World Cup hero to free transfer zero: the rise and dramatic fall of Mario Gotze

World Cup hero to free transfer zero: the rise and dramatic fall of Mario Gotze
World Cup hero to free transfer zero: the rise and dramatic fall of Mario Gotze

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - There is a superstition in Germany that to score the winner in a World Cup final bequeaths bad luck.

Helmut Rahn, whose goal delivered West Germany their first title in 1954, and Gerd Muller, whose strike defeated Holland 20 years later, suffered debilitating illness after retirement.

Andreas Brehme, whose penalty won the 1990 World Cup, fell into debt and the edge of bankruptcy.

As for Mario Gotze, his career ought to have many more stories yet to tell.

He is only 27, but he cannot help but look back at his golden moment, the beautifully executed extra time volley to earn Germany a 1-0 win over Argentina in Rio Janeiro in 2014, as the peak that then gave way to a steep drop during the next six years.

Gotze has just put himself on the transfer market, a free agent once his contract with Borussia Dortmund expires at the end of this most uncertain of football seasons.

He can expect some good offers, but not a stampede of invitations from clubs likely to give him the Champions League medal missing from his collection.

Nor, with football anticipating a recession after its shutdown during the coronavirus pandemic, will he be offered the sort of €10m-a-year-plus (Dh40.3m) he has been used to earning.

Gotze has superstar status. He does not have the form to go with it. He has so far played a full 90 minutes for Dortmund just once this season and, in all, scored three goals and contributed one assist in his 19 appearances.

When his club needed a breakthrough most, against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League quarter-final last month – with Dortmund chasing a goal to prolong the tie – Gotze was their last throw of the dice, introduced in the 87th minute. Two other substitutes, including a 17-year-old, Giovanni Reyna, had been deemed likelier match-winners.

There was to be no stunning late show this time round from Gotze as Dortmund were dumped out of the competition.

He is now an ex-international, although Germany manager Joachim Low would not say so explicitly, out of respect for the player who provided the greatest moment of this century for the national team.

Low gave Gotze the last of his 63 caps in late 2017, in a friendly. His last competitive match for Germany was a year earlier.

He had rejoined Dortmund in the summer of 2016, and it is a mark of Gotze’s application and talent that in the months after that move he won round supporters at the club he had grown up with.

In his teens, he was Dortmund’s homegrown idol, and became, in their black-and-yellow strip “the most exciting attacking player in Germany” according to former national captain and manager Franz Beckenbauer.

But at 20, Götze let Dortmunders down, by joining Bayern Munich, and telling his then Borussia manager Jurgen Klopp that he was going south during the lead-up to Bayern beating Dortmund in the 2013 European Cup final.

Gotze did not play in that game, which certainly worked to Bayern’s advantage. The balance of power swung.

The Dortmund Gotze left had been Bundesliga champions in 2011 and 2012; the Bayern Gotze joined, at the same time as Pep Guardiola arrived as manager, won every league title in his three seasons there.

Bayern, champions again in 2017, 2018 and 2019, do not miss Götze.

He had his moments under Guardiola but struggled for fitness and a first-team place.

Some months into his second spell at Dortmund, Gotze underwent medical tests to investigate symptoms of fatigue and weight gain. Reports had him diagnosed with myopathy, a muscle condition that explained his long dip in effectiveness.

He recovered but has never again been consistently the wunderkind Götze of his early 20s.

The two managers under whom he enjoyed his greatest club triumphs, Klopp and Guardiola, know Gotze is available for next season.

Word is that neither have been tempted to imagine him reviving his dribbling brilliance, his creative vision at the summit of English football, at Liverpool or Manchester City.

As for the national team in whose Hall of Fame he holds the very proudest position, Gotze tends to be spoken of most often, these days, as an example of how the sport’s parameters have abruptly altered.

Oliver Bierhoff, scorer of the winning goal when Germany last won the European championship and now director of the German Football Federation, cited Götze, the superstar left low by illness, as a player whose future outlook will be defined by a pandemic that is changing the world.

“Prices are going down,” said Bierhoff. “A footballer at the end of his contract, like Mario Gotze, will no longer be held in the same value as he was before.”

Updated: May 6, 2020 08:18 AM

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