It has been four years since Mario Götze scored the goal that won the World Cup for Germany, but since then, it's mostly been downhill for him. Is this the season for Götze to return to his former greatness?
Every year it's hard to believe how young Mario Götze still is. Most players who scored the winner in a World Cup final four years ago wouldn't have just turned 26 this summer, but he isn't most players. And on the anniversary of that day (July 13, 2014) in the Maracana Stadium, it's clear that that goal has haunted Götze more than it has helped him.
After flourishing under Jürgen Klopp in Borussia Dortmund's most recent glory years, Götze had all the skills to become one of the all-time greats. Scoring the goal to win Germany the World Cup in Brazil appeared destined to take him there. But now, as the 2018-19 Bundesliga season approaches, Götze has changed. He has waded not glided through his post World Cup years, and now the weight of expectation once again is bearing down on him.
"He has to know: This is a hugely decisive season for him," Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told the mass-circulation daily Bild recently. "I think [Lucien] Favre will give him huge support. The rest is up to Mario."
Summer of stories
In a documentary released this summer, Götze gave a telling insight into his life all the way up to not being nominated for the 2018 World Cup. It made clear how tough the incessant expectation on Götze has been, but also how important his relationship with his head coach is. Klopp was clearly more than just a coach for Götze and since then, perhaps that has been what has really been missing.
In his three years at Bayern Munich, that connection with Pep Guardiola didn't seem to spark. Despite fleeting moments of quality, Götze struggled to find his place in Guardiola's team and injury hindered him further. The second half of the 2016-17 season was wiped out by a rare metabolic disporder, and coming off what for Dortmund was a disappointing 2017-18, including a mid-term coaching change, Götze now faces another decisive moment.
"It's not a lack of desire," Watzke continued. "He's very professional and he does everything. Yet, you still get the impression that something is missing. And only the player, in collaboration with the coach, can solve that."
Perhaps newly hired Favre is the man to unleash Götze's quality again - there were fleeting signs of it last season. Perhaps not being a part of Germany's disastrous World Cup squad will have been exactly what he needed this summer. But perhaps the best way of looking at the attacking midfielder is to try to forget about his past. After all, at 26, the really exciting part of Götze's career should be yet to come.