The making of Leon Goretzka, the midfielder wanted by everyone

In Depth

Leon Goretzka has been linked with every one of the Premier League’s big six – Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham – not to mention several of Europe’s other leading clubs – and it comes as no surprise to his former captain at Bochum.

Goretzka is out of contract at Schalke next summer and able to start negotiating a free transfer in January. Schalke are reportedly willing to make him the highest-paid player in the club’s history to keep him at the Veltins-Arena, but with Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Juventus also reported to be interested, the 22-year-old has a big decision to make.

Marcel Maltritz, Goretza’s first club captain at Bochum, says it was obvious even when Goretzka was promoted to the first team at the age of 17 he was a player destined for bigger things.

“He was very shy. I think he was the youngest player in our team, but his brain and his attitude were very mature,” Maltritz says.

“In his first training sessions he was very nervous and didn’t want to make mistakes. But everybody saw his elegance with the ball, his precision in possession, his power over the few first metres and his overall quality on the field.”

Like any teenager heading into the adult game, Goretzka needed to adapt to the rigours of what was on offer in Germany, especially in the lower half of Bundesliga 2 where Bochum were battling to stay up, but their young star was pivotal to their survival chances, even though he was in his formative footballing years.

“He was a very good player and that’s no small thing at the age. He was the best young player at Bochum for a long time,” Maltritz says.

Goretzka’s quality certainly didn’t go unnoticed to those outside of the club either, and he was signed by Schalke at the end of that breakthrough season. The following year he made his full international debut for Germany aged just 19 in the build up to the World Cup.

He has since developed into one of the standout performers in the Bundesliga, but it has taken him time to evolve into the imposing figure in the centre of the park he now is. As with many talented young players, his meteoric rise did not come without its drawbacks.

“He needed to be stronger with his body, with more strength training, and sometimes he needed a break with training, because the games with Champions League, national team and Bundesliga games are very hard for a young player,” Maltritz says.

It led to a number of injuries for Goretzka early on his Schalke career, but he made 75 appearances over the last two seasons and has once again been a regular this campaign, leading to interest from some of the biggest clubs in the world.

“Now he is very strong. The first year in Schalke he had a lot of injuries. I think the last year was the best of him.”

Goretzka already has 12 caps and six goals to his name and is expected to be part of the Germany squad in Russia next summer, which is no small feat for one of the best international sides in football who will be expecting to reach the final stages of the 2018 World Cup.

Bochum are proud of the player they helped nurture, and Goretzka stays close to his first club in the city he was born.

“He was the best young player of Bochum, because of his talent but also of his down to earth attitude, so we are very proud of him,” Malritz says. “He is very often in Bochum and he lives together with his father in Bochum.”

Wherever he ends up, in January or next summer, Maltritz believes he will go on to achieve even greater things.

“Naturally, he will be one of the greatest players in Germany. But he must win trophies like the Bundesliga or something else. The next step must be to go to a top club of Europe.”

And does his old captain think he would suit the Premier League?

“I think yes, but it is up to him…”

By Will Unwin

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