How Mario Gotze's Transfer Affects the Player, Dortmund, Bayern and Bundesliga
Given how quickly things can change in football, irony is commonplace. However, even by football standards, it is a surprise when one makes a deeply philosophical statement only to act against it within a matter of days.
Last week, Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness lamented there being a lack of competition in the Bundesliga, what with his club and Borussia Dortmund blowing away all competition over the last few seasons. Speaking to Kicker (English version here), he said: "There has been a huge dip in the competitiveness of the league and we can't be happy with that."
"My gut tells me that not all is right at the moment," he added, citing blowout victories and record-breaking streaks as potential killers of fan interest and international impression of the Bundesliga. Hoeness even claimed, "The big clubs need to back off, even if this results in problems on the international stage."
Whether Hoeness' concern was genuine or mere crocodile tears, there is a striking irony that it came just a week before Bild reported that Bayern were set to sign Mario Gotze from Dortmund (English version here). Both clubs confirmed the deal in the hours that followed: Bayern agreed to pay the player's €37 million buyout clause, leaving Dortmund powerless to prevent a transfer.
The effects of Gotze's move to Munich will not only be felt at Bayern and Dortmund, but they will reverberate around the Bundesliga as a whole.
For Dortmund, the devastating loss of such an irreplaceable player is only the beginning of their problems.
Until now, the Ruhr side had done extremely well to fend off interest from other clubs in their star players. Although consecutive seasons saw Nuri Sahin and Shinji Kagawa sold, the likes of Gotze, Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic, Lukasz Piszczek and more remained despite interest from other top clubs. Each of the latter four put pen to paper on extensions until 2016 or later.
The sale of Gotze to a rival club could open the floodgates at the Westfalenstadion. Robert Lewandowski has already confirmed he will not renew his contract beyond 2014, and the Gotze news could also influence Ilkay Gundogan—who recently said it is "very likely" that he will extend his stay beyond 2015—to reconsider signing a new deal.
Gotze's transfer will likely influence Marco Reus to follow a similar route. The 23-year-old's contract runs until 2017, but according to various reports, he has a €30 million buyout clause that takes effect in 2014 (Express) or a provision that allows him to leave in 2015 for €35 million (Bild). Although somewhat less of a steal at a similar price as Gotze, Reus' clause undercuts his true value.
Given the situations of Lewandowski, Reus and Gundogan and following the sales of Sahin, Kagawa and now Gotze, Dortmund are a step away from becoming the Bundesliga's Arsenal. They're a financially well-run club that, based on a few sales, created a toxic image for players as a "stepping stone" and will thus always be in a state of flux due to the lack of a consistent core of players.
Gotze's sale could be the tipping point for this transformation. And sadly for BVB, they have no power to prevent it.
For Bayern, Gotze's signing is a statement of intent that solidifies their place in German football: They are and always will be the most successful club in the Bundesliga, and their ability and willingness to kill off any competition has made them the most hated club in Germany.
What's more, with this move, Bayern are poaching talent from their greatest domestic adversary. The club lost a great deal of pride as Dortmund won back-to-back Bundesliga titles, humiliated them in the DFB-Pokal final a year ago and also beat them to the signing of Reus.
But nearly every great German talent eventually plays for Bayern, and it seems Gotze will be no exception.
Hoeness may or may not lose sleep over the Bundesliga's competitiveness descending to a level on par with that of the Scottish Premier League, but regardless, Bayern will be a much better club in the long run. Gotze is already one of the brightest stars in world football and is nowhere near the limit of his potential. A long-term future involving Gotze, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Xherdan Shaqiri and any of a number of potential later additions in attack is a very bright one indeed.
For Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben, though, the future at Bayern seems rather dim.
The Germany international has barely played this season, and if Pep Guardiola uses Gotze as his center forward, Gomez slips to third choice behind the youngster and Mario Mandzukic. Given that his agent has already declared that his client is unhappy with his current situation at Bayern, the 27-year-old will surely be sold.
Currently a backup, Robben will have little place in the Bayern setup if Gotze becomes involved. If the 20-year-old is used in midfield, he's the next in a growing line of players ahead of the Dutchman.
Even if Gotze is used as a striker, he will need to operate with players far less selfish than Robben if he is ever to score with the prolificacy required of a center forward. Gotze has the potential to score many goals, but if he is to achieve his best, he'll do it through link-up play with the midfielders—not as a poacher.
Moving to Bayern will help Gotze achieve the full extent of his potential and further foster his comparisons to Lionel Messi. The Argentine was always a tremendous talent, but Pep Guardiola transformed him from a winger who was part of a balanced Barcelona attack to the player he is today: arguably the best individual attacker in the history of world football, and one who directly contributes to well over half his team's goals.
Messi plays almost every minute of every game because, by the design of Guardiola's system, he spends approximately two-thirds of every match at walking pace. He doesn't defend, and because he puts in little effort otherwise, he is always fresh and can focus solely on scoring and assisting goals.
At Dortmund, Gotze is forced to defend, follow the ball around the pitch and complete many other thankless tasks. He runs an average of 11.72 km per 90 minutes in the Bundesliga, and that number greatly increases in the Champions League. His work rate makes him a better player, but defending is not as glamorous as scoring and also requires that he be rested more often than Messi.
Gotze may never achieve on the level of Messi, but if there is one coach who can bring the very best out of him, it's Guardiola. And at Bayern, the player is guaranteed a stable, long-term future with a strong core of players around him.
In conclusion, Gotze's move to Munich will have mixed effects on Dortmund, Bayern, a number of players and the Bundesliga as a whole. It will help Gotze become his very best and will make Bayern even stronger.
On the flip side, it would rather cruelly spell the end of Gomez and Robben at Bayern, and it could potentially ruin Dortmund as a competitive figure in the long term.
As for the Bundesliga, fans can go back to writing it off as a foregone conclusion: Gotze's sale is proof that the German top flight is and always will be Bayern's. If Hoeness doesn't understand how this is so, he isn't looking.
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