Mario Gotze's second assignment at the Borussia Dortmund youth club was not exactly as he wanted it to be.
The 27-year-old former Golden Boy had been the most promising football talent in Germany for a generation before he controversially exchanged the Westfalenstadion for Bayern Munich in 2013.
It was his dream to be led by Pep Guardiola, who lured him to Bavaria.
But he never really pulled trees and found his way home a few years later. There the attacking midfielder will move on again this summer. However, unlike last time, it is less obvious where his skills are in demand.
Neither party was able to agree terms for a new contract, which means Gotze, who is entering the players who are generally considered to be the peak years of his career, will be a free agent this summer.
Below are candidates to become his next goal. A dream option, two realistic options, a placeholder selection and our suggestion.
Gotzes best performance was undoubtedly achieved by Jürgen Klopp when Borussia Dortmund ruled German football. He played a crucial role in 10th place when BVB successively won championships at the beginning of the last decade. During this time he scored 31 goals in 116 games and registered 45 assists under Klopp.
One can rightly say that the current Liverpool boss has had a positive impact on him. Before returning to Dortmund, there was an opportunity to sign for the Reds as Klopp was interested in reunification, which Gotze revealed in the 2018 documentary, Being Mario Gotze.
Gotze on #LFC – "You should ask Klopp if he wants me. If he does, he should approach me." https://t.co/i9LwhBjgNU pic.twitter.com/ABIIZUCii7
– Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) January 9, 2016
“I decided to leave Bavaria and Jürgen Klopp was interested in taking me to Liverpool. And I was also interested in working with him again, ”he said.
"It still exists. He is a world-class coach and that's why it's always an option. I chose Borussia Dortmund, but it wasn't a decision against Liverpool or Jürgen Klopp. On the contrary."
The time is obviously over and it remains to be seen whether Klopp will still bring the 63-time German international to Anfield. If this is possible – and remember that there is no transfer fee – you can bet that this is Gotze's dream, especially given the newly discovered status of Liverpool as the supreme force of English football.
Realistic: Bayer Leverkusen
There is no doubt wherever Gotze ends up and he will have a great say, regular playing time must be guaranteed.
So far, he has appeared in 13 of Dortmund's 23 opening games this season. A combination of illness and not central to Lucien Favre's plans has had a major impact on his Bundesliga minutes, which are currently 503. Given his skills, this seems to be a waste of talent.
So far, he has only played his home football in Germany, and there is no reason why this will not be the case this summer either. One option is Bayer Leverkusen, who could lose its star playmaker Kai Havertz, and Gotze is no stranger to manager Peter Bosz, under whom he previously worked at BVB. Bayer could offer him European football when this season comes to an end, as they are currently two points below the Champions League positions.
Moving to a completely different continent cannot be ruled out.
Gotze, who despite his rare appearances remains a household name and life in front of the camera is something he might want to shake off and revive a once promising career that should have started after the goal that secured the fourth world of Germany, cup titles in Brazil six years ago.
Back then, leaving a major European league for major league soccer was apparently a goal reserved for those entering their twilight years. Not like this anymore. For someone like Gotze, it's also a fresh start and a stress-free life, since he's not exactly a household name in the United States or Canadam, where his future may lie, since Toronto FC has been closely associated with him recently.
Squawka suggestion: AC Milan
What about the catalyst that revives a fallen giant?
It goes without saying that the last few seasons have been difficult for AC Milan, which fought regularly for the European Cup finals in the 2000s, but it seems to be getting light at the end of the tunnel.
From today's perspective, they're just two points away from European football next season, and they could keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who signed a six-month contract for the return in January – for another year.
? Mood on Sunday morning (late sleep) ? # IZBACK #SempreMilan #SundayMood #CagliariMilan pic.twitter.com/6w3ctLYobL
– AC Milan (@acmilan), January 12, 2020
The experience he brings with bucket loads has paid off, and Gotze, an admirer of the club from afar, is said to be in favor of a change. The fact that his wife Ann-Kathrin Brömmel is already familiar with the city due to her modeling work only increases the prospect of a permanent change. A step that benefits both his personal and professional life.