“Always work harder than everyone else” is a mantra many people aspire to but only few ever actually achieve. Germany’s highly rated youngster Mario Gotze is one of the minority. The phrase represents a way of life that has helped the midfield star shoot to prominence.
Such is his talent that football experts are forced to use superlatives to adequately describe the 19-year-old. “He’s an exceptional player: fast, creative and with extraordinary technical abilities,” said the German Football Association’s (DFB) Technical Director Matthias Sammer. “He’s one of the most talented players we’ve ever had.”
Germany’s football Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer, agrees: “He’s impossible to stop. You don’t get any better than him. His ability is like Lionel Messi’s, as well as his understanding of the game and technique. On top of that, he plays by instinct - just like Messi.”
'Never lose sight of your objectives'
Tactically adept, an endless bag of tricks, boasting outstanding technique as well as the ability to think on his feet, Gotze already appears to be the complete package. “We need him, Germany needs him,” said Borussia Dortmund team-mate and captain Sebastian Kehl of the slightly built attacker.
Yet by his own admission, ability by itself is not enough. “There’s no doubt that you need talent,” said Gotze. “But I believe the most important thing is never to lose sight of your objectives. You need to be willing to make sacrifices, to be disciplined and to go your own way. It’s not just about talent, it’s about hard work and determination.”
Even at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Nigeria 2009 the youngster gave an indication of what was to come. Gotze scored three goals in four games before the German side lost out 4-3 after extra time to eventual champions Switzerland in the Round of 16.
“When you play as a child, you forget about everything else,” says Gotze. “I just enjoyed playing. I only truly realised that I could make it many years later when I played in the German youth teams at European Championships and World Cups. I compared myself to the best young players in the world and I thought ‘I could do this.’”
Unsurprisingly, there is already long list of foreign clubs queuing to sign Gotze, who is a huge admirer of Zinedine Zidane. “I think Mario Gotze is a player for the future, he is very talented and has a good attitude,” Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said recently.
“It’s no surprise that big clubs are interested in him, including us,” added Wenger, who reportedly bid €40m to take Gotze to the London club. That would have made the 19-year-old the most expensive German player of all time, but eventually Gotze opted to stay put and extend his contract at Dortmund until 2016.
With such clamour for the second youngest ever player (after Uwe Seeler) to represent Germany, other records look set to broken. In November 2010 Gotze made his international debut aged 18, before starting for the first time in August the following year. Gotze scored to put Germany 2-0 up on the way to a 3-2 friendly victory over Brazil.
By then, the Memmingen native was already a permanent fixture in the Dortmund line-up. Gotze has been at the club for the last decade, following in brother Fabian’s footsteps in rising steadily through the youth ranks. After picking up a second successive Bundesliga title last week, a DFB Cup winner’s medal could be added to his collection if Dortmund beat Bayern Munich in the final this weekend. It would be a historic first for the Yellow-Blacks, who have never before won a league and cup double.
Aiming high in the coming weeks
And given recent results, the chances of that happening are good. Dortmund have won each of their last four matches against Bayern and in November 2011 Gotze scored the only goal of the game at the Allianz Arena. However, his joy was short-lived as the most challenging period of his career followed. A muscle tear and groin problems forced Gotze out of action for four months.
Yet he returned to fitness at the business end of the season, in time for not only the cup final, but also a place in his country’s UEFA EURO 2012 preliminary squad. Despite his tender years, Gotze is a key part of coach Joachim Low’s plans to take a trophy back to Germany after a 16-year absence. Low backs Gotze to be more than just a super-sub in that quest.
“I have worked with many youngsters, but none have ever played so confidently in the national team,” said Low. “Even in his first training session with us, Mario gave the impression that he’d been part of the squad for ages. Everyone can see his ability and intelligence on the pitch. He’s already got such a wise head on his shoulders. He is without doubt an incredible talent. It’s fun just to watch him in action. He can definitely be a top player.”
The most successful period of his career appears to still lie ahead. Alongside Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mesut Ozil, Gotze is part of the strongest German team in years. They have already been dubbed a 'Golden Generation' but trophies must first be won in order to justify such a tag.
With the cup final up next, EURO 2012 just around the corner and the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ on the horizon, there are plenty of opportunities to do just that. If Gotze can stick to his motto, “always work harder than everyone else”, the football world is sure to be seeing a lot more of him in the years to come.