Mark Uth continued his exceptional start to the season with a late goal that helped Hoffenheim come back from two goals down to defeat Mainz on Matchday 5. It’s the type of form that could well end up earning him a place in Germany’s squad for the 2018 World Cup.
Recalled to the starting line-up after being rested in Sunday's 1-1 draw with Hertha Berlin, Uth netted Hoffenheim's all-important third goal in second-half stoppage time to earn his side all three points, lifting the Sinsheim club to third in the table behind Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich.
This was not the first time Uth has found the net at the OPEL ARENA, either. Last season, he helped Julian Nagelsmann's side recover from 4-1 down to draw 4-4 with two second-half goals. After his latest decisive contribution, Sandro Wagner and his Mainz players will be happy to see the back of the Cologne-born striker.
Uth’s winner at Mainz was his fourth goal in five league appearances this season - his best ever start to a league campaign. After netting the equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Bayer Leverkusen on Machday 2, the 26-year-old scored both goals in a highly impressive home win over Bayern Munich, becoming the first Hoffenheim player to score a double against the record champions.
Watch: Uth scores twice to down Bayern
That sort of form is the type of thing that gets a player noticed. Uth’s contract with Hoffenheim is due to expire next summer but Nagelsmann reiterated his desire to hold on to the forward after watching him condemn Bayern to their first defeat of the campaign.
“You can see that he feels comfortable,” the Hoffenheim boss told Sky Sports Germany. “That’s a big factor for a footballer.
“He has developed as a player during our time working together. I hope that he will extend his contract and provide further reasons for the club do everything for that to happen.”
In the summer there was reported interest from Uth’s former team and home-town club, Cologne, who were on the lookout for a replacement for last season’s goalscoring sensation Anthony Modeste.
But before the transfer window closed, Nagelsmann made it absolutely clear that Hoffenheim had no interest in parting with someone he has praised in the past for being an attacker who plays on instinct.
“We will not be letting a player of his quality go,” the 30-year-old said last month following the draw at Bayer Leverkusen.
Before their comeback at the BayArena, Hoffenheim had played a two-legged UEFA Champions League play-off tie against Liverpool. While both games ended in disappointment for the team that finished fourth in last season’s Bundesliga, Uth emerged from the experience with an enhanced reputation.
In the first leg in Sinsheim, he came off the bench to drill home left-footed with three minutes left in a 2-1 defeat. And at Anfield he scored a similar goal – only this time from the right side of the area and with his other foot.
Uth has never been capped by Germany at senior level but national manager Joachim Löw must surely be impressed by such performances. The world champions had been short of out-and-out forwards since Miroslav Klose’s retirement in 2014 but FIFA Confederation Cup winners Timo Werner and Lars Stindl are proof that Löw is willing to give chances to Bundesliga strikers who perform with consistency. With Hoffenheim participating in the Europa League group stages this autumn, Uth will have more opportunities to catch the eye.
The Hoffenheim number 19 had to leave his homeland, though, to get to where he is today. After failing to break into Cologne’s first team, he moved to Dutch side Heerenveen in 2012. Hoffenheim welcomed him back to Germany in 2015 after he scored 20 goals in 36 league matches in the Netherlands during the 2014/15 campaign.
Uth netted eight times in his first year back in the Bundesliga, towards the end of which Hoffenheim Director of Football Alexander Rosen declared himself extremely satisfied with his signing.
“He is super dangerous,” Rosen told kicker in April last year. “An unconventional, exciting player.”
Uth continued to shine last season, although his progress was halted between September and November and February and March due to injuries. The attacker’s vital statistics remained healthy though and he finished with seven goals and three assists in 22 Bundesliga appearances - only 12 of which were starts.
“Football has a lot to do with self-confidence,” Uth told kicker last year. He is clearly full of it right now and a tally of five goals in six games this season suggests that his upward trajectory will not stop any time soon.