After over three months out with a torn thigh muscle, FC Bayern München midfielder Mario Götze has had plenty of time to reflect on his still young career.
Speaking to bundesliga.com ahead of his expected return to the matchday squad against SV Darmstadt 98 this weekend, the 23-year-old opened up about life on the sidelines, his critics' expectations, Bayern's aims for the remainder of the season and working under Pep Guardiola.
bundesliga.com: Mario Götze, you’ve only been training with the team for a few weeks. When can the Bayern fans expect to see you back on the pitch?
Götze: I feel fit and well. I’m now in my third week of team training and I’m looking forward to my first appearance after the injury.
bundesliga.com: You had a torn tendon that needed to heal and were out of action for several months. What role does your head have to play after such a lengthy lay-off?
Götze: It always has a role to play, especially after such a long time out, but I have a long and intensive rehabilitation programme behind me – that feels good. The good feeling has and will only get better. Now it’s important to find a steady rhythm, but I’m optimistic about that.
bundesliga.com: How difficult is it to get back up to full fitness in training?
Götze: Training’s obviously a little different [to playing in a match], but the level of training here is so high that, in the end, there’s not much missing. I’m delighted that I’ll be back in the squad this week.
bundesliga.com: You’ve had your critics recently. They were saying, 'Mario Götze isn’t achieving his potential'.
Götze: Obviously I’ve read that, but I have my own opinion on it. I know that I live for football and make the most of every opportunity to find my best form. It’s not nice reading that. You ask yourself, 'Is that really the case?' I’ve looked at the match statistics, though, and that’s reassured me.
bundesliga.com: Since you scored the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final, even more has been expected of you. How do you deal with that?
Götze: I try to set my own goals and build on a few of the expectations. It also helps not to get too hung up on the expectations from outside.
bundesliga.com: Can you understand the growing expectations?
Götze: It’s normal that expectations grow – especially after the goal in the World Cup final – but I don’t always understand some of them. Like I said, I’m 23 and still have many goals.
bundesliga.com: One of your goals might tie in with reaching the quarter finals of the Champions League. Bayern face Juventus next week in the first leg of their Round of 16 tie. During the winter break, Pep Guardiola said the team weren’t yet at the necessary level. Is the team further along now after the first few games of the Rückrunde?
Götze: The recent injuries certainly haven’t made things any easier, but we’ve prepared well and we’ve now found a good rhythm. The squad is full of first-class players and we accept the situation. We’ll go into the Juve game fully focussed. We want to reach the final. Before the Champions League, though, comes the Bundesliga. We want to consolidate our lead at the top of the table. That’s why we’re fully focussed on the Darmstadt game.
bundesliga.com: What are your personal goals for the coming months?
Götze: There are a few. First we want to wrap up a fourth Bundesliga title in a row. That means a lot to me, the team, the coach and the club. The Bundesliga isn’t any old title. It’s really something very special.
bundesliga.com: And after that? You missed the 2013 Champions League final through injury...
Götze: Obviously playing in a Champions League final is a huge dream, and it’s one I really want to realise – preferably this season. Then there’s the prospect of reaching the DFB Cup final, and in the summer there’s the European Championships in France.
bundesliga.com: There’s always a lot of debate on the subject of your strongest position – is it in the middle or out wide?
Götze: (laughs) There have been games where I’ve played out wide that haven’t gone too badly, but every player has a favourite position. Mine’s in the middle, but there are also a few possibilities there. So you could say my favourite position is in a central area.
bundesliga.com: Pep Guardiola will leave FC Bayern in the summer. Does his impending departure have an effect on your work together and your common goals?
Götze: It always has a role to play after such an intensive time working together, but we have the same goals that we want to focus on and pursue together.
bundesliga.com: Pep Guardiola is a coach who places a great deal of importance on the details. How was and is it working with him, and what have you learned from him?
Götze: I’ve learned something from every coach – from Jürgen Klopp, Joachim Löw and also from Pep Guardiola. Under Guardiola, I’ve improved in a tactical sense more than anything. His game plans, the passing, his philosophy – it was all new to me. The detailed way in which Pep Guardiola thinks is really impressive. He’s made me a better player.
Interview by Oliver Trust