Idol (noun): (1) an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship. (2) a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered.
To say Mario Götze’s move to Bayern Munich hasn’t gone according to plan would be an understatement. Following confirmation of his move from Borussia Dortmund in 2013, BVB fans immediately turned on Götze, labelling him a traitor and stating he would never be welcome at the Signal Iduna Park again. However, with a move to Bayern to play under one of the best managers in the game in Pep Guardiola, the young German would’ve expected to develop even further and cement his place as one of the stars of the game. It was simply too attractive a proposition to resist. Early signs pointed to him making a real impression on Guardiola’s team, making 27 appearances in his maiden season, scoring 10 goals and notching 8 assists; a solid, if unspectacular, return for the Bavaria native. That summer, he went on to score the winning goal for Germany in the 2014 World Cup final against Argentina, securing their fourth title as world champions. So far so good, right?
The 2014/15 season saw a drop in productivity for the man whose name translates to ‘Idol’. Despite making 32 appearances out of a possible 34 in the German Bundesliga, Mario only managed 9 goals and 2 assists – nothing to be idolised. Being at such a high profile club, criticism is never far away once a player shows any sign of decline or underperformance. Questions started to emerge about Götze’s work rate and a perception of the attacking midfielder being lazy in training began to take shape.
Speaking to Sport.de on October 1, 2015, Philipp Lahm attempted to rubbish these claims saying:
“The accusation that he is lazy in training, I can absolutely refute. I see him every day and he is one of the most diligent in terms of preparation for training and regeneration afterwards. He is very young, but has already experienced a lot. When so much criticism breaks on such a young player, it’s not easy. We have done our best as a team to support him, he is fully integrated.”
Unfortunately for the Bayern captain, Mario would not get much of a chance to disprove these claims on the pitch as only a week later he went down to an adductor injury while on international duty with Germany which would leave him sidelined for almost five months, effectively bringing the 2015/16 season to an end for him. Upon his return the lazy tag persisted, this time with Bayern legend Mehmet Scholl echoing the claims. Despite Pep Guardiola insisting otherwise, claiming Götze could still be a success at Bayern, the higher ups had already made their decision that the young German had to go. This was cemented after Carlo Ancelotti was confirmed as Bayern’s new manager following the announcement that Guardiola would take over at Man City. The Italian offered no guarantee to Mario that he would be given game time going forward at Bayern. Clubs around Europe soon began to circle, with Liverpool being touted as his likely destination due to Mario’s history working with Jürgen Klopp at Dortmund. With Champions League football being a priority, Liverpool’s loss to Sevilla in the Europa League final (the winner automatically qualifies for the Champions League) ruled them out of a move. Now, after three years at the Allianz Arena, Götze is returning to his roots, with a €26m move to Dortmund confirmed, signing a four year contract.
Mario has wasted no time appealing to the fans he left behind three years ago following the confirmation of his return:
“When I switched from BVB to Bayern in 2013 that was a conscious decision that I will not hide myself behind today.
Three years later, and at 24, I look with different eyes at my decision. I can well understand that many fans could not understand my decision. I would not even take it today!”
As the graphic above shows, Götze’s time at Bayern wasn’t a total bust. Even though he may not have reached the creative heights of his Dortmund days, his eye for goal and finishing improved and he can boast greater tactical strength having played in multiple positions for Pep Guardiola in a number of different formations. Now, a more mature Mario will seek to show what he has learned while under the Spaniard’s tutelage with the pacy Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and long time friend, Marco Reus. His direct dribbling and excellent vision will go some way to replacing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who left for Manchester United earlier this summer.
The man they once referred to as the ‘German Messi’ will certainly have his work cut out for him to convince the BVB fans to cheer his name once again. However if Thomas Tuchel can get him to play closer to his form prior to his move to Bayern, Götze should have no trouble at all becoming Dortmund’s idol once again.