Nov 24 (Reuters) - Mario Goetze left his Borussia Dortmund team mates in shock when he decided to leave them for arch-rivals Bayern Munich in April and his goal-scoring return on Saturday can only have added to their sense of bewilderment.
Goetze joined Borussia Dortmund at the age of nine and was considered the jewel of their youth academy and had already won two Bundesliga titles when he departed for Bayern.
Since then, all the signs were that Goetze had made the wrong move.
Nagging muscular injuries effectively kept him out of the rest of Dortmund's season, including the Champions League final against Bayern, and this season he has found himself fighting for a place in a squad brimming with riches.
Goetze, a regular with Dortmund, has started only four of Bayern's 13 games so far this season.
Even with injuries to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Franck Ribery, he was left on the bench again on Saturday, sparing him what the media had dubbed the "Yellow and Black" hell of a hostile reception at the Signal Iduna Park.
Borussia players had asked the fans to give Goetze a gentle return but that was always going to be unlikely.
Former Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann had suggested that Goetze avoid taking throw-ins and corners and when warmed up early in the second half, it was in the players' tunnel rather than on the touchline in view of the Dortmund fans.
When the number 19 went up on the substitutions board in the 56th minute, a deafening chorus of jeers echoed around the stadium and fans made their feelings clear by waving bank notes.
Yet exactly 10 minutes later, Goetze silenced the stadium by stabbing home a pass from Thomas Mueller to put Bayern ahead in an eventual 3-0 win. He put his hands up apologetically, refused to celebrate and was mobbed by his team mates.
When Goetze left the club it was a clear sign that, in financial terms, Dortmund still cannot compete with their brasher rivals from Bavaria. It also left his team mates and coach Juergen Klopp in a state of shock.
"Mario is already one of the best 10 players in the world, so it was a shock for us," said defender Mats Hummels after the 37 million euro move was confirmed in April. "I've hardly slept at night."
"To lose a player who knows exactly how we think, who was raised by the club and, despite that, prefers another club, makes it really difficult."
The timing also soured the relationship between the two clubs, especially as it was announced on the eve of a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid.
Saturday's match, which ended Dortmund's six-match unbeaten league run against Bayern and left them seven points behind the Bavarians, was another stark reminder that the gap between the two seems to be getting bigger.
As for Goetze, it remains to be seen whether, despite his successful home-coming on Saturday, he has really made the right move. (Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by John O'Brien)