It is nearly two years since Franz Beckenbauer said that Mario Gotze "has the same assets as Lionel Messi in terms of his technique and understanding of the game."
The time that has followed has done little to dampen those comparisons. Each goal and each assist bring fresh links between the German protege and Argentina's four-time Ballon d'Or winner.
They are links which Gotze wanted to play down. In fact, Spanish newspaper Marca reported him saying that he would much rather be spoke of as the "German Cristiano Ronaldo."
There's little chance of that now, given that the 20-year-old recently hit the back pages when it was announced he would leave Borussia Dortmund for Bayern Munich this summer. Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich.
Ripples of suggestions that he was the new Messi are likely to turn into waves when he becomes a pupil of Guardiola—the manager who accelerated Messi's rise to the top by moving him into the middle.
Bleacher Report's Bundesliga columnist Clark Whitney compiled some stats that suggest that Gotze is already exceeding what was achieved by Messi at their equivalent ages.
Both made their senior debuts at 17 and were regulars in their club sides and full internationals by 18. At 18, Gotze contributed directly to a goal—scoring or assisting—at a ratio of 0.59 per game, compared with Lionel Messi's 0.48.
The following season, aged 19, Gotze's ratio dropped to 0.56, however it still ranks higher than Messi's 0.50 at the same age.
Gotze vs. Messi, Age-By-Age in All Club Competitions
|Gotze at Age||Appearances||Goals||Assists||Goals and Assists per Game|
|Messi at Age||Appearances||Goals||Assists||Goals and Assists per Game|
Barcelona's No. 10 has kicked on to unprecedented levels since then. But how far off reaching those levels is Bayern's new boy?
As a creative force, not far at all—he may even be ahead now.
Incorporating solely their respective leagues and the Champions League, both players have assisted 14 goals this season and Gotze has contributed 2.1 key passes each game; Messi 1.5.
Delving deeper into the statistics here—only focusing on league stats—and it is revealed that Gotze creates a lot more chances (61) than Messi (44) already, despite the fact the Argentinian (1321 at 85.7 percent) has completed far more passes than Gotze (723 at 83.5 percent).
When it comes to putting the ball in the net though, it's unfair to expect any sort of fair comparison. Lionel Messi's goalscoring feats are unbelievable, and no one expects Gotze to compete with him. Not yet, anyway.
The Barcelona forward has scored 52 league and European goals this season and averages 4.8 shots every game. Gotze, in the same competitions, has netted 12 times with an average of 2.0 shots per games.
Elsewhere, it is the German who seems to get more stuck in and defend from the front. He has completed 46/54 attempted tackles and won 18/50 headed duels, compared to 12/19 and 5/17 by Lionel Messi.
To fulfill the tag of the new Messi, it seems all Gotze needs to do is start scoring more goals over the next few seasons—he's already showed signs of improvement this season and being at Bayern will only help. Not that it's ever as simple as that, but that's what the stats point towards.
He may not want to be compared to Messi, but by opting to join Guardiola in Munich he's definitely opted in to the comparisons. There's no way out now.