Munich - To go from Borussia Dortmund idol one minute to FC Bayern München hero the next is an unenviable task - unless your name is Mario Götze.
Schooled the Dortmund way
Anyone who had been living in a cave for the past nine months would have struggled to fathom the reaction at the Allianz Arena after the 21-year-old scored his fourth Bundesliga goal in a Bayern shirt during Matchday 16’s 3-1 win over Hamburger SV. It was one of pure exaltation for a player who, not all that long ago, had become the symbol of BVB’s two-year hex on the often-unflappable red machine.
Born on 3 June 1992 in the Bavarian town of Memmingen, Götze was introduced to Germany’s industrial heartland at the tender age of six when his father took up a professorship at the Technical University of Dortmund. Playing for local side Eintracht Hombruch, this burgeoning talent soon caught the eye of the BVB scouts and, accompanied by his older brother Fabian, he made the move to die Schwarz-Gelben’s renowned youth academy.
After picking up the prestigious Fritz Walter Medal for a string of superlative displays at both Under-17 and U-18 level, Götze became Dortmund’s fourth-youngest Bundesliga debutant on 21 November 2009 in a 0-0 draw with 1. FSV Mainz 05. Twelve months down the line, the man dubbed "the German Messi" by none other than Bayern legend Franz Beckenbauer took his senior international bow in die Nationalelf’s 0-0 impasse against Sweden, before going on to celebrate a Bundesliga and DFB Cup double at the end of the 2011/12 campaign.
The stuff of nightmares
Naturally, the mere thought of their prized possession one day leaving the club, let alone jumping ship to fierce rivals Bayern, was anathema to the BVB supporters. Barely a year later, however, on the eve of Dortmund's UEFA Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid CF, their worst nightmare had become reality.
Making use of a release clause in his existing contract, Götze made history as the most expensive German player to move within the Bundesliga, penning a long-term deal with the soon-to-be treble winners. His ties with the Ruhr-district outfit severed, injury ensured he would never again don the famous black and yellow shirt of his first true love. Missing the Champions League final that summer was a cruel way for his BVB career to end, but such is football. Götze was a Bayern player now.
Officially joining a side that had swept all before them over the course of the 2012/13 season, Götze’s first task was to regain match fitness. The attacking midfielder's torn hamstring three months earlier still kept him out of action, and after making just four appearances under new head coach Pep Guardiola, he suffered a further setback in Bayern’s win over Chelsea FC on 30 August 2013. The club’s marquee summer signing was ruled out of action until mid-October. Suffice to say, his return was well worth the wait.
Having scored one and laid on another for team-mate Andre Schürrle in Germany’s final FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifier in Sweden in October, Götze stepped off the bench to help Bayern come from a goal down to beat Mainz 4-1 on Bundesliga Matchday 9, before grabbing his first competitive strike for his new club in the 5-0 win over FC Viktoria Plzen in the UEFA Champions League. The ice well and truly broken, he rounded off a stop-start first half of the season with Bundesliga goals against Hertha Berlin, former employers Dortmund, SV Werder Bremen and Hamburg, before notching in Rückrunde victories over Borussia Mönchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt and 1. FSV Mainz as well as the title-clincher against Hertha Berlin.
Integrated at Bayern, at home in familiar Bavarian surroundings and having sealed a first Bundesliga title with Bayern - and third overall - Götze can now look forward to the remainder of the 2013/14 campaign with a great sense of optimism. As long as he can stay fit, there is no reason why the champions should not retain their Champions League and DFB Cup crowns too. Then there is that little matter of next summer’s FIFA World Cup. With Memmingen’s most famous son to the fore, Germany might well have something of their own to celebrate at the iconic Estadio de Maracana come 13 July.