His name might not have been a household one before this season, but football supporters across the globe will be praying that Mario Gotze will feature in the Champions League final at Wembley on Saturday.
The Borussia Dortmund midfielder is facing a race against time to be fit for the UEFA showpiece this weekend after tearing his hamstring in the semifinal second leg against Real Madrid last month, as ITV reported.
However, it is arguable that the 20-year-old might be better served by remaining on the sidelines for the final.
Gotze insists he will not allow his future career to dictate his performance at Wembley this weekend if he recovers in time to face Jupp Heynckes' team, as German newspaper Bild highlighted (via ESPN).
His current manager Jurgen Klopp has likened Bayern to a James Bond villain ahead of the Champions League final, as The Guardian reported. "What can I say? If that's what Bayern wants," said Klopp. "It's like James Bond—except they are the other guy [the villain]."
It was like a heart attack. I heard it one day after we beat Malaga. I had one day to celebrate and somebody thought it’s enough and threw me on the floor. In a way it was like grieving. The next morning was much better. I had more time to handle this. For the team it was hard.
I called six or seven players because I know which players were heartbroken. They felt it was because of the team — ‘we are not good enough’. But that’s not the reason. The reason is Pep Guardiola. He said ‘They told me it’s now or never’. And I told him ‘They will come back next year and in two or three years.’ But he’s 20 and he wanted it now.
Gotze's influence on Dortmund's success cannot be underestimated. This season alone, despite Dortmund finishing the Bundesliga campaign 25 points behind Bayern, the midfielder has scored 12 goals in the domestic and European leagues.
But the most crucial statistic for Dortmund and Bayern is his 14 assists in both competitions this season (via Whoscored.com).
The video clip shown on this page is an indication of just what Dortmund will be looking for on Saturday, while Bayern will be hoping Gotze is unavailable to damage their hopes of a first Champions League triumph since 2001.
There could be a certain irony to the Champions League final. If Bayern can thwart Gotze, could their tactics be copied by opposition teams next season?