It was early June when Markus Krösche flew to Mallorca. He had arranged to meet Mario Götze, who was vacationing there with his family. Looking for a difference player, one who is sure of the ball, creative and strives for playful solutions in a small space, the sports director of Eintracht Frankfurt had been rebuffed a year earlier with the attacking midfielder. But now Götze, who was under contract with PSV Eindhoven at the time, had signaled to Krösche in a telephone call that he could definitely imagine a move to Frankfurt.

The duo sat together for almost three hours when Krösche finally picked up his cell phone “because I had the feeling that the change would work out” and dialed the number of Oliver Glasner, the Eintracht coach. He was on his way to dinner with his family, who had to wait half an hour before Glasner, as he revealed later, was sure after the phone call with Götze “that Mario would sign in Frankfurt”. Which the 30-year-old did on the afternoon of June 22 with the Europa League winner.

A good two and a half months have passed since then. According to the impression, Götze has now settled in well in Frankfurt and at Eintracht. On Wednesday evening, when Sporting Lisbon is a guest at the Bundesliga club for the first group game in the Champions League (6.45 p.m. / DAZN and in the WELT live ticker), all eyes will be on him again – on him, who Germany 2014 in the final against Argentina for the World Cup title and who delivered a game last Saturday, when Eintracht beat RB Leipzig 4-0 at home, in which the experts and the media were full of praise for him afterwards.

“Mario Götze – the ball stroker” was the headline of the “Frankfurter Rundschau” and described a scene from the second half against Leipzig, in which Götze made it look easy after a shot from goalkeeper Kevin Trapp: “He (Götze, d. R. ) twitched briefly, indicated a concession, shielding the ball, only to then open the body in one flowing movement and take the ball down the barrel. The man from Leipzig rushed past, looked puzzled, the fans cheered.”

When the game was over and Lothar Matthäus was asked about Götze, the 1990 world champion raved about the 2014 world champion: “How Mario played football: joy, desire, clever, intelligent, safe passing. He always made the right decisions. This is the Mario we always want and know. I wish him more of these games because we all enjoy him.”

There hasn’t been as much fun as Götze himself had on Saturday and the viewers in the past few weeks. It took some time to adjust and a system change, which coach Glasner undertook after Filip Kostic, one of the best left wingers in Europe, switched to Juventus Turin in early August. Against Leipzig, Eintracht played with a back four, before that with two sixes as protection – in midfield Götze pulled the strings and stood out a little from a strong Frankfurt team, which without Kostic plays a lot more offensively and is not as left-heavy.

Götze ran 11.5 kilometers and thus the most of all professionals on the field. 79 percent of his passes were received by his teammates, and he also won the ball eleven times in tackles. He started Daichi Kamada’s 1-0 lead with a cross, and the third goal was preceded by a rebound after a shot by him.

They are happy in Frankfurt that they managed this transfer coup with Götze. As for the expectations of the prominent and almost three million euro expensive access, coach Glasner recently said emphatically that you have the 30-year-old Mario, “whom we brought from Eindhoven – but not the 22-year-old world champion. Mario is doing great. But he can’t decide every game for us.”

Because of the high expectations of Götze, the once so carefree career path had become a difficult one, especially after the 2014 World Cup victory. A return to BVB, which he had left in 2013 for FC Bayern, did not bring the hoped-for trend reversal in 2016. It wasn’t until Götze left Germany in 2019 and tried his luck in the secluded Dutch league that he blossomed again.

Now he seems fit again, fully trained. Above all, however, he seems at peace and grounded after returning to his advisor Volker Struth last autumn, from whom he had separated in 2016. The latter was felt when Götze was asked after the Leipzig game about his outstanding performance about a return to the German national team and the upcoming World Cup in Qatar. “The World Cup is not an issue for me. I’m concentrating on myself and what’s happening in the club,” Götze replied nonchalantly in the ZDF “Sportstudio” before he added: “I don’t want to talk about it anymore either.” That ended the topic.

At this moment at least. If Mario Götze continues to play so well in the coming games, it cannot be ruled out that national coach Hansi Flick will pave his way back into the elite selection, even though he has a wide range of top players on offense. The contact with Flick, at least that’s what Götze said at the weekend, was never broken. You would have known each other too long and too well for that.

But now Götze’s focus is on the upcoming tasks with Eintracht. For their first participation in the Champions League – in addition to Sporting, Tottenham Hotspur and Olympique Marseille are the other opponents – they have a clear goal. “We want to get into the knockout phase. Tottenham are the clear favourites, behind them the other teams sort themselves. These are 50:50 games that we want to and can pull on our side if we bring top levels.”

By the way, great persuasive skills were not necessary in June on Mallorca. “Mario had many opportunities, but he really wanted to join us,” said Markus Krösche: “He’s good for us and we’re good for him.”