With his arm wrapped warmly around his neck and his other hand pointing down towards him, Marco Reus was keen to direct the cheers and applause towards Mario Götze as Borussia Dortmund defeated Augsburg on Saturday.
It was a scene which, symbolically, recalled the one following the 2014 FIFA World Cup final, only with the boot on the other foot. While back then it was Götze paying tribute to Reus, who missed the tournament due to injury, by holding his shirt aloft, this time Reus wanted all the acclaim to go to his close friend, who has not had much go his way of late.
"I hope so," Reus said when asked if Götze's goal against Augsburg could be a turning point for the 26-year-old. "It was sensational. The way he took his goal was outstanding. He's an extraordinary footballer."
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It is not the first time the Germany international has demonstrated that, not least with that World Cup-winning goal against Argentina at the Maracana. It was nevertheless a timely reminder after arguably one of the most difficult periods of his career.
"We were all delighted for Mario," said Sebastian Kehl, Dortmund's former captain who is now head of their licensed player division. He spoke on behalf of the majority of the 81,365 fans in the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday as they revelled in the return of one of their heroes – in more than just a physical sense.
Aside from an hour in Dortmund's 1-0 opening UEFA Champions League win at Club Bruges, Götze has had to sit and watch as his team-mates have taken the Westphalians to the top of the Bundesliga. In their last three Bundesliga games, he did not even make it into the 18-man matchday squad, with questions inevitably raised about his ongoing absence.
After suffering with a metabolic disorder in early 2017, and consequently missing the second half of that season, one of German football's most highly-rated talents in recent years has struggled to recapture his form. By his own standards, the 2017/18 campaign could well have been written off with just two goals and four assists in 23 Bundesliga games – a far cry from the ten he scored in his final season with Dortmund before moving to Bayern Munich in 2013, and the double-digit haul from his first campaign in Bavaria, leading up to that memorable Maracana moment.
The arrival of Lucien Favre in the summer was seen as an opportunity for Götze to get back to his best. "I'm feeling really good," Götze said in the summer after shooting away the frustration at missing out on a place in Germany's World Cup squad with a goal against Manchester City in the International Champions Cup. "I've had a long break. I've used it to recharge and prepare for the new season. I'm the kind of guy who always tries to make the best out of situations."
Favre will vouch for that too. "He's always been very positive, trained well and he has a fantastic mentality," said the Swiss coach after granting Götze his first league outing this term, and seeing his faith duly repaid.
With Favre's fantastic five delivering eye-catching results, Götze will still have to wait for his minutes, with Favre aware it is "not easy for all of them" to be rotated from game to game. "But Mario's got an absolutely professional attitude, and he's proven that," added sporting director Michael Zorc, as encouraged as anybody to see any frustration at not being involved channelled in the best possible way as Dortmund opened up a four-point advantage over Bayern on Matchday 7.
Dortmund can sit proudly on that advantage during the international break with optimism flooding back, thanks to the blistering form of Paco Alcacer and the long-awaited return of Götze.