July 21, 2017

Leon Goretzka: Finally Living Up to His Potential

You hear about Ousmane Dembele, Julian Brandt, Kingsley Coman and their excellent performances, but Leon Goretzka? He rarely gets recognition for the huge impact he had for Schalke this season. He has come so far, and it was a rocky climb up to the top. There was high expectation for the youngster when he joined Schalke from his boyhood club, VfL Bochum. Shortly thereafter, he captained the German U17 side in a European Championship final, and his future looked very bright. If managed correctly, the conventional of the time went, Goretzka was expected to be the future captain for Germany.

Unfortunately, not everything works out how we want it too. Injuries stalled in Goretzka’s career. Doubts started to spread: can he live up to the early promise?

Well, this season he has bounced back with brilliant performances that helped Schalke and his national team. He is finally living up to the bill and this article will tell you why he is the real deal.

Injuries, Injuries, Injuries … You have to wonder if the beautiful game did not have any injuries, how many elite other players would emerge? Goretzka broke out as a talented 18-year-old, but he was not able to live up the hype because of the consistent injuries. According to Bundesliga.com, “since signing for Schalke, the now 22-year-old has missed 46 Bundesliga matches – or over a third of all the club’s league games – as a result of muscle strains, ligament damage and illness, among others.” So you might wonder what has he done this season to overcome those problems? The prospect was diagnosed with chronic bowel inflammation which had a huge effect in his recovering. He managed to solve the problem with a diet. He stopped eating gluten, pork, cow’s milk and nuts and therefore recovers from games much quicker. This is dedication. Goretzka needed to see what was the issue with his consistent injuries and needed a change. Instead of just washing away his career and blaming injuries, he decided to do something about it. He changed his diet which changed his stocked of a slowly regressing player into now a Bayern Munich target. A winner’s mentality.

Goretzka has been described as “once in a century talent” by his former coach at Bochum. If that did not convince you, then Joachim Löw, coach of the German National Team has stated: “He’s one of the most talented players in his age category. He’s got very good technique and has a lot of pace, both with and without the ball. He’s also got character and comes across as someone very mature for his age.” That is massive praise from a manager, who’s seen many talented players develop and grow, so Löw knows he has a very special player in hands with Goretzka.

What’s so special about Goretzka? What does he have that other youngsters do not? First of all, Goretzka is physically imposing. An absolute monster, standing at 6 foot and 2 inches, he uses his physique brilliantly.  Even though at times he has placed as an attacking midfielder in the number 10 role, he has still massively helped Schalke with his brilliant defensive contributions. Tireless and strong, Goretzka always made his presence known in the middle of the park. For example, he completed 2.2 tackles per game last season and an excellent 2.6 interceptions per game. Also, he made 629 challenges this season. So he’s defensively active in a very physical way.

Not only is Goretzka a powerful midfielder who can tackle and break play apart, he also has a creative flair that makes the dynamic midfielder absolutely impossible to deal with. His driving runs into midfield have made opposition midfielders and defenders look foolish. Although he is able to play the killer pass, Goretzka did a fantastic job in building up the play and allowing the players in front of him to flourish. Even if his most appearances were in a holding/central midfield role, he has still managed to score 5 goals and 3 assists. He offers Schalke a completely different dimension with his physique and power, combined with his creative flair. He has also shown versatility and flexibility, playing as an anchor in midfield or able to play as attacking midfielder, behind the striker. Goretzka is the most complete all round player they have on the team — and he is only going to get better.

After that wonderful season with Schalke, The Confederations Cup squads were announced. Joachim Low picked a surprisingly reserves German team which included Leon Goretzka. The squad did not include the brilliant world class players that played in the Euros or World Cup. Khedira, Muller, Boateng, Kroos, and Ozil were not in the squad. Someone needed to step up and perform. Perform he did. Goretzka has done brilliantly for club level, but in order for him to go that next level, he needed to perform on the biggest stage.  He needed to play at the highest stakes and defy expectations. Play against the biggest opponents and still manage to perform. This where champions are made, and he has proved to be a champion. He has started all four games for Germany and managed to score three goals. Two of the goals were scored against Mexico. He has had a stellar season where he defied all expectations. When many thought this could be Gotze’s revival, Reus back to the top, or even maybe Mario Gomez scoring goals in the Bundesliga again, but Goretzka had different ideas. This at season could be the season where Goretzka engines finally start working, and now he’s going to fly.

What should Goretzka do now?

He now needs consistency. One good season needs a better excellent season after it. He needs to have another season where he is an established player of the team, and therefore be selected for the World Cup. He will kick on from there, and once he does, it will be very hard for Schalke to ignore the big boys once they come calling. Nobody knows what the boy will become, but for now, he is a star in the making. A star that Schalke must take good care of. Khedira must see this boy as a threat and wonder how good must he be to keep him away from his starting spot. Germany must utilize this opportunity to bring in youth in their team and establish stars that will last 8,9 or 10 years. The real question is, will the injuries come back to haunt him or will this be an opportunity for him to be a German legend? Of course, time will tell.

Finally, after seasons of injuries and hard times, last season has been a success for him. He has shown great physical and technical qualities that stunned the Bundesliga. He’s done it internationally and club level. The upcoming season could be another opportunity for Goretzka to put his name up there. To take it to the next level. If he continues to improve and emerge, no one knows how far the game can take him. It’s the beautiful game but a crazy one as well. Nobody knows where this crazy game will take him, but if he continues playing the way he does, the sky is absolutely limitless. That may be the season where we can say Leon Goretzka just broke through, and we can also say, Leon Goretzka is finally living up to his potential.

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Ahmed Al Jalahma

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