Munich - News of Mario Götze's impending move from Borussia Dortmund to FC Bayern Munich at the end of the season has caused quite a stir in football circles far beyond the confines of Germany.
bundesliga.com asked Swiss national team coach Ottmar Hitzfeld, who guided both Dortmund and FC Bayern to victory in the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League, for his take on the sensational turn of events.
bundesliga.com: Ottmar Hitzfeld, how surprised were you by the news that Mario Götze will be joining FC Bayern Munich this summer?
Ottmar Hitzfeld: Hearing it at this particular juncture did surprise me. It was no secret that Götze would probably be moving to FC Bayern somewhere down the line. That would have been a logical step in his development. What I have asked myself before is why Bayern didn't move to sign him a year or two ago, when it was already clear that Götze was one of Germany's stand-out talents. But Bayern have raked in a lot of money recently - so they're able to bring him on board at an economically justifiable cost.
bundesliga.com: To what extend is Götze the ideal kind of player for [incoming FC Bayern head coach] Pep Guardiola?
Hitzfeld: Guardiola's a coach who puts a lot of emphasis on top-drawer technique and players who have that will get their chance with his system. With that in mind, I'm hoping (Swiss international) Xherdan Shaqiri can make his breakthrough as well now at Bayern. But that's not going to be made any easier by the arrival of Götze. It maybe means that the odd player might be taking his leave of Bayern as well. Having too many top-class players in your squad can be a source of unrest when things aren't going so well.
bundesliga.com: Mario Götze's sometimes referred to as a "Swiss army knife," due to his versatility out on the pitch. Is that one of his great strengths?
Hitzfeld: Mario Götze's far from at the end of his development as a footballer yet. But he has the ability and technique to fill any position in the forward department. Above all, he has an incredible football brain and can adapt to the specific requirements of different attacking midfield positions. He's already filled the classic Messi role, as a deep-lying number "nine-and-a-half" in the middle. And he has excellent anticipation, so he's always available for a pass.
bundesliga.com: Do you concur with the analysts who say he could be the next Messi?
Hitzfeld: We'll first have to wait and see whether Götze takes the next step up at Bayern Munich. Playing for an even stronger team, he obviously has the opportunity to shine even more. As to whether he'll "take over" from Messi - I don't think so, at this point in time. Messi's the measure of all things right now. He's not just sensational at setting up goals, he scores an incredible number as well - and important ones at that. It will take a few more years and a lot of training to get up to Messi's level. But with Pep Guardiola at the helm, that's the direction things will be taking.
bundesliga.com: What does the move signify for Borussia Dortmund?
Hitzfeld: That's part of the Bayern Munich strategy - strengthen your own hand while weakening that of your direct rivals. Borussia Dortmund are the biggest threat to FC Bayern in the Bundesliga, and in the Champions League as well now. As far as that goes, it's clearly also a strategic move on Bayern's part.