Mario Götze: The Bayern Munich years
Mario Götze claimed three Bundesliga titles at Bayern Munich and was at the club when he etched his name into German football history with his 2014 World Cup-winning goal. As the Germany international prepares to return to the Allianz Arena with Eintracht Frankfurt, bundesliga.com looks back on his time with the record champions..
"I was just 21 when I went from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern, and of course it caused quite a stir. In hindsight, I should have stayed longer with Jürgen Klopp, but it certainly wasn't a mistake to go to Bayern," Götze told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, with the hindsight of nearly a decade after making the decision. "I wanted to challenge myself to learn Pep's philosophy. Guardiola helped me see football from many different positions on the pitch."
Götze had played his part in Dortmund's back-to-back Bundesliga triumphs between 2010 and 2012, but nothing could persuade him that Pep Guardiola could not push his career a step further. Not even the BVB fans, who would be furious when the news was made public, and so obviously had to be kept out of the loop as Götze underwent a top-secret medical in Augsburg in April 2013.
"When he was examined by us, the highest alert level prevailed," said Dr. Peter Boenisch, a knee specialist. "We changed hats, used back entrances, total discretion. We blocked everything here for two hours."
Götze's first season at the Allianz Arena suggested he may have been right after all. In 27 league games, he scored 10 goals – equalling his single-season best at BVB – and registered nine assists to earn the first of his three successive Bundesliga titles in the iconic red shirt.
It was also as a Bayern player that he earned himself German football immortality. Sent from the bench by Joachim Löw with his coach's words of encouragement, 'Show the world you're better than Messi', ringing in his ears, Götze scored the goal that brought the 2014 FIFA World Cup to his country.
But that was to prove the high point of his return to Bavaria, where he was born in the town of Memmingen, as he struggled over the next two campaigns to live up to the stratospheric standards – and hyperbolic expectation – he had established at Dortmund. "Once you set that bar, there is nothing below it," said Götze of that period. "What's underneath is there, but it's bad."
Initially, the 2014/15 season started promisingly, but then tailed off dramatically. A flurry of seven goals and two assists in just nine league appearances before December boded well, but only a further two goals and two assists followed with Götze's form inexplicably deserting him even if Guardiola kept faith.
"What is the problem? Mario is the best pro I have known. He has played a lot for me this season, there's no problem," said the former Barcelona and current Manchester City boss, who handed Götze 28 league starts in 32 appearances in 2014/15. "I can't complain, I'm happy with his performances. He's a young player, his potential is huge."
Watch: All 57 of Götze's Bundesliga goals for Dortmund and Bayern
Few people doubted that, but with ferocious competition for places from the likes of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and Thomas Müller, the 2015/16 campaign saw Götze slide out of the first-team picture at Bayern as he proved simply unable to exploit his talent.
A hamstring injury that forced him to miss 13 league games between October and February did not help, but already at the start of the campaign, Guardiola had only brought Götze off the bench late in the Supercup game with Wolfsburg.
"Only 11 players can play. I can't explain my decisions in every press conference. I'm sorry. Mario is my favourite player, a super, super guy and a super, super pro. The players have to convince me. Not here, but on the pitch."
Götze had looked to have done just that with a goal and an assist in the thumping 5-1 Klassiker win over Dortmund on Matchday 8, only for his hamstring to betray him. A return of three goals and four assists in 14 league appearances brought the curtain down on his three-season spell without fanfare.
Götze made the decision to then return to BVB, a choice he now considers hasty. "I think I should have given myself more time," he explained in 2020, while at PSV Eindhoven. "You see it a bit with Robert Lewandowski. He's been in Munich since 2014, and the last couple of years were a lot better than the first ones. I didn't give myself the time and the club didn't give me the time either, that's an important factor."
His two-year spell at PSV helped restore his reputation, but he may have done that at Bayern, who had considered re-signing him before he left for the Netherlands.
"A couple of years ago with [Hansi] Flick, we considered bringing him back," said Bayern's influential former president Uli Hoeneß. "But it didn't come off. He's a fantastic player and hasn't lost any of that in Eindhoven."
His performances for PSV convinced Europa League winners Frankfurt he could reinforce their squad for this season's UEFA Champions League challenge.
Watch: Tactical analysis of Mario Götze
Flick, meanwhile, clearly has not forgotten about Götze either, naming him in the 2022 World Cup squad to end half-a-decade in the international wilderness for Germany's 2014 hero.
"It's been a while, five years to be precise," Götze said. "I feel like the call-up is a reward for the hard work I've put in."
"Götze has been with us for a long time, he's really happy, I can say that," said Flick, who gave Götze two substitute cameos in the tournament. "Mario is a brilliant footballer who has flashes of inspiration, who does everything intuitively. He can give us a few surprises."
He didn't in Qatar, but Bayern will be fully aware that Götze's genius could yet be their undoing in Munich on Matchday 18.
Götze, Moukoko and Füllkrug make Germany World Cup squad
The hero of the 2014 final returns, while there are first call-ups for the in-form Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen strikers.
Mario Götze: The Borussia Dortmund Wunder Years
Ahead of a reunion with his old club on Saturday, we look back on the Frankfurt star's time in black and yellow.
Frankfurt vs. Leipzig: how do they stack up?
With Eintracht and Leipzig set to sizzle at Deutsche Bank Park on Saturday, bundesliga.com weighs up the game's possible key factors.