Everything you need to know about… Leon Goretzka
The 60-second story
Goretzka first came to attention with his eye-catching displays for Bochum’s U17 and U19 sides. In his second season with the former, an impressive run of six goals in seven games was enough for the 17-year-old to be promoted to the next age group ahead of time. But even at a higher level he continued to excel, netting 11 goals in 15 appearances for the U19s despite often being deployed in a deeper midfield role.
His impressive performances for Bochum's youngsters soon resulted in a call-up for Germany, and he featured in 17 games for Die Mannschaft's U17s. After consistent rave reviews for club and country, Goretzka made his Bochum first-team debut at 17 in the 2.Bundesliga. The youngster started his local side's opening game of the season at home to Dynamo Dresden, helping himself to a debut goal with a headed equaliser.
From there he was a regular for the struggling second division side, starting 36 games. That was all he needed. Bundesliga side Schalke 04 snapped him up for an undisclosed fee (reportedly just under €3m) last summer, and since then he's netted two Bundesliga goals and stepped up to Germany's U21s.
- Date of birth: February 6, 1995
- Place of birth: Bochum, Germany
- Position: Midfielder
- Height: 6ft 2in
- Club: Schalke; 22 apps (5 starts), 3 goals
- Country: Germany U21s; 3 apps, 0 goals
Why you need to know him
He's captained his country in a European Championship final, featured in the Champions League against Real Madrid, and been previously scouted by the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. Not bad by the age of 19, right? In an era where Germany are producing some of the best talent the country has ever seen, it seems only a matter of time before Goretzka follows the likes of Mario Götze, Julian Draxler and Marco Reus into the bigtime.
The maturity he's displayed so far demonstrates his readiness for the top flight, despite only making his Bundesliga debut last August. Schalke are easing him in - only five of his 15 appearances have come from the start so far this season - which seems like a smart approach.
Schalke were delighted to land their man in the summer, with General Manager Horst Heldt proclaiming: "he was on the wanted list of lots of clubs."
Goretzka has all the attributes of a fine holding midfielder. Standing at 6ft 2in, the youngster is a strong, calming presence in the heart of the midfield. He’s been compared to Real Madrid and Germany star Sami Kherdira thanks to his ability to shield the defence and help break up play. He's not just a defensive head, though, and also links up with his side's more creative players to help build attacks.
The 19-year-old may not be much of a goalscorer, but his composure and work-rate in midfield are pivotal. He constantly hassles opposition attackers for possession of the ball, giving them no time or room to manoeuvre. It would, however, be unfair to pigeonhole him into being just a defensive midfielder - the youngster is also accustomed to driving from midfield and bursting into the final third (not surprising given his goals record at youth level), which goes some way to explaining his reasonable goal haul despite a lack of regular playing time this season.
Perhaps his biggest weakness is a lack of flair (although just try saying that after you've watched the finish for his goal against Bayer Leverkusen above). Even though his passing is good, he perhaps doesn’t have the ability to play the killer ball like Götze and Mesut Özil. It's difficult to brand the youngster a match winner like his slightly older countrymen, which isn't ideal when his side are chasing a game. They do, however, have the likes of fellow youngsters Draxler and Max Meyer for that.
Darius Wosz, former Germany international and now youth coach at Bochum, said: "He is an exceptional player, I've not seen anyone like him at youth level. He has a clear head, he's mature, and nothing can distract him."
Bochum's former boss Karsten Neitzel, meanwhile, hailed his former charge (before he was sacked in April last year). "I have never seen an 18-year-old with so much class and desire," he declared: "The boy will find his way into the world’s best [team]."
Did you know?
Goretzka not only captained Germany's U17s to the 2012 Under-17 European Championship Final, but also netted in the 1-1 draw against the Netherlands which took the game to extra-time. Under his lead the Germans only lost in a shoot-out against the Dutch. The midfielder finished the tournament as second top scorer with two goals (behind Schalke team-mate Meyer on three), one of which being the only strike in Germany's semi-final win over Poland.
What happens next?
Having now moved from the second tier into the Bundesliga with Schalke, the platform is there to showcase his abilities at the highest level. Having already featured in over 20 games in his debut season for Schalke so far - including four times in the Champions League - the next step is establishing a regular place in the heart of Schalke's midfield, and after that, Germany.
Shooting 5 • Heading 7 • Passing 8 • Tackling 8 • Pace 6 • Dribbling 4 • Creativity 5 • Work-rate 9 • Crossing 5