Here’s the picture: a scorer of a World Cup final winning goal, a €37 million record signing, consecutive Bundesliga titles, the poster boy of German football.
It all sounds just perfect for Mario Götze.
But things have not gone totally according to plan for the attacker, and this upcoming season of his at Bayern Munich is a very important one for young Mario.
Two seasons in at the Allianz Arena and his star is not shining quite as brightly in the Bavarian sky as it might. Götze has struggled to find his mojo or even natural position in Pep Guardiola’s star-studded ensemble, and with the addition of more quality to the Bayern attacking third purchased this summer, the task of getting game time and impressing the boss is going to be even harder to come by for the former Borussia Dortmund prodigy.
A 20-year-old Mario Götze was Pep Guardiola’s first signing at Bayern when the Bavarians activated the player’s huge buy-out clause from his Dortmund contract.
Labelled the “German Lionel Messi”, the talented Götze moving to Bayern to join up with Guardiola made perfect sense, given how the Spaniard had previously brought the very best out of the Argentine maestro when at Barcelona.
While at Dortmund the youngster had shown all the attributes that made his likely success at the Allianz Arena a foregone conclusion – like pace, athleticism, a vision of passing, quality finishing, as well as the ability to create chances for the strikers (handily in his second season to former teammate, Robert Lewandowski!).
The huge weight of expectation was always going to be a burden for the youngster to carry, but the allegation made against him after two years in Bavaria is that he has stagnated rather than pushed himself to the next level.
Götze’s debut season for Bayern was a success of sorts with 15 goals and 14 assists, but he was criticised somewhat for failing to become a key figure in the team.
Then came the World Cup and his winning goal in the final against Argentina.
Projected once more as a great, great player, the pressure was once again on his young shoulders to carry this mantle forward into the 2014-15 season. Things began well with six goals in the first eight games, but he would then struggle to continue with this output, providing just four assists all season.
With both Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry out injured for large swathes of the Rückrunde, Götze failed to convince he could take on their attacking mantle.
Indeed, he was left out of the Bayern starting XI for both legs of their Champions League semi-final clashed with Barcelona – an indication of his place in the Bayern midfield hierarchy.
There was criticism from club legend Franz Beckenbauer too with some stinging comments to Sky: “He behaves and moves around on the pitch like a youth player. He just stops moving when he loses a duel. This is the behaviour of a child,” Beckenbauer told Sky.
“This kind of behaviour does not fit in at Bayern. It is time for him to grow up. He has shown at Dortmund what he can do and we know that he is a great talent. But there is still something missing.”
Bundestrainer Jogi Löw defended the player saying: “I don’t understand the partially unobjective discussion and criticism. Not long ago Mario was the best Götze of all time, our World Cup hero — and now everything’s bad. That’s just too easy.
“It’s not fair to measure Mario against his goal in the World Cup final, nobody can live up to those expectations. One thing is clear to me: Mario is an exceptionally-skilled player, a player who can make the difference.”
Time to make a difference
The pressure is on Pep Guardiola in this, his third season coaching Bayern, with a Champions League title very much a key objective. Götze too, in his third Bayern campaign, faces a potentially key season in his professional development.
At BVB, Götze was the main attacking thrust, the go-to guy and the one to provide the forward imagination and threat. This role needs to be fully recreated at Bayern. Much will depend, however, on Guardiola’s deployment of the youngster and also whether the player can potentially adapt his game to the demands put upon him by the Catalan coach.
If Guardiola and Götze get it right, the Bavarians could be celebrating domestic and continental success come the end of the season. If not, then the Götze star that was shining so very brightly at Dortmund and following the World Cup final will fade just that little more.
Will the real Mario Götze please step forward …
While the light-footed attacker appeared for a total of just under 20 minutes overall against Barcelona, he only failed to start in one other Champions League game this season. Guardiola has room for him, but it seems unclear to both onlookers and Guardiola himself just how effective Götze is when he plays in Guardiola’s current system.
Playing behind the striker in a side perfecting the transitional style of play, Götze was a constant source of inspiration and innovation at Dortmund. His decision to follow his career path and work for the head coach who made Lionel Messi what he is today has so far proved an unyielding venture. Not in terms of trophies though – two Bundesliga titles and a German Cup are more than pal Marco Reus can brag about – but his development has stagnated, particularly if Messi’s heights were Götze’s aim.
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