After his “goal of the century” against Argentina clinched the 2014 World Cup for Germany, Mario Goetze looked poised to become “the German Messi” who would lead the national team for the next decade.
But the midfielder, who was just 22 when he came on as a substitute and hooked the ball into the net in Rio de Janeiro, has suffered a spectacular plunge from glory.
Poor form after an injury and then a debilitating metabolic disease led to him being left out of the Germany squad for the World Cup in Russia.
In a stark illustration of Goetze’s battles over the past years, electronics giant Samsung has traced his darkest moments in a commercial.
The video depicts him watching TV coverage of Germany’s head coach Joachim Loew announcing he will not be going to Russia, and then traces his ups and downs on the field in the last few years, and ominous shots of a hospital corridor to illustrate his health struggles.
The ad then switches gears to show Goetze fighting to get fit and win a place on the 2020 European championships team, with the slogan “what matters most is to keep trying”.
Loew, when he explained his decision to drop Goetze from the 2018 team, said: “Mario himself knows that this season he did not deliver the performances that he would have liked to have delivered.
“I hope that he will have a new beginning after the summer break and make a comeback,” said Loew adding: “I’m awfully sorry”.
Now 26, Goetze joined Borussia Dortmund at the tender age of eight, where he quickly caught the attention of coaches who propelled him through the club’s youth teams into the senior lineup.
He was just 18 when he earned his first national cap in November 2010.
Four years later, he came off the bench at the Maracana stadium with Loew’s advice ringing in his ears — “show them you’re better than Messi” — and with a deft volley moments later gave Germany its fourth World Cup.
– ‘A burden’ –
Loew subsequently admitted he feels partly responsible for the pressure that Goetze had been under to prove he is still the player he was four years ago — and regrets the Messi comparison.
“That sentence was a spontaneous idea,” he said, adding: “Whether that was good idea in hindsight, I do not know.”
The coach added that the comment “didn’t help Mario over the following few months” after the World Cup in Brazil as “he was always measured” by his impact in the final.
“If a player scores the decisive goal in the final at such a young age, it can be a burden later,” added Loew.
But for many, the slump in Goetze’s career had come even before that night of triumph in Rio de Janeiro.
His fateful decision in late 2013 to leave Dortmund for Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich meant he entered an ultra-competitive atmosphere with a coach — Pep Guardiola — who is better known for his tactical prowess than his pesonal contact with players.
After a first season that was written off as a chance for him to adapt, Goetze was called up for the 2014 World Cup.
Once he returned from Brazil, a groin injury meant the newly-crowned world champion was confined to Bayern’s bench from October to January.
Once he got back on the pitch, Guardiola gave him just six minutes of play in the final stages of the club’s Champions League campaign.
Goetze finally returned to Dortmund in 2016, and Loew kept open a place for him in the squad for Russia.
But the metabolic illness struck and sidelined him for seven months, and an erratic season this year failed to convince.
Without Goetze, Germany ended up crashing out of the World Cup, failing to progress beyond the first round for the first time since 1938.
Even as Germany struggle to pick up the pieces following its disastrous foray in Russia, Goetze, with a series of setbacks behind him, says his own experiences can help his chastened national teammates.
“I might stumble sometimes but I’ll never stop going. And neither should you,” he wrote on Twitter, with a link to the commercial detailing his darkest days.
“I hope my story inspires you.”