It was on April 23, 2013 that Mario Gotze’s name was splashed across newspapers across the world. The Borussia Dortmund attacker’s impending €37 million transfer to Bayern Munich was said to be the move that showed the club were ready to dominate the Bundesliga and Europe for years to come.
Just over 12 months on, those best-laid plans have taken a fair old kicking. On Tuesday, Bayern were unceremoniously dumped out of the Champions League, falling to a 5-0 aggregate loss to Real Madrid. What’s more, Gotze was nowhere to be seen, with coach Pep Guardiola only choosing to turn to the German with 20 minutes to go and the tie already over.
It has been the story of Gotze’s season.
While Bayern have stormed to the Bundesliga title at record pace, that has not stopped him from feeling completely underwhelmed by his first season with the Bavarian giants. On Friday, he was telling the world of his dissatisfaction, and by Saturday he was showing Guardiola why he needs to be playing more.
"Of course I am not happy with my current situation," Gotze told Bild ahead of the weekend clash with Hamburg. "But I will continue to give my all. I hope that I will regain the coach's confidence and feature from the start again."
One day later, he grabbed two goals and saw Thomas Muller deflect home another as die Roten marched to a 4-1 win at the Imtech Arena. It brought him no pleasure at all though, judging by his refusal to even smile after any of the goals. You will rarely find a more unhappy hero.
Guardiola can at least be buoyed by the knowledge that Gotze is one of many players equipped to step up and play a part as the Bavarians look to bounce back on the European stage next season, but there must be a large part of him wondering what might have happened on the continent had he employed the 21-year-old more regularly this term.
Gotze has started only 25 games between the Bundesliga and Champions League during 2013-14, and has not played a full 90 minutes in Europe since the 2-0 away win over Arsenal in February.
A side who have looked far from at their peak since clinching the league title in Berlin last month – as the coach himself has admitted –have seemingly decided that a €37m star is not what they really need. The 27-cap Germany international has become excess baggage in Guardiola’s various trips on the continent.
He may have only 31 starts in all competitions to his name, but Saturday’s showing takes him to 15 goals and 13 assists this term. And with performances like this, Gotze provides the reminder that he is still the star player he was for Dortmund a year ago.
Guardiola talks a lot about forming a Bayern in his vision, but occasionally opening his eyes to some of the talent going to waste at the club might be a better first step.