World Cup One to Watch: Leon Goretzka - Germany

REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Leon Goretzka, whilst not assured of a starting berth when Germany open their World Cup campaign against Mexico next week, is already a familiar name amongst the defending champions.

The central midfielder -who just completed his final season at Scalke- was a key feature of Die Mannschaft's Confederations Cup victory in Russia this time last summer, scoring his first goal for his nation against Australia and adding two more in the semi-final against Mexico, finishing as the joint-top scorer.

Goretzka, moreover, was also the Bronze Ball winner at the Confederations Cup, and continued his scoring streak for Germany, with three goals in their World Cup qualifiers.

With Mesut Ozil reportedly a doubt for the opener, Goretzka could be called in to replace the Arsenal playmaker as a number ten, whilst he could yet partner Toni Kroos as a deeper midfielder.

This is the beauty of Leon Goretzka.

Past season

Goretzka is a key member of Schalke's team, making 29 Bundesliga appearances as the side finished second to Bayern Munich and regained a spot in the Champions League after a four-year hiatus. The 23-year-old netted four times and assisted a further four goals from midfield in 2017/18.

The midfielder is a highly versatile player, however, able to play behind the striker as a traditional playmaker, in a deeper role as a box-to-box central midfielder, or deeper still in a defensive role as a deep-lying playmaker or defensive anchor.

Goretzka's 2017/18 Schalke appearances by position:

  • Attacking midfielder: 9
  • Central midfielder: 11
  • Defensive midfielder: 7

Whilst Goretzka is more attack-minded than he is defensive, he played seven games as a defensive midfielder for Schalke, and his height (1.89m) stands him in good stead to win aerial duels as a means of clearing his lines.

A highly coveted prospect in world football, Goretzka did what most Bundesliga players do if they're any good and, in January, agreed to join Bayern Munich on a free transfer, signing a four-year deal beginning in July.

International experience

Across 2010 to 2014, Goretzka has represented Germany at U16, U17 and U21 level, before earning his first senior cap aged 19 in May 2014 - a 0-0 draw against Poland prior to the 2014 World Cup. 

The 23-year-old actually captained the U17 side at the Euros in 2012, with the Germans reaching the final and Goretzka netting the opening goal, though they were ultimately defeated by penalties.

Since his debut in 2014, Goretzka has gone on to make 15 appearances for Die Mannschaft, shining at the Confederations Cup, as the joint-top scorer and the Bronze Ball winner.

With a three further goals, this takes his international goal record to 0.4 goals per game. At 23, however, Goretzka is one of the youngest and least-capped players in the German squad.

Tactical profile

The beauty of Goretzka is his versatility, able to play in both attacking or defensive roles. As a number ten, the 23-year-old has fantastic vision and possesses great technique and ball control, with an eye for goal and ability to pop up in goal-scoring positions at the edge of the area.

For instance, the new Bayern man completed 80% of his passes, created 18 chances and mustered a total of 37 shots, with 50% of them hitting the target.

REUTERS/Lisi Niesner

Schalke tend to use Goretzka as a central midfielder, which is where he's best, because of his all-round ability.

He's attack-minded and comfortable on the ball, but he doesn't neglect defensive responsibilities, which, therefore, makes him a brilliantly combative all-round central midfielder.

Goretzka also managed to make 29 tackles and 42 interceptions, whilst winning 29 aerial duels and completed 12 take-ons. This demonstrates that after winning the ball back, he's comfortable enough in possession to progress it forwards, dispossessed less than once (0.8) per game.

Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group D in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

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