Meet Germany's 'Messi'
Germany's former World Cup winning coach and captain Franz Beckenbauer believes 19-year-old Mario Goetze's abilities are like Lionel Messi's.
Teenage rising star Mario Goetze has been dubbed Germany's Lionel Messi and despite an injury-hit 2012, coach Joachim Loew has said he plans to give him a key role at Euro 2012.
Goetze only turns 20 on June 3, six days before the Germans begin their Group B campaign against Portugal in Lviv, Ukraine.
Having joined his hometown club as an eight-year-old, he made his Bundesliga debut in November 2009 and was part of the Borussia Dortmund squad crowned German champions for the last two seasons.
In October 2010, Goetze became Germany's second-youngest player to make his debut, just five months after turning 18.
Great vision and the ability to put team-mates into goal-scoring positions with an array of passes, the attacking midfielder has already proved he can lead Germany's attack, despite his tender years.
He announced his arrival last August with two stand-out performances.
Dazzling in Dortmund's opening game of the season as Hamburg were hammered 3-1, Goetze scored one goal and creating another as German daily Bild ran the headline "Goetzlich", a play on words meaning "Divine" in German.
"We call him 'Goetzinho'," admitted Dortmund midfielder Sven Bender.
"He raises the standard of those around him, he controls the ball as though he has a magnet in his boot."
Five days after humbling Hamburg, Goetze made his first start for Germany and orchestrated the 3-2 friendly win over Brazil in Stuttgart as he over-shadowed the South Americans and scored his first international goal.
He backed that up with the final goal in the 6-2 rout of Austria at the start of September which confirmed Germany's Euro 2012 place.
"He's impossible to stop. You don't get any better than him," Germany's former World Cup winning coach and captain Franz Beckenbauer enthused. "His ability is like Lionel Messi's, as well as his understanding of the game and technique.
"On top of that, he plays by instinct -- just like Messi."
Beckenbauer was not alone: Matthias Sammer, technical director of the German football federation (DFB), went as far as to say Goetze is one of the best talents football-mad Germany has produced.
"He's an exceptional player: fast, creative and with extraordinary technical abilities," said Sammer. "He's one of the most talented players we've ever had."
But Goetze -- whose performances have bagged him a 1.5-million-euro (1.2-million-pound, $1.9 million) endorsement deal with sportswear firm Nike as well as interest from top European clubs -- comes into Euro 2012 lacking match fitness.
A muscle tear and groin problems forced him out of action for four months at the start of 2012.
He was involved in all of Dortmund's last three league games and Loew has said he will play a key part in his plans to take a trophy back to Germany after a 16-year absence and will be more than just a replacement.
"Goetze has only been with us for about a year but plays as though he's always been part of this team. I think that both can play more than just a bench role at the European Championship," said Loew.
"I have worked with many youngsters but none has ever played so confidently in the national team."
Goetze's father Juergen is a distinguished professor at Dortmund's technical university. He had a research position in the United States when his son was born and admitted with a smile that he initially wanted young Mario to play tennis.
The player is one of the first members of the squad born into a united Germany and at just 1.71m (5ft 6in) tall and weighing a mere 64 kilograms (141 pounds, 10 stone), Goezte's skill set compensates for his slender frame.