Mario Götze says he is enjoying his football again after overcoming a raft of career setbacks to reestablish himself as a firm fixture in the Borussia Dortmund first team.
Götze produced seven goals and seven assists in 26 Bundesliga appearances over the course of the 2018/19 season as Dortmund pushed defending champions Bayern Munich all the way in a thrilling title race, losing out only on the final day by a tantalising two-point margin.
Ultimately BVB lost the battle, but Götze won his own personal war.
“I want to thank the Dortmund supporters for backing me through everything this season,” the 26-year-old told The Players’ Tribune. “It was very special for me. We have been through so much together.”
Watch: Mario Götze under the tactical microscope
Götze's roller-coaster career has been well-documented.
His first-team breakthrough at 17 under “outstanding coach” Jürgen Klopp and subsequent back-to-back Bundesliga title wins earned him “German Messi” status. His subsequent move to Bayern was a logical step, albeit anathema to Dortmund fans, while his winning goal for Germany in the FIFA 2014 World Cup final against Argentina scribed his name into the history books.
From the outside looking in, Götze had it all - but being the football equivalent to the next best thing since sliced bread isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.
Götze was cast in a subordinate role in his three years at Bayern, before returning to Dortmund where physical issues - most notably the debilitating muscle disorder, Myopathy - threatened to bring a premature end to it all.
“I was a Judas, then a hero, then a disappointment, then almost out of football. All this in just four years,” he recalled.
“The comparison [with Messi] was probably not the best thing for me, at 22. What people expected of me was off the scale, and it wasn’t easy for me, mentally.
“We are human beings, remember. I was given a very harsh reminder of this after the World Cup. Over the next two years, I started to have a lot of problems with my fitness. I was training so hard because of all the expectations, and I was in a lot of pain. My body felt like it was breaking down. Eventually, I was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder, and many people were saying that it was going to be the end of my career.”
It wasn’t. Götze’s chronic struggles with fitness gave him a new perspective on life and afforded him the opportunity to take stock of a whirlwind career. He doesn’t regret leaving Dortmund, having learned “an incredible amount about football from Pep Guardiola” at Bayern, but he does appreciate being back where it all began, doing what he does best.
“When football was taken away from me, I could see the story for the first time,” said Götze, who rejoined Dortmund in summer 2016. “Everything that I went through ― good and bad ― I finally started to process it.
“The best decision I made during that time was coming back to Dortmund. When I left at 20, I really didn’t have any perspective on life. It might sound ridiculous, but I looked at football as a child’s game. You run around with a ball on some grass. It was just a sport to me.
“But I do have a different perspective on Dortmund now. A lot of the same people who were angry when I left home have welcomed me back, and I appreciate that very much.
“Personally, I have been to the top, and I have been to the bottom. I don’t know where this journey is going, but I just want to say that this club is a very special part of my life, and I am so happy to be enjoying my football again.”