As far as betrayals in football go, moving to a rival club is the ultimate stab in the back. Mario Götze did so after being groomed by Borussia Dortmund from the age of nine, before rubbing salt in the wounds of the yellow and black faithful by scoring against them upon his return to the ground on which he made his name.
Needless to say, the midfield wunderkind is no longer a popular figure at the Westfalenstadion after leaving for Bayern Munich. However, an injury-plagued Dortmund now languish ten points behind their nemeses while the Bavarian giants are embracing a new playing style under Pep Guardiola that could further their dominance over Germany and Europe. Most importantly for Götze, it could also maximize his potential.
Upon hearing the news of the signing, manager Jürgen Klopp claimed that he could do nothing to stop his star from leaving. Dortmund could have set his release clause far higher than the €37m asking price, however in the case of Götze, the transfer money was a formality. He has the drive to be a champion and Bayern Munich can provide far more than Borussia Dortmund in terms of coaching, squad strength and international prestige. He wanted to leave purely for footballing reasons – it was not a money-motivated decision.
The Allianz Arena in Munich is certainly a prosperous environment. Bayern are the current titleholders of every trophy they competed for last season, winning the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, DFL-Supercup and the UEFA Champions League. Boasting names such as Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Neuer, Robben and Ribéry, their squad is almost peerless in terms of individual talent.
Pep Guardiola is one of the finest football managers in the world and has ensured that teamwork is of paramount importance to his side, despite the star-studded lineup at his disposal. He switches his wingers, midfielders and forwards around at will and expects versatility and defensive effort from all of his players, meaning Götze will gain exposure to a variety of challenges that will improve him as a player. Guardiola’s fluid tactical changes and attacking substitutions drip with determination to win, creating a culture that demands and expects victory.
Although Götze has already made 26 appearances for die Mannschaft, he will still benefit immensely from playing alongside so many of his national teammates on a weekly basis. Toni Kroos, Thomas Müller, Jérôme Boateng, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Manuel Neuer and Philipp Lahm will all be heading to the World Cup next year. It bodes well for Germany that so many of their first team stars are teammates at club level, enhancing the chemistry and understanding within the squad and putting Götze in good stead to perform in Brazil.
It is no wonder that Götze was the first player that Pep Guardiola brought to Bavaria. German footballing legend Franz Beckenbauer has hailed him as “the German Lionel Messi” and he undoubtedly shares similarities with the Argentinian genius. Physically, both are remarkably balanced due to having low centres of gravity and have explosive acceleration. Most importantly, both have the rare natural ability to weave past defenders using their freakish close ball control.
Statistical analysis is easy as both players were born in June and the similarities in the numbers will surprise some. From the age of 18 to 20 in all club competitions, Götze made 111 appearances, scored 31 goals and provided 43 assists, whereas Messi made 97 appearances, scored 40 goals and provided 23 assists. The figures see Götze contributing an average of 0.66 goals or assists per game, almost identical to Messi on 0.65.
When Götze finally returned to his old home ground, he started as a substitute. He emerged from the dugout after half time to a bitter reception from the crowd that once adored him, although it was slightly less hostile than Jens Lehmann had imagined when he advised Götze before the game to stay in the middle of the ground. It only took the estranged son of Dortmund ten minutes to make an impact once on the field, scoring the first of three Bayern Munich goals in a resounding away victory.
He chose not to celebrate, holding up his hands as a sign of respect, however there was a smile on his face that was all too easy to read. Götze knew he had made the right decision for himself.
Statistics Source: Transfermarkt.de
Image Source: Mario Götze Facebook Page