rode, Gonzalo Castro and Sven Bender. He was not part of BVB-squad against Leipzig or Warsaw.

Season 2 – “Shinji Kagawa in ‘Free Shinji'”

03292011_news_Kagawa_header

It was painful to see Kagawa sitting on the bench at Manchester United; I only can repeat Jürgen Klopp’s words: “It is a shame to see Shinji go to pieces.”

Manchester United and Shinji Kagawa.

It could have been a dream marriage. The Bundesliga is not nearly as popular as the Premier League in Japan and so the best player of BVB’s 2011-12 season saw his future in England. Manchester United paid and Borussia Dortmund found (in Marco Reus) a good successor. Kagawa played in Manchester for two years and never could convince his coaches of his abilites. In 2014, he found his way back to Dortmund after the supporters created a social media slogan: “#freeshinji.”

While Kagawa’s first season back was poor – between august and March he more or less disappeared completely – his second season back did not feel like a failure. And yet, a season ago after Mkhitaryan, Reus, and Aubameyang, Kagawa was ranked as something like the 4th best player (in goals and assists combined) for BVB. But myself and many other fans never really had the impression that he was the player who made a difference. He seemed to show up when a match already was decided.

This season is his third year back. And just like Nuri Sahin, Shinji Kagawa looks squeezed out by the likes of Andre Schürrle, Emre Mor, Ousmane Dembele, Christian Pulisic, Mario Götze and Marco Reus. However, unlike Sahin, Kagawa will definitely get more appearances.

Trailer for Season 3 – “Mario Götze: the Reset”

Let the past be past. Mario Götze is back and the young midfielder tries to recover the lost ground of three years at “Säbener Straße”. His highest market value was in February 2014 – 55m Euros. His transfer to Bayern was one of the most controversial discussed steps of a young lad in past years. It was also the biggest coffin nail in the deep “enmity” that fans of Borussia Dortmund have towards FC Bayern Munich. For many BVB-Fans, the Bavarian club is worse than the actual rival FC Schalke 04 now.

What about Götze’s performance in Bayern? It was not so bad actually.

  • Season 1, 2013/14: 45 appearances – 15 goals – 13 assists
  • Season 2, 2014/15: 48 appearances – 15 goals – 7 assists
  • Season 3, 2015/16: 21 appearances – 6 goals – 4 assists

Of course, fans will never forget his goal against Argentina in Rio de Janeiro in the World Cup final. Nevertheless, he feels like a riddle. Mario Götze’s performance data is not bad, but he never seemed to be happy or convincing in Munich. He more or less was a bench-player.

Which raises a philosophical question: Did Mario Götze fail in Munich or did Pep Guardiola fail to develop Mario Götze? For sure Götze was never “better than Messi” like Joachim Löw likes Mario to believe. His performance in Munich was not that bad, but he did not leave a picture of success, or of a happy face in the locker room of the Allianz Arena.

Now he is back in Dortmund, and although there are some fans who dislike this move, he also is back in the environment where he gained the attribute of “world-class-talent.” However, it is not important for him to demonstrate this attribute directly in the his first season back. It is important for him to find his smile again when standing on the pitch. His first appearance against Leipzig was not that bad. Against Legia Warszaw Götze was – in a really good team – one of the best players. Promising signs.

The End?

Will “The Returned: An Original BVB Series” return with season 4? Mats Hummels, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Ilkay Gündogan are all out there, perhaps one of them will come back. We will see. However, for now, I would be happy if this series finds an happy ending with a successful season 3: “Mario Götze: the Reset”!

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Dennis Liedschulte

Dennis works as a journalist and author of fictional novels in Germany. He is a regular visitor of the German Bundesliga. He worked for several newspapers and online magazines and reports directly from Germany for bundesligafanatic.com. Follow at @NummerSieben7

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