Super Mario returns, but can he be forgiven?

"I’ve had to leave behind many friends and my family. But I’m really looking forward to the new challenge now. It’s what really I wanted. I aim to take the next step in my career with FC Bayern. That’s why I’m here" - Mario Götze, 2 July 2013. "I would not make a decision like that again today" - Mario Götze, 21 July 2016. Oh Mario. Where to start on the mess you made.


Source: Getty Images

You had the dream life with your childhood sweetheart in your home town, then went and cheated with a supermodel, asked for divorce with the ever-loyal Dortmund, before having the audacity to marry Bayern Munich before a live TV audience of billions. 

Now you’ve come crawling back to the Westfalenstadion, promising to make it all better. And here we are, back at the alter for a second time. How on earth did we end up here? 

Three years on from the "decision", to transfer from Borussia to Bayern, I still can’t think of a more controversial one. 

Figo from Barcelona to Real Madrid? Sol Campbell from Tottenham to Arsenal? Ashley Cole from Arsenal to Chelsea? Worse.

If Germans weren't so placid, it could have had the same impact as Roberto Baggio's switch from Fiorentina to Juventus in 1990 (it's largely forgotten that 50 people were hurt in the ensuing riot).

Why? Because Götze didn’t only represent himself or even his club. He was the face, a hope that a club like Borussia could produce players like him and rise to greatness, challenging the best in the world with community values, not corporate-like greed. 

News of Götze’s defection made people angry, but more than that - it broke their faith.

The dream of BVB’s organic football - and everyone's hopes for it - was over. You didn't have to be a Dortmund fan to feel heartbroken. 

In leaving, Götze made the worst decision of his life. And coming back, as he has done today, might just be the best one.
That he went for $55 million (€37 million - which seemed cheap) and comes back for $38 million (€26 million) is indicative of his fallen standing, regardless of having scored the winning goal in a FIFA World Cup final. 

Pep Guardiola improves almost every player that comes under his tutelage but he has not extracted Götze’s full genius.

He couldn’t get to Zlatan either, remember - not everyone falls under the spell. In any case, maybe the improvement will come later. 

I got to see Götze for the first time live in August 2011, the opening night of the Bundesliga season, when the club unfurled their championship banner of the year before for the first time. 

He was utterly electrifying. Hamburg’s defence couldn’t touch him. He set up the first goal and scored the next to kill the game off. Even harder to believe is that he'd only just turned 19. 

A few months earlier I asked then-Socceroos coach Holger Osieck when Australian football would produce a teenager like him. He ruefully replied: "You and I won't live long enough to see it". 

Things kept going up and up, even in Götze's first season at Bayern: 27 league games yielded 10 goals (five more in other competitions) and 10 assists. 

There was even another nine league goals a year later, but the signs were there that his head wasn’t in the game.

He was savaged by Franz Beckenbauer for the his body language after the DFB-Pokal semi-final defeat to Dortmund. 

Always of a small stature and a childish appearance, Götze looked even more like a boy. A lost one. 

His final season at Bayern was a disaster. Injuries and form hobbled him, and although he was barely 23 years-old, his departure suddenly looked inevitable.
Götze could have put himself in the shop window at EURO 2016 - but only conspired to look hopelessly out of place as a number nine. Joachim Löw couldn’t get trusty old Mario Gomez in there quickly enough. 

With just 12 months to run on his original four-year deal, and with his value plummeting, Borussia did the unthinkable by brining their boy back. 

They’ve already done it once with Shinji Kagawa, a deal that’s worked out pretty well. He was almost back to his old pre-Manchester United level this past year. The challenge for Götze is to do the same. 

That means no pouty antics, no dropping of heads, no flouting of personal sponsors at club events, no cutting corners at rehab, and above all, playing his socks off and driving Dortmund back to the top of the Bundesliga. 

After all that? Willkommen zuhause (Welcome home) Mario!

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4 min read
Published 21 July 2016 at 10:51pm
By Sebastian Hassett