Mario Gotze won the World Cup for Germany in 2014. Four years later, he’s out of the squad entirely at an age when he should be in his prime.
“He is a once in a century talent.”
“One of the best talents we’ve ever had.”
Mario Götze quite literally had the world at his feet. The diminutive young attacker had just scored the goal every child dreams of scoring; the one that clinched the World Cup. Just one year prior to his 113th minute strike past Sergio Romero inside a raucous Maracanã, Götze had signed a lucrative deal to join Bayern Munich from Borussia Dortmund.
Everything looked set for the boy from Memmingen. Apart from the hostility aimed at him from his former home in Dortmund, Götze’s life looked rosy, prosperous and full of true Ballon d’Or potential after leaving the Signal Iduna Park.
“Show you are better than Messi”, said Joachim Löw on the sideline the night that Götze won football’s biggest prize for his country, and for a while, it looked like the €37m man would emulate the Argentine on many future occasions than just the showpiece event.
However, at the start of 2017, a rare metabolic issue called myopathy ruled Götze out of action for some time. The condition, a muscle disorder which causes weight gain and fatigue, truly epitomized the promising young German’s decline. Even before the unfortunate injury, Götze hadn’t looked the same since his former club shelled out £22m to bring him back.
In the last four seasons, Götze has started just 67 Bundesliga games, and only mustered up 15 goals and ten assists. In the latest line of incidents that have symbolized his downfall, the man who won his country the World Cup four years ago hasn’t even made the squad this time round.
In truth, the bright young prospect who burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old under Jurgen Klopp looks a hollow shell of his once radiant self. Even if you were to pop his name into YouTube – the accurate determiner of a player’s true ability – only clips of his World Cup goal appear, emphasizing perfectly how Götze is fast becoming a memory at just 25-years-old.
Even if you search more precisely for his exploits in recent seasons, you would only be treated to a few fancy flicks and movements with no real substance. In all honesty, it is saddening to see what was once a precocious talent fizzle out into mere obscurity.
Just how seriously Götze’s career is being taken is amplified by how his teammates reacted to his quite serious injury issue. ‘Pummelfee’, they called him, meaning ‘chubby fairy’ in German. To compare, when Neymar injured his back at the 2014 World Cup, his Brazil teammates held his shirt aloft during the national anthem in their next game, almost as if something more fatal had happened.
Where Neymar’s teammates realize his importance to the side, Götze’s mock him, almost as if to suggest that his absence from the first team would barely affect them. Even if the mocking was in jest, not enough people are taking Dortmund’s No. 10 seriously nowadays.
What was once a blossoming career filled with Ballon d’Or aspirations and countless medals has fizzled out into nothing more than a bit part role in a faltering Dortmund side. Perhaps image got the better of him; during his first Bayern press conference, Götze wore a Nike T-shirt despite the Bavarians being proud sponsors of Adidas. Die Zeit even dubbed him ‘the living selfie’.
Many hopeful young upstarts end up cast in the game’s scrapheap, but none feel more sorrowful than Götze’s decline. From World Cup winner to World Cup squad absentee, the ‘once in a century talent’ has become nothing more than a footballing also-ran.