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From Prodigies to Underachievers: Mario Götze and Other Germany’s Wasted Talents

Once considered as golden prospects, Mario Götze and some other German wonderkids failed to reach the superstar status anticipated for their immense talents. But who are they and where are they now?!

Florian Wirtz enjoys being in the limelight as the most promising German football talent in circulation. And it is a somewhat deserved status since he is towards the end of a spectacular season with an unbeaten Bayer Leverkusen side led by Xabi Alonso. There are also uprising rumors of the duo’s departure to Los Blancos in 2025. But the Pulheim-born creative prospect must take the correct steps in his career to avoid getting caught up in the heavyweight of media pressure that can seriously stunt growth and derail his career before it properly takes off. After all, Mario Götze and Marko Marin were also once surrounded by sensational nicknames such as the “German Messi.”

Top Talented German Footballers Who Didn’t Reach Their Potential

Germans commonly deliver their football talents in a meticulous way, and there are fewer cases of hyped youngsters fading into unfulfilled careers among them compared to many football-loving countries. But even Die Mannschaft has seen its fair share of prospects who just couldn’t live up to the hype over the past couple of decades.

Christoph Metzelder, Heiko Westermann, and Holger Badstuber never reached those projected elite football status. Players like Tim Borowski and Lewis Holtby, the captain of the U-21 Germany squad in 2013, had decent but unspectacular professional careers when fans thought they’d be somewhat different. And remember the seemingly prodigious then-youngster Julian Schieber, who turned out to be a flash in the pan.

But in particular, there are four German players whose careers were expected to be world-shattering: Mario Götze, Sebastian Deisler, Julian Draxler, and Marko Marin.

Marko Marin

Photo via Bongarts / Getty Images

Marko Marin was once a definite football prodigy, but now he is almost a forgotten man. At a young age, the wonderkid was dubbed the “German Messi” by Gladbach fans and even had Manuel Neuer calling him the “Messi of Belgrade” because of his Serbian descent. He was also voted the country’s best under-18 player in 2007, and Kicker decided to choose him over Mesut Özil as the best outfield Bremen player. As a spectacular agile young player, it was like Marin would become the next big thing.

After a promising start at Gladbach, Marin took that fire to Werder Bremen where he formed the explosive attack with Mesut Özil that amazed the fans. Enough for Joachim Löw to call him up to that young and exciting 2010 World Cup German squad that finished third. With Özil’s departure to Los Blancos, Marin experienced a drop in form, but his bright talent convinced Chlesa to sign him in 2012 with the fans on cloud nine. Despite great expectations, a nasty combination of diverse injuries and that crazy depth in the Blues squad meant the German talent basically just got shipped off on a bunch of painfully never-ending loan spells away from Stamford Bridge. It was like he could never reach previous heights again.

By Marin’s own admission, his best career stretch came way later in 2018 during a stint with Red Star Belgrade, where he even bagged their first-ever Champions League goal. It doesn’t seem to be living up to that once white-hot hype as the next big talent to follow the path of Neuer, Müller, Kroos, and Özil from their younger days. Maybe a decent and respectable run as a professional, but absolutely nowhere near the greatness that was once predicted for him.

Julian Draxler

Photo via Bongarts / Getty Images by Alexander Hassenstein

In terms of collective achievements, one can’t quite name Julian Draxler as an underachiever. He won the 2014 World Cup with Germany and racked up a solid collection of domestic trophies during his stint at PSG. But did he really satisfy the expectations surrounding his youth? The Observer named him among the ten most promising young talents in Europe back in 2014, and he was the captain of the Germany squad that won the 2017 Confederations Cup, where he even took home the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. What’s even more interesting is that his former Brazilian teammate at PSG, Marquinhos, straight-up stated that in purely technical terms, Draxler impressed him more than global icons like Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar in 2017.

Draxler made his debut for Schalke at the early age of 17 when he became the fourth-youngest-ever Bundesliga player at the time. He also became the youngest-ever player who played 100 appearances for Die Knappen. His €42 million move to PSG seemed like the perfect next step after his breakout campaign at Wolfsburg, where it was apparent he wasn’t content after just one season. Yet, things proved to be against his expectations. After a positive start at the French capital, the club started stacking serious superstars like Neymar and Mbappe, and Draxler gradually lost his starting spot within the squad. After an underwhelming loan to Benfica, he’s now continuing his career at Al-Ahli in Qatar at 30.

It remains an unanswerable question whether a stronger professional mindset would have made his career better. Or how things would have changed if Schalke had let him join Juventus in 2015 instead of Wolfsburg will always linger over Julian Draxler’s career.

Sebastian Deisler

Photo via sport1.de

Sebastian Deisler’s tragic story now seems to become a distant memory in the minds. As a young phenom coming up, he was legitimately named the best prospect of his generation for Die Mannschaft at the time. The weight of those expectations was immense, especially with Germany experiencing a seeming drought of world-class talents after legends like Lothar Matthäus and Jürgen Klinsmann led them to World Cup glory in 1990. Deisler’s coming to the football scene was also two years after Germany’s Euro 96 triumph.

Despite being a visibly prodigious and versatile player, an extended string of knee injuries completely derailed Deisler’s career before it ever really took off. After making his debut for Gladbach at just 18 in 1998, he was quickly scouted by Hertha Berlin, where those knee woes first began with issues like torn ligaments and damaged cartilage. But Bayern still saw enough of his extraordinary talent to spend big money bringing the injury-prone Deisler to Munich in 2002. During his time with the Bavarians, those chronic knee problems and the mounting mental toll of constant pain and rehab ended up being too much for him. He also missed out on representing Germany at the 2006 home World Cup.

At just 27 years old, Deisler was forced into early retirement in 2007 after a prolonged battle with the black dog of depression. His sad fate exposed how massive media pressure and poor psychological management of the players by the clubs can absolutely become detrimental to a young player’s career, especially when combined with chronic injury struggles.

Mario Götze

Photo via Premierseason.com

When it comes to wasted German talents, Mario Götze’s unexpected career downfall just hits different. At a young age, his records and awards seemed to be like a foreshadowing of magnificent years ahead which were almost left unfulfilled: the 2009 Fritz Walter Medal as the country’s top youth player, the 2011 Golden Boy award, and that record €37 million move to Bayern in 2013 making him Germany’s most expensive player ever at the time. He was the player who during the 2014 World Cup final was urged by then-Germany coach Joachim Löw to “show the world you are better than Messi”, and the wonderkid brought Die Mannschaft the golden trophy after 24 years in a memorable night. But what went wrong for him in the following years?

It all started so promisingly. He made his Dortmund debut at 18, as his teammate Mats Hummels dubbed him Gotzinho. Gotze also played a key part in Die Borussen’s 2010-11 Bundesliga triumph under Jürgen Klopp. His move to Bayern to work with Pep was supposed to take him to even greater heights, but Guardiola’s tinkering with his role drew criticism from legends like Franz Beckenbauer as his development stalled. After all, before Götze’s arrival, club president Uli Hoeneß admitted the record signing had been the club’s idea, not Pep’s.

Even his return to Dortmund failed to re-capture the magic, as he was diagnosed with a debilitating metabolic disorder that caused fitness issues in 2017. Götze simply couldn’t sustain that world-beating form after such an exciting beginning in his career. Now 31, his career has tapered off into solid-if-unspectacular production with stops at PSV and current club Eintracht Frankfurt. It seems to be a far cry from the great potential and status he once possessed.

Enzo Mastroianni
Enzo Mastroianni
As a lifelong football fan, Enzo directs his attention to Italian football and the history of the game. He also indulges in exploring diverse pragmatic views on football tactics. Aside from football, he adores classic literature and Japanese cinema.
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