The Curse of Being Mario Götze

When he broke onto the scene almost a decade ago, Mario Götze and the BVB players surrounding him were a promising bunch. The attacking midfielder, in particular, caught the eyes of the fans. His vision for the right pass at the right time and his cheeky tricks made him a pleasure to behold. However, since these bygone days of Heavy Metal football under Jürgen Klopp a lot has happened.

These days, Mario Götze is fighting for his career at the relatively young age of 26. New BVB coach Lucien Favre seems to prefer other players in the spots Götze potentially could fill. So far this season, the former Wunderkind has been given two chances to shine: both in the Pokal match against Greuther Fürth and in against Brugge in the Champions League. However, on both occasions, Götze and Borussia Dortmund put in disappointing performances.

For Favre, the problem seems apparent. Götze is caught between being a number 10 and a number 9, according to the Swiss coach. Meanwhile, the player himself would like to play in a number 8 role, resembling something like what Andres Iniesta did Barça according to kicker.

That One Moment in Brazil

There’s nothing unusual about Götze’s struggle. Many players have to deal with coaches preferring systems they don’t fit into or lacking the bursts of pace they could use at a younger age. However, most of these players aren’t followed by the public to the same degree as Mario Götze. That one pass by Andre Schürrle which he ended up converting in the World Cup final saw Götze’s market value sky rocketing. The day before the World Cup final he was a Bundesliga star. Overnight the goal turned him into an international super star over night.

It didn’t matter that Götze’s performances during the tournament were at best mixed. 2 goals and 1 assist from his six matches, and only one match over the full 90 minutes, says an awful lot about the World Cup Mario Götze was actually having. Furthermore, Germany’s best performance of the tournament came in the semi-final against Brazil. And Götze wasn’t on the pitch for the infamous 7-1 hiding of the hosts.

Nowadays, every step Götze makes on the pitch is followed intensely by both fans and critics. There’s little room for error. Right now, the midfielder is merely trying to find himself as a player. During this process, the public opinion about Götze’s performances has been merciless.

Peaking in the eyes of the public of the age of 22 is certainly tough on a young soul. Götze’s friend and the man who assisted his goal, Andre Schürrle, doesn’t envy his friend the goal he scored at the Maracanã stadium. He told kicker: “After that point it was all about following up that legend.” Four years later, Götze is still following.

Problems after Brazil

Helmut Rahn, Gerd Müller and Andreas Brehme also fought off personal problems after scoring Germany’s winning goal in a World Cup final. However, these three players were a lot older than Mario Götze at the time of scoring their winning goals. After the World Cup of 2014, Götze’s form never hit the peaks Bayern München’s officials were hoping for. Injuries and illnesses have followed the starlet ever since that one night in Brazil. There haven’t been any new moments of enormous glory since.

During his initial stint at Dortmund, Götze was involved in a goal every 93 minutes. After joining the Bavarians, this rate dropped to 107 minutes. Given Bayern’s superiority and the vast amounts of goals that were scored during Götze’s time at the club, this stat shows how poorly he was doing at the time. And if this wasn’t enough, during his second stay at BVB, this rate has dropped to 169 minutes for every goal involvement.

These days even Mario Götze’s teammates and family are wondering what would have happened if he never scored that one goal. Marcel Schmelzer told German TV channel DAZN: “I could imagine that Mario might wish that he assisted the goal rather than scoring it himself after his career is over.”

His brother Fabian Götze seems to think that the goal has done Mario more harm than good: “22 years and such a success – this goal might be the reason why Mario lost his ease.”

The Future: Where’s Götze’s Career Heading?

Lucien Favre is sort of coach who can find ways to work in players into his system even if they don’t fit his playing style entirely. Juan Arango was among the players Favre wanted to get rid off at Borussia Mönchengladbach before he figured out how to use him. Given Götze’s undeniable qualities the same might happen to 26-year-old midfielder if he is given the time to find his way under Favre.

However, somebody who is measured by scoring the winning goal in a World Cup final might not be given that time. “I simply can’t manage to ignore it”, Götze told kicker about the way he thinks about the public’s perception of his persona. Within that there just might be the midfielder’s main problem. Right now he’s trying to find his way under a new coach who doesn’t know how to use him, yet. At the same time the public expects great things of Götze who then gets ill at ease over the public perception due to the lack of brilliance coming from his end at the moment.

If Götze can break that spell he just might be able to show the world once again that he is a brilliant footballer. The other alternative sees him desperately trying to reach that peak without ever being able to find it.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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