International Soccer
Germany's Gotze primed for greatness

By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When Franz Beckenbauer talks, the soccer world listens. So when the German legend dared to compare 19-year-old rising star Mario Gotze to Lionel Messi this week, it was hard to overlook.

"It is impossible to stop Mario Gotze," Beckenbauer told Bild. "He plays as if there is nobody else facing him on the pitch.

"He has the same attributes as Lionel Messi."

With six international matches for Germany to his credit - and his first start scheduled in Germany's friendly against Brazil in Stuttgart on Wednesday - Borussia Dortmund and its cast of relative unknowns now officially has a superstar to lean on.

Even if he still lives with his parents.

Gotze quietly helped Dortmund win the Bundesliga title last season, and opened the 2011-12 season Friday with a performance that was, um, Messi-like.

Although Messi has arguably been the best player in the world for four years - and officially the best the last two years - behind his breathtaking play, the young German shares his brilliant instinctive nature.

Germany manager Joachim Loew described Gotze as a player who "has an intuition when he has the ball and also when he doesn't. He is a player who brings a lot to the game, who finds solutions on the pitch."

As Beckenbauer alluded to, opponents cannot find a solution to stopping Gotze. That definitely reminds you a lot of Messi.

With just over one season of Bundesliga experience, Gotze obviously has a long learning curve ahead. But young German stars do not just strive for success, they strive for greatness.

Gotze is currently handling the autobahn with the elegance of a Bugatti Veyron Super Sports, the roughly $2 million car that goes from zero-to-60 in just 2.5 seconds and has a top speed of 267 miles per hour.
Mario Gotze obviously has a long learning curve ahead.


Naturally, Gotze took Beckenbauer's praise in stride.

The smooth attacking midfielder, who will deputize for Real Madrid's Mesut Ozil on Wednesday against Brazil, dished out 15 assists and had six goals last season. His first game of the 2011-12 season? Two assists and a goal.

And while Gotze's individual talent cannot be questioned, his ability to adapt on the fly and put his team first on the pitch have helped transform Dortmund, under Jurgen Klopp, into Germany's best club team. Sorry, Bayern Munich fans.

Dortmund's individual talent does not measure up to Bayern - Loew called eight players from the 22-time German champions for Wednesday's game - but its silky style, built on quick, accurate passing combinations leaves opponents stunned.

Klopp said after the 3-1 win over Hamburg on Friday that, "We can be satisfied with the result, but we'll make sure to rectify anything that didn't work."

If Klopp finds anything that did not work, it will only take a few minutes to correct. Dortmund didn't miss departed Nuri Sahin, who joined Real Madrid, and you wouldn't know defenders Neven Subotic and Marcel Schmelzer and forward Lucas Barrios were out with injuries either.

Dortmund left no doubt it is the team to beat this season, and Gotze will have the chance to reign as the king of Germany if he builds on his display as well as leads his club to another title.

Germany's Messi? That remains a comparison only time will answer. But if Gotze emerges as the missing piece that can take Germany over the hump against Spain on the international level - Germany lost to Spain in the Euro 2008 final and the 2010 World Cup semifinals - he'll be bigger than Messi in his homeland.

And possibly, even on par with Beckenbauer, who captained Germany to World Cup glory as a player in 1974 and as a manager in 1990 when the country won its last World Cup.

Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com.

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