Mario Götze 20 MidfielderBorussia Dortmund
‘A – Outstanding, joint top of the class. Show Europe how good you are in 2012’
No pressure there then. This was his mark and closing summary from last year’s 100 and along with Eden Hazard, they became the inaugural members of what we like to call the IBWM ‘A’ Team (we know, we know).
So this was to be his year by all accounts. We gave him the top mark and what’s more, it was an easy one to agree on and slap ourselves on our collective backs for getting right. In a sea of German talent Götze was the standout performer and as part of one of the most exciting teams in world football both domestically and internationally, he was in the perfect position to build on his potential and start along that path marked ‘Ballon d’Or’, beginning with a triumphant Euro 2012.
We published the report in December of 2011 at virtually the same time he picked up an injury. Reporting pain in his thigh and groin, muscle damage was initially thought to be the cause and it looked like keeping him out for three weeks. A month later Götze had been diagnosed with a far more serious hip injury (a stress fracture of the pubic bone has been reported, I think we can all say a collective ‘ouch’ at the thought of that one) most likely as a result of playing a lot of football at a young age, and surgery was required.
The recuperation period was unknown and training impossible until all trace of the initial problem had gone in order to protect his longer-term career. His manager Jürgen Klopp talked of taking things very slowly and seeing how Mario’s body reacted to stress at every stage of the process. Highly specialized recovery was undertaken under several watchful doctor’s eyes and despite returning in late April before the season’s end, the months spent unable to take on even light duties saw him carrying weight and lacking the sharpness and spring that had been so characteristic of his meteoric rise.
Selected for the European Championships in the much-lauded Germany squad, what should have been the first tournament he stamped his authority on actually became a chance for him to get the experience of being away with the national team and little else. Only spending ten minutes on the pitch against Greece in a knockout game Germany were already winning 4-1 seems like an injury-forced fall from grace, but in reality a case can be made it was anything but.
Statistically it looks like a non-event but in context, the mere fact he was chosen to go the tournament represents how highly he is thought of in terms of Germany’s international future. Consider how much talent exists in their football at the moment, particularly in the midfield positions he operates in, and still Joachim Löw chose to take a player who was lacking match-fitness, slightly overweight and carrying nothing like the form of some of his rivals.
It was a move with an eye to the future, a hand on the back to emphasize that he won’t always be injured and he won’t always be a passenger. Rather than any form of disappointment Euro 2012 might prove to be a defining point in his international career longer term, a huge mental lift at just the right time.
Some of the lay-off as his hip recovered was spent negotiating a new contract at Dortmund to keep him ‘part of the project’ till 2016 with an appropriately huge pay-rise to boot. Despite interest from virtually every elite club in European football you think of and a few you can’t, there was very little chance of him doing anything other than signing up for a further four years in Dortmund. This is a player completely at ease with his surroundings and happy with the progress the club is making – why wouldn’t you be with two consecutive Bundesliga titles under your belt already at the age of 20? He is a vital part of his club on and off the pitch, front and centre of their marketing and having been there since joining their academy at the age of 8 there’s just no reason for him to move at the moment.
So after the injury comes the true recovery and a big year ahead for Mario. The season has started well and he’s back in the starting elevens of both club and country as he was always destined to be, finding the net for both as well. He looks every inch the emerging talent we gave that A to last year, and looks every inch the eventual talent that will be playing at the top of European football for some time to come. He might not be quite at his brilliant best consistently but that’s partly due to care still being taken to make sure there’s no repeat of the hip problem. The very last of the cotton wool is only just coming off but make no mistake, this is a player who will continue to improve and by this time next year will be worth more than most could dream of paying for his services.
So should we temper all this gushing praise by picking a hole or two in his game? No, for the simple reason there’s not that many to find. He’s recovering from his nasty injury well and the arrival of his friend and fellow wonder-kid Marco Reus at the club has seen them working together rather than fostering any damaging rivalry or competition. He does have something of the barrel-chested genius about him and as his career progresses will need to watch his weight for fear of ‘Wayne Rooney enjoys his close season to the full’ type criticism, but these are things for the future, let’s enjoy the now.
We are giving him a C+ which looks like a fall from that top mark last year but merely represents the length of time he was out with that injury. This is a young player willing to work hard to improve his already quite brilliant natural ability, a man at the right club who are looking to protect him at the very time he needs them to, and a mainstay of a national team that increasingly sets itself out to bring the very best from him. Quite a player already, he is a genuinely frightening prospect for those doomed to play against him for years to come.
What does the future hold? Greatness and legendary status at Dortmund, a huge move to one of the very biggest clubs in the world once his journey there is over, over a hundred international caps, trophies – for Germany as well as domestically, and a smile as he plays. A joy to watch, for us there really is only one Super Mario.
“His friend and team-mate Marco Reus describes him as "sunny" and few have brighter futures than Gotze, named Tuttosport's 'Golden Boy' of 2011. He's a true extrovert - he can't help but try and outshine anyone else on the pitch, and while that's sometimes frowned upon, it usually leaves Dortmund and Germany fans smiling.”– Jon Holmes (Sky Sports)
“An injury-ravaged year has held him back a little, but he's come back with a bang in the new season. The injuries have held off potential suitors, for now at least, and in the longer-term that might prove to be one of the best things that could have happened allowing him to develop further at Dortmund.”– John Dobson (European Football Correspondent)
C+ A horrible injury but getting back to his outstanding best, the future’s still bright, the future’s still Mario
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