Hidden sheepishly under an oversized snapback in his seat at Wembley last May, it seemed like Mario Goetze didn’t know where to put himself.
Watching his soon-to-be ex-club, Borussia Dortmund, take on his next club, Bayern Munich, in the 2013 Champions League final—a match he sat out due to injury—German football’s young star was strangely fettered on this most emotional of occasions.
When Ilkay Gundogan levelled for Dortmund, Goetze broke into a smile and was enthusiastically hugged by his colleagues around him.
Yet there was, naturally, a certain sense of detachment, and it was not only in the minds of spectators. For some of his Dortmund teammates, Wembley might have been a pinnacle. For Goetze, even if he had played, it would only have been the start.
On Wednesday, Goetze does get a chance to get stuck into some Champions League action in London, with Bayern reprising last season’s visit to Arsenal in the last 16.
Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly be delighted that his countryman Franck Ribery is unavailable through injury. However, even the most cursory look at the Bavarians' recent form will tell him that 21-year-old Goetze is a more-than-able replacement, as he is expected to be at the Emirates—and a highly motivated one.
On this writer’s visit to see Bayern demolish Hamburg, 5-0, in the DfB Pokal last week, Goetze was irresistible in Ribery’s customary left-sided slot.
He created two of Mario Mandzukic’s hat-trick goals with sensational dribbles—with which he tore apart Bert van Marwijk’s side all night—and pinpoint passes, on both occasions presenting the Croatian with chances that were impossible to miss.
It was an extension of a debut campaign at the Allianz Arena that is gathering momentum. In the Bundesliga and Champions League alone, Goetze has scored nine goals and created six in just 14 starts.
His new role as a stand-in Ribery (no mean feat) is in addition to his forays on the right and as a false nine, where he had previously been tried out for Germany. It is easy to see why Pep Guardiola wanted him.
It is not the only sense in which we have seen a new side to Goetze. The shock which reverberated after the April announcement of his move to Bayern (as reported by BBC Sport) was seismic.
He is Bavarian-born, but Goetze was seen as one of the family at the Signal Iduna Park. He had been at the club since he was eight years old, with the Goetzes having moved north after Mario’s father began work as a professor at the city’s Technische Universitat.
Particularly in his final season at the club, when he dovetailed so pleasingly with his friend Marco Reus, Goetze seemed like the epitome of Dortmund: young, full of vibrancy and motivated by the love of working under Jurgen Klopp.
That he saw his potential best fulfilled at the Bayern behemoth was a big shock to Dortmund’s loyal fans, who chided him with messages on banners referring to him as "Gotz€" when he returned with his new club in November.
Outside the Dortmund bubble, it is becoming clearer that Goetze has a very business-like aspect to his character. Der Spiegel recently claimed, as reported here by Stephan Uersfeld for ESPN FC, that Goetze had earned 10 percent of his €37m transfer fee when making the switch to Bayern.
He even incurred the wrath of both his new employers and the Deutscher Fussball Bund (DfB) this season by "accidentally" wearing Nike-branded gear while on duty with them, as Mark Patterson wrote on Bleacher Report in October.
On that trip back to Dortmund, Goetze was able to put the boos and whistles to the back of his mind. Entering as a 56th-minute substitute, he opened the scoring for Bayern as they won 3-0 against their rivals.
He has proved that he has the steely focus, as well as the talent, of a true winner. He will aim to show it again at Arsenal, having missed his last scheduled big match in London.