On the day it was announced that Mario Gotze will be leaving Borussia Dortmund again, it was Erling Haaland who played the role of forgotten man in a 2-0 win at Wolfsburg.
It's the stunning rise of players such as Haaland that has brought Gotze's second spell at his boyhood club to an end. Last time, he was leaving for Pep Guardiola's Bayern Munich; seven years on, nobody is sure of his next move.
He does not suit the flowing 3-4-3 in which Haaland, Jadon Sancho, Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt are thriving - head coach Lucien Favre admitted as much on Friday. While not exactly a relic at 27, Gotze needs a new lease of life in fresh pastures. His career has drifted for too long for a player of his talent.
Sitting as an unused substitute on Saturday, he might have sympathised as Dortmund's latest young superstar went missing.
Between joining from Salzburg in January and facing Wolfsburg this weekend, Haaland had scored 10 goals in six starts in the Bundesliga. His latest came in last week's 4-0 derby of thrashing of Schalke, in which he set up Raphael Guerreiro for the fourth. The 19-year-old has been in Germany barely five months and is already in high demand, lined up for a move to Real Madrid and touted as the heir to Brazil great Ronaldo.
READ:Bundesliga: Dortmund brushes off Wolfsburg 2-0 ahead of Bayern clash
All this made his performance against Wolfsburg surprising. He managed 29 touches, only one more than goalkeeper Roman Burki, won under half of his duels and lost possession nine times. His 20 attempted passes was the lowest number of any outfield player to start the match bar Daniel Ginczek, who was withdrawn after 64 minutes.
The explosive turn of pace, the power with which he can make defenders look amateurish, was not there. He was closed down, eased off the ball and tripping over too easily against Wolfsburg centre-backs John Brooks and Marin Pongracic, who pushed high to keep him far from goal. They didn't exactly bully Haaland, but he might want to check if they at least pilfered his lunch money.
He still managed to play his part in the opening goal, despite his best efforts. The Dortmund right flank was its best avenue throughout and it was from there that Brandt, Achraf Hakimi and Hazard combined, the latter given space to cut the ball back across the box. Haaland stepped, turned and swung his foot, missed the ball completely, and thumped down on his backside, giving Guerreiro a tap-in.
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Dortmund's lead was comfortable, but largely by virtue of Wolfsburg's tepid early efforts. After half-time, Oliver Glasner got his side playing the sort of football that had set it on a seven-game unbeaten league run. Renato Steffen should have scored when he bustled his way into space, beat Burki but only found the crossbar, and his compatriot did well to parry a second effort from 25 yards out that swerved dangerously towards the left-hand post.
In the end, Dortmund only made the win safe as Wolfsburg went for broke, with substitute Sancho racing away on the break and teeing up Hakimi to bury the second. Haaland had a half-chance for a third, but it petered out when he stood on the ball and watched it run for a goal kick.
Strikers are, by their nature, often isolated figures, and Haaland has set such extraordinarily high standards that he's allowed an off-day, particularly in what was only the second game back after a substantial break caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Yet Dortmund will hope for a sharper display in Tuesday's Klassiker. Whether you're playing for or against Bayern, anonymity is never tolerated. Gotze can attest to that.