Monday, 7 November 2011

Götze keeps Germany guessing


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His team-mates call him ‘Götzinho', Franz Beckenbauer has compared him to Lionel Messi and Matthias Sammer, technical director of the German Football Federation, says he "might be the biggest talent that German football has ever had". Mario Götze is already a symbol of his country's footballing future, but the direction he takes when the time comes to leave Borussia Dortmund could turn him into an even bigger trailblazer.
A German champion at just 18 and the first player (alongside André Schürrle) born in the reunified Germany to represent the national side, Götze's precocity means it appears only a matter of time until he cuts the cords that have tied him to Dortmund's Westfalenstadion for the past 10 years.
Despite the occasional misplaced step - such as the red card he received at Bayer Leverkusen for spitting in the direction of Hanno Balitsch - Götze currently shows no signs of succumbing to second-season syndrome. His intrepid dribbling continues to enchant and his brace in the 5-1 thrashing of Wolfsburg on Saturday took his tally for the season to four goals - only two less than he managed in last season's entire title-winning campaign.
The speculation about where his playing destiny lies only increases with each match-winning turn, but in Bavaria there is an expectation that Götze's destination will prove to be Bayern Munich. With a list of alumni including such national icons as Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Gerd Müller and Lothar Matthäus, Bayern have a sense of entitlement to the nation's finest players that has aggravated many a reluctant selling club in the past.
Chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge explained recently that Bayern simply have "a preference" for German internationals, while captain Philipp Lahm succinctly expounded the club's philosophy when he was asked about Borussia Mönchengladbach's in-demand midfielder Marco Reus. "The best German players have to play with the best German club," Lahm told Bild. "And that's FC Bayern."
Having successfully prised Manuel Neuer from Schalke in the summer, Bayern - who host Dortmund in their next league game - see Götze as an ideal long-term replacement for the increasingly injury-prone Arjen Robben and, characteristically, they have made no attempt to disguise their admiration. The problem for Bayern, however, is that the object of their affections does not seem to concur with their lofty self-regard.
The teenager is a member of a new generation, with broader horizons than some of his predecessors in the national team. He has spoken of his pride at watching his international colleagues Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira play for Real Madrid, and when asked to name his two favourite clubs apart from Dortmund, he picked Arsenal and Barcelona. His appreciation for the former appears to be reciprocated. Arsenal reportedly had scouts watching Götze against Wolfsburg, and not for the first time.
Dortmund, meanwhile, are determined not to sell their home-grown superstar to a domestic rival. "Bayern can save themselves an offer - it would be totally stupid to let him go there," said CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke in August. "Mario has won the German title with us, he has been with us for eight years and his family lives in the city. So there are only three or four clubs in the world he could possibly move to. And they are not located in Germany." The player himself insists he remains committed to Dortmund, with whom his contract runs until 2014, but he has admitted that he "cannot rule anything out".
With his dazzling quick feet and what national coach Jogi Löw has described as an "almost eerie" ease on the ball, Götze is a very different kind of player to the German footballer of popular stereotype. As such, he is a perfect fit for Löw's enterprising young Germany team, and turning his back to Bayern's overtures would only confirm the impression that he is determined to do things his way.

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