Mario Götze is 23 years old and the scorer of the winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final. But this season, as Bayern Munich won the domestic double, Götze only made 21 appearances and scored only six goals — career lows in both categories. He would like to stay with the club, but Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has publicly said “No one here wants you. We told you that. Why are you doing this?” (Not his exact words.)
Mario Balotelli is 25 years old and scored three goals at Euro 2012 (one of three Marios to do so!). On an injury-plagued loan from Liverpool this season, Balotelli made 23 appearances and scored three goals. That’s down from 28 appearances and four goals with Liverpool the previous season and it was enough to get him excluded from Italy’s Euro 2016 squad. He would like to stay with Milan, whose struggles have been just as massive as his own, but they do not want him.
Coincidentally, the two misfit Marios could be teammates at Liverpool next season, even though neither of them particularly want to be there. Balotelli has point-blank said “I was not happy at Liverpool and don’t want to go back” while Götze recently backed out of a nearly completed transfer to Merseyside that would have reunited him with Jurgen Klopp and bumped up his wages.
How did it come to this for players who were not long ago two of the brightest young stars in Europe?
For Götze, the path forward is clear to everyone but him. He would likely get his career back on track with any club other than the one he stubbornly wants to remain with. For Balotelli, that path is far less clear. Newly promoted Serie A club Crotone are the only ones this side of China that sound genuinely interested in him and that’s probably not the move he wants to make, either. In the few moments he was healthy this season, Balotelli did show flashes of his old self, so he shouldn’t be considered a lost cause. But for now, he and Götze are together on the Island of Misfit Marios.
There is an inspirational Mario model for them to look to, however. After two miserable seasons with Fiorentina, Mario Gomez went Besiktas this season, where he scored a whopping 28 goals in 41 appearances to lead the club to their first Turkish Super Lig title in seven years and reclaimed a place in Germany’s squad for Euros after a long absence.
Never count out a once super Mario.