The Tactical Evolution of Bayern Munich's Mario Gotze
It was the transfer that shocked the Bundesliga and indeed Europe when it was announced: Mario Gotze, perhaps the brightest of young things amongst Jurgen Klopp's eclectic mix of bright young things, leaving Borussia Dortmund for rivals Bayern Munich.
On July 3, the 21-year-old German international was unveiled at the Allianz Arena, his €37million move from BVB completed.
"I'm sure I can develop here, and I'm sure it won't take me long to feel at home," Gotze told the awaiting press, as reported in The Independent by Kit Holden.
Now the man with 22 senior international caps to his name with Die Mannschaft must carve out his legacy at Germany's biggest club. In new boss Pep Guardiola, Gotze couldn't have a bigger fan. At the player's unveiling, sport director Matthias Sammer said:
It was very clear early on what kind of player he (Guardiola) was after and Mario's name came up quickly.
He seemed to think it was impossible to get a player like that. When we explained that it might be a possibility, he was very excited.
Moreover, Bayern's sporting director is himself also a fully paid-up member of the Gotze fan club, having previously proclaimed the player as "one of the best talents we've (Germany) ever had," as reported by Clark Whitney on Goal.com.
"He's an exceptional player, has good speed is extremely creative and has outstanding technical skills."
Now the question on the lips of many is just how Guardiola intends on using his No. 19 during the 2013-14 campaign.
Since his breakthrough at the Westfalenstadion in 2009, the player's tactical intelligence and flexibility has been as clear as the fact that night follows day. Much like his new teammate Thomas Muller, there isn't an attacking role in which he is anything less than accomplished.
Whether it be playing from either flank, in the hole as a genuine No.10 or even in the false-nine role where he has occasionally been deployed at international level, Gotze is comfortable. With his direct dribbling and ability to play the final pass or take on the shot himself, he's a major threat in whatever position he's selected.
Early days under Jurgen Klopp saw him break through more often as an inverted winger, but it quickly became clear that a central attacking role was where he could really grab proceedings, and he duly led Dortmund to success, winning two Bundesliga titles.
The hip injury that took three months of his 2011-12 campaign from him was quickly forgotten as he and Marco Reus struck up an almost telepathic understanding during 2012-13.
The pair's intelligence and wonderful technical ability brought out the best in one another, and it was Gotze's best season in terms of goals and assists—he had a direct hand in 37 of Dortmund's goals in all competitions, according to Transfermarkt—further establishing his prominence.
Now, Gotze's evolution takes on another step at a new club, and It'll be interesting to see which position Gotze first steps out in for Bayern.
There is a school of thought that he may well prove to be Bayern's answer to Lionel Messi and will be used as Die Roten's most advanced attacker.
Guardiola's deployment of Messi in a central role has led to his magnificent goalscoring feats and added great credence to the argument that he may be the greatest footballer of all time. Gotze's comparable stature and skill set mean that a similar transition, on a more permanent basis, may be in his future.
And with the likes of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Toni Kroos and the aforementioned Muller, as well as young Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri, all already vying for attacking midfield places, it may just be Gotze's likeliest on-field home.
Whatever the future holds for Bayern's latest Mario, it will certainly make for fascinating viewing. A wonderful talent, his harnessing will play a massive part in the ambitions for not only Bayern Munich, but also the national team in the next 12 months.
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