Most of the talk around Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund is still centered on Ousmane Dembele. But BVB look just fine without him, and Mario Götze is a reason why.
A battle for patience is what Mario Götze's career has become. Since scoring the goal to win Germany the World Cup in 2014, Götze has injured his hamstring, fallen out of favor at Bayern Munich, returned to Dortmund, and suffered a metabolic disorder.
On Matchday 1, he made his first start in seven months. He was in the right spaces at the right time, demanded the ball and played a key part in Borussia Dortmund's attacks, even assisting Christian Pulisic for his opening goal. More than that though, when he was brought off after an hour, there was a smile on his face. It was the look of a man who was finally playing pain free again.
"You could see he is an exceptional player," Borussia Dortmund's new head coach Peter Bosz said afterwards. High praise from a coach that, until a couple of months ago, had only seen him from afar. Like Pulisic, Götze looks set to benefit from Bosz's attacking style of play that saw Ajax return to a European final.
Playing in an attacking midfield role against Wolfsburg, Götze's movement was effective, his passing crisp. He might not be a new signing, but he certainly looked like it.
"Your heart laughs when you see how Mario plays football," Hans-Joachim Watzke said about Götze. At the start, that certainly was the case. Götze was Borussia Dortmund's jewel, Germany's next greatest talent, a future Ballon d'Or winner. And then came that night in the Maracana and nothing could seemingly go wrong.
But it did. The move to Bayern didn't work out, maintaining fitness became a struggle and the rejuvination expected from a return to BVB seemed beyond him. At 25, Götze looked like he was coming to the end of his career.
Now he appears to be approaching a new stage, a better stage. Götze played just 60 minutes against Wolfsburg on the opening day, but it was enough time to suggest this is the season the football world talks less about what Götze has - or hasn't - done and more about what he's doing.