Coming off the bench with just under half an hour to go in a pre-season friendly in Japan may not sound like a particularly momentous moment in the career of the man who fired his country to victory in the last World Cup final. But for Mario Götze, the 61st minute of the opening game of Borussia Dortmund's summer tour of the Far East marked the end of a wearisome 167-day spell on the sidelines and, he hopes, the starting point for a return to the kind of form that would make him indispensable to Germany's bid to retain their global title in Russia next year.
“It feels great to be back after so long,” the gifted 25-year-old attacker said following his run-out in the 3-2 win against J-League outfit Urawa Red Diamonds. “It's good to be putting this whole period behind me. It all went just as I'd hoped and at the moment, I'm simply very happy.” His last taste of competitive action was back on 29 January, in Dortmund's 1-1 draw at 1. FSV Mainz 05. After that, the homegrown supertalent, who also played three years for Bayern München, was laid low for five-and-a-half months with a metabolic disorder.
New BVB coach Peter Bosz was meanwhile swift to sound a note of caution, saying, “I'm delighted for Mario but we still need to take it a day at a time with him.” Chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke agreed that “It's looking really good but we have to be careful we don't push him too hard. He hasn't played for five months.” Götze himself feels “good to go, I just need to get gradually back in the groove. It's been restricting over the past five months, but what mattered most was knowing where this was all going.”
The next step on the road back was another cameo in the 3-1 win against AC Milan in Guangzhou, China. Dortmund's first major assignment of the new season is on 5 August, when they face Bayern in the Supercup. On 19 August, the Black-and-Yellows kick off their Bundesliga campaign at VfL Wolfsburg: A return to the main stage for either of those encounters would do Mario Götze just fine.