Mario Gotze's career at Bayern Munich has had its twists and turns, especially over the last few months. He hardly played last season, amassing just 1,219 minutes in all competitions, per Transfermarkt, many of which were earned in the Bundesliga after the league title was all but clinched and as Pep Guardiola rested his starters for big Champions League games. And so it seemed the 23-year-old was headed towards an exit at the Allianz Arena.
Clubs around Europe took notice of Gotze's situation, and soon rumors swirled around the international press. Liverpool were closely linked with Gotze, with Rheinische Post (in German) reporting the Reds were willing to offer €25 million to secure his services. Goal stated in May that Liverpool had "thrown the kitchen sink" to sign Gotze and were only waiting on his decision.
Days later, Gotze revealed his decision to Bild (h/t Coral Barry of Sky Sports): "I look forward to the new season in Munich and will do everything possible to be in top shape for my first training session under Carlo Ancelotti," he said. He also fired his agent: Volker Struth at SportsTotal.
That definitive statement seemed to settle Gotze's future. Except it didn't make much sense: Gotze hardly played any role under Guardiola last season, and his competitors in the Bayern team just look like better options.
What's more, the well-informed Suddeutsche Zeitung (in German) had previously reported incoming trainer Carlo Ancelotti had advised Gotze to change clubs. The rationale was Ancelotti intended to change little relative to Guardiola's game plan, and Gotze would therefore be low on the pecking order.
Bayern president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge seemed to corroborate the Suddeutsche Zeitung report when, three days after Gotze's announcement, he advised the player to reconsider his choice, per Kicker (h/t Mark Critchley of the Independent).
After the dust settled, SportBild (h/t Jonathan Green of the Daily Star) stated Gotze had turned down a move to Liverpool because it represented a "step backward" in his career, and he was more keen to move to a club on Bayern's level: Barcelona or Real Madrid. It was a rejection of the player's narrative that he is keen to work with Ancelotti, but it put together some of the pieces for the fans and pundits whom his decision had puzzled.
This revelation has led to considerable confusion, but it isn't all that complicated. Gotze cannot be under any illusions his situation at Bayern is dire, and he isn't in a position to demand a move to Real or Barca. Moreover, the likelihood of him playing enough to potentially earn a move to a top club when his contract expires is low.
All the while, it appears Bayern are more than just open to selling Gotze. Suddeutsche Zeitung reported earlier this week that Bayern were prepared to omit the player from their Champions League squad as punishment if he did not leave. The pressure reportedly comes from Bayern's desire to offload his wages (between €12 million and €14 million)—an entirely reasonable wish given the skyrocketing wage bill at Bayern.
Per Bild (in German), new contracts have seen Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller's wages inflate to €15 million annually, while several other stars have also extended their contracts to earn wage increases over the last year. The club officially denied the allegations, but that is to be expected of a rumor about a threat the club will seek to avoid having to make.
Based on a couple of fundamental truths to the Gotze situation, there is a reasonable conclusion to be made. The first reality is, Gotze cannot be holding out for a club like Real or Barca, but rather one that will compete in the Champions League. And moreover, one that will pay him handsomely. The second truth is, Bayern have no interest in opening Pandora's box, as would happen if they were to drop Gotze from their Champions League squad. The possibilities are many, and few are in any way pleasant.
There is a solution to the Gotze saga that will suit all parties. To begin with, Gotze needs to find an acceptable club. Arsenal or Juventus are Champions League sides with a considerable amount of money that could benefit from having a player like Gotze among their ranks.
The next step is for Bayern to agree a reasonable transfer fee. They won't get back the €37 million they spent on him, per Transfermarkt, but if they accepted €25 million from Liverpool, that's a reasonable target. There is one further concession Bayern will need to make, though, in order for the deal to work: They need to subsidize Gotze's wages at his future club.
Maybe Gotze won't earn as much from July 1, 2017, onward as he earns now, but that is immaterial. The fact is, Bayern owe him colossal wages until then, and he has no need to turn that down for a lower amount any future suitor will offer.
It is also clear Bayern don't want to continue to pay his full wages, so if for one year they cover the difference between his current earnings and that which he'll make at a future club, it will be an attractive option for all parties. And it would avoid potentially explosive conflicts that no party, especially Bayern, will want to deal with.