Pep Guardiola gets his Götze as Bayern Munich splash £31.5m as a welcome gift
The future of Bayern Munich was brightened long before kick-off. It seems absurd that in this week of all weeks, German football should be dominated by an off-the-pitch story, but so it is, with the news that Mario Götze is leaving Borussia Dortmund for Bayern this summer.
The timing of the story, which was broken by the newspaper Bild, was questioned by Jürgen Klopp, the Dortmund coach, who must be alarmed that his big week – they play Real Madrid in the other Champions League semi-final – has been hijacked.
The 20-year-old attacking midfielder, probably the most gifted player of his generation in Germany, is moving for the second-highest transfer fee in Bundesliga history. Bayern have activated his release clause of €37m (£31.5m).
It makes Bayern's future prospects even more daunting and reinforces their hegemony in the Bundesliga, where they have won this season's title already with a remarkable 81 points from a possible 90, and may well find retaining it even easier next season.
Bayern are taking their closest rivals' best player, who did so much to win the title for Dortmund in the last two seasons, and with him goes almost any chance of a Bundesliga title race next season. Robert Lewandowski, second-placed Dortmund's lanky Polish striker, could well follow him too.
Götze has played only three seasons at Dortmund since breaking into the first team in 2010 aged 18. But he has already won two titles and a German cup, taking on an increased creative role after the departures of Nuri Sahin in 2011 and Shinji Kagawa last summer.
This, though, is the financial dominance that Bayern enjoy. Based in the wealthy south, Bayern have a higher turnover than the next two largest clubs – Dortmund and Schalke 04 – combined. Götze's transfer is a record between Bundesliga clubs, though falls behind the €40m (£33m) Bayern paid Athletic Bilbao for defensive midfielder Javi Martinez last year.
According to Klopp, it was not Bayern's prestige or money that attracted Götze but their incoming manager. "Götze was the player [Pep] Guardiola wanted to sign," Klopp explained. "So if it's anyone's fault it's mine. I cannot make myself 15cm shorter and learn Spanish. Götze wants to work with that extraordinary coach that is Guardiola."
The Spaniard, who joins in the summer, clearly likes Götze because he has many of the attributes Guardiola admires, such as an understanding of space, technical brilliance and a burst of speed. Götze is also a natural pick to play as the "false No 9" in the striker-less system Guardiola developed at Barcelona. Neither Mario Gomez nor Mario Mandzukic are quite the forward players Guardiola tends to like.
Götze played that role for Germany recently, allowing Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller and Julian Draxler to operate behind him. He said it was "a lot of fun", and next season he will be combining not just with Müller but with Toni Kroos, Martinez, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben. And all under the management of the man who built the best club side of the modern era. It is quite a prospect.
Belfast Telegraph Digital