In another world, a parallel chronology, the confrontation of Borussia Dortmund with Bayern Munich would not concern Jadon Sancho, Erling Braut Haaland or Alphonso Davies. It would be about Mario Gotze.
On Tuesday, the whole world will tune in to a match that has defined German football over the past decade. Ten years ago, he would have known that Gotzen, born in Bavaria and raised in Dortmund, would be the decisive player in this match.
At 27, he was now nearing his peak, ready to play the lead role in the so-called “Klassiker” again.
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Instead, Gotze will spend Tuesday evening on the bench, thinking about what could have been. His victorious World Cup strike in 2014 was recently voted “goal of the decade” in Germany, but it’s been six years now his majestic moment in the Maracana. And they have indeed spent six long years, full of injuries, illnesses and countless false dawns.
Dortmund confirmed on Saturday that Gotze will leave at the end of the season. “Mario is a really good guy … the decision was also made with him in mind,” said sporting director Michael Zorc. “He’s going to look for a new challenge, maybe abroad. “
A new challenge, and a release from the heavy burden of Bayern and Dortmund, is probably what Gotze has long needed. Either way, his affinity with these two clubs has always dragged him down, the unrestrained success of both teams – and the rivalry itself – throwing an increasingly cool light on his own. underperformance.
A fan of Bayern as a child, Gotze joined Dortmund at the age of eight and has since established himself as a unique talent in a generation. His sparkling international debut against Brazil and his explosive role in the Dortmund team, double winner of Jurgen Klopp, made him the poster of a new dawn for German football, which had become a rock and roll alternative to the biggest European leagues.
Gotze is a unique talent, but in recent years he has struggled to maintain his sharpness
Former Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp got the best of Gotze at club level
At Bayern, he struggled to have a strong impact under the direction of Pep Guardiola
When this period reached its peak with the meeting of Bayern and Dortmund in the final of the Champions League 2013, things were already going badly for Gotze. Wounded and on the verge of moving to Pep Guardiola’s Bayern, he watched his new team win from the stands and his former fans decried him like Judas.
Working under Guardiola is something that can make or break a career, and for Gotze, it seems to be the latter. Consumed by injuries and little appreciated by the Catalan coach, he made less than 60 league matches in three years in Munich, before a shock shock in Dortmund in 2016.
However, in a way, the old magic was gone. A few months later, it became clear that Gotze had been suffering from a metabolic disorder that ravaged his physical condition and weight for a long time.
Over the next few years, he would be in and out of Dortmund’s side, but never out of the headlines. Especially in light of his World Cup heroism, Gotze’s slowdown was a horrible sight that the nation has not been able to take his eyes off.
In his very first pre-game interview as coach of Dortmund, current boss Lucien Favre was asked if he would find a role for Gotze. For the past two years, he has kept answering the same question.
Internationally, Gotze won the World Cup with Germany, scoring in the 2014 final
Fast forward to 2020 and Gotze have only made five starts for the Dortmund team this season
He will leave the club at the end of the 2019-20 campaign and will possibly travel abroad
This is partly what prompted the club to announce their departure last weekend. Dortmund wanted no distractions before the derby, and Gotze has long been the biggest distraction of all.
In truth, he had been going out for a while. He has only made five starts this season, and his frolic on social media would have irritated the club leaders.
Along with his model wife Ann-Kathrin, the 27-year-old has reshaped himself as half of an influential couple in recent years. Just last week, just days before Dortmund announced his departure, the two men took on a TikTok challenge that involved wearing a leopard-print dress.
“Gotze can make millions on social media without sweating every day in training,” noted Bild rather badly Monday. However, in general, the hero of the 2014 World Cup is still regarded with affection in Germany. Most are desperate to see him find some kind of peace, even if he is outside the country.
“It would be wise to continue your career abroad. That’s the only way he can break the vicious circle that’s seen him go back and forth since 2014, ”wrote Bild. In a recent survey in Kicker magazine, only 18% of those polled said that Gotze should stay in Germany.
Where it should go is another matter. A move to England would likely bring only the same problems he has in Dortmund. No longer the explosive player it once was, Gotze is not suited to the era of the Haalands, Sanchos, Salahs and Sterlings. As Bild says: “Football has evolved, it has stood still”.
His antics on social media – like posing in a dress with his “influential” girlfriend – did not impress part of Dortmund’s hierarchy.
Dortmund manager Lucien Favre has been questioned on Gotze several times since joining the club
However, this is not entirely true. For a few months under Favre, it seemed like Gotze was about to reinvent himself into a more cerebral number eight: less agile, perhaps, but no less lively and creative. Some in Germany think that he could still have a future in a big European club.
“When space is limited and it is short and quick passes, Gotze is always one of the best in German football,” wrote Der Spiegel magazine. “In this regard, Barcelona could probably find a place for him without too many problems. “
This may be a slight exaggeration. But there are other teams, whose play is less explosive and more based on possession, where Gotze could still find a home.
However, it’s not Dortmund and it’s not Bayern. On Tuesday, the world will watch these two teams compete for supremacy in the Bundesliga. Gotze, the supreme tragic hero of the decade, will also once again be a bystander.