Since joining Bayern Munich from Schalke in 2018, Leon Goretzka has won the sextuple with the Bundesliga's record champions and become a key player in midfield for both club and country.
In 2020/21, Bayern lead the way in the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig closest behind them in the title race. Hansi Flick's side have dealt with injuries throughout the campaign, but Goretzka has been a near ever-present in the side, bringing them to another level in both attack and defence.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com ahead of Der Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund, Goretzka discusses the influence Flick has had on his career, the winning mentality in the Bayern squad and much more...
bundesliga.com: Hansi Flick singled you out as the man of the match against Cologne, are you the key player which you always wanted to be?
Leon Goretzka: "At Bayern, we're lucky that we don't have just one key player but we have a team of 11 key players. Everyone has the potential to decide a game, including myself."
Watch: Goretzka's triple assist performance vs. Cologne
bundesliga.com: How do you see the role of being a key player?
Goretzka: "I try, like everyone else, to show my strengths on the pitch to strengthen the collective. That's what makes a successful team, everyone gives their best to strengthen the collective, that's what I try to do too. It's often discussed now that I keep it tight in the middle of the pitch with Jo [shua Kimmich], we're important for the positioning of the team, for the counter-press. To set things up, how we react to losing the ball. I try to use my dynamism to be a goal threat, to win my tackles when we don't have the ball, to dictate the direction of play. They are the things I'm responsible for."
bundesliga.com: Which areas have you improved in under Hansi Flick?
Goretzka: "We've all improved both individually and as a team since the Corona break. We've taken steps forward. I've settled into the team a lot better, that has only happened because of the trust Hansi Flick has in me. He trusted me to take on this role and I hope I have repaid him."
bundesliga.com: What does Hansi Flick demand of you as a player?
Goretzka: "He wants me to take more responsibility, to support the team vocally, to carry my teammates in the way I play football and make sure we have the right intensity on the pitch. They're things he expects of me. You can always have a good day or a bad day but there are things which I'm expected to do to help the team and I can do those regardless of what kind of day I'm having."
bundesliga.com: Der Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund doesn't look like it's going to be between two title challengers this year, how do you see the game?
Goretzka: "I think it's still a prestigious game in Germany. It gets the most international attention of any other Bundesliga game. It's a special game for us as well because of previous years, of the competition between us. For me personally, I'm from the Ruhr area and have known a rivalry with Dortmund since I was young. I don't need any extra motivation. It's definitely a great game that we can all look forward to."
bundesliga.com: Der Klassiker is still an important game in the title race, especially in the fight with RB Leipzig, how much is that on your mind?
Goretzka: "We just want to win the game and pick up three points. Things are a bit tighter now because of some of our previous results but we're fully aware of that. We want to do our preparation and we'll see what happens but we're concentrating on winning the game."
bundesliga.com: Leipzig are your closest challengers right now, do you have any other teams in mind who could also be dangerous?
Goretzka: "I don't think so. I don't think it'll help us to pick out any more direct competitors, we just need to make sure we collect our points. What I can say about Leipzig is that they've been exceptional this season, they have an exceptional coach, and they have managed to get that consistency in the team. Last year they were looking very good then they caved a little bit. This year they've been consistent and are deservedly in second place but we'll work to make sure it stays that way."
bundesliga.com: In games like Der Klassiker, you're always at the top of your game when this is required, how does your generation of players manage that? Where does that come from in a player?
Goretzka: "It's difficult to narrow that down to just one reason but we're very lucky to have a team that has a lot of players who have this mentality. That's a result of the transfers that we make, to consciously acquire players like this. The players who come here pick it up from the players already here. When I look back at when I first came here it really impressed me from the start. When I think back to players like Thomas [Müller], Jo, David [Alaba], Manu [Neuer], and the first training sessions, you get that you have to win every game. You have to want to win every game. As soon as that isn't the case, they're not happy. That rubs off on you. That's the culture that exists here, it's what impressed me and why I joined. I'm one of those players now who try to live that for the players who are new in the squad."
Dortmund seem to be back to their old selves, in Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho they have two exceptional attacking players in their ranks, how do you rate both of them? Who are you concentrating on?
Goretzka: "We don't only focus on individual players but of course, players like Haaland and Sancho stand out. Sancho was looking really good before Corona and Haaland, it's so impressive what you see from him. This sheer will to score, I really like this, this ambition is so impressive. Raphael Guerreiro, for example, is also a player who I also really rate, he's having an excellent season, always looks to drive forward, to create goals. To only focus on individual players is too simplistic."
Goretzka: "I haven't really thought about that, I don't know how that is for Lewy. The fact is, we'll do everything we can to win our games and this is made a lot easier when Lewy scores our goals. We'll therefore do our best to make sure he scores as many goals as possible. We have done that very well this season, supporting him like that. He has helped us so well to win our games and as long as that keeps going, he can get that record."
bundesliga.com: Jamal Musiala could be your international teammate soon, what do you make of him?
Goretzka: "I was really happy about the decision. The fact that he took the time to listen to his heart, that doesn't happen very often. It's a real honour to play football for your country and happily he gave it serious thought and listened to his heart. For us, it'll hugely enrich the squad. He's showing that he can develop into an exceptional player. He has scored some important goals this season. We'll keep trying to stay behind him, to push him so he can reach the top of his game. He's in a good place with us and we're extremely happy that he chose to play for Germany."
bundesliga.com: A lot of your teammates play for France who you will face with Germany in the European Championships, have you spoken about that?
Goretzka: "To be honest it hasn't come up at all. We've got a lot on our plates with the team at the moment and the games are coming so thick and fast that we only really think about the next opponents. I haven't spoken to any of my French teammates about the Euros."
How do you rate the German team's chances in the Euros?
Goretzka: "We're in a difficult situation at the moment, that's no secret. We wanted to go through a transition which was then hindered for various reasons. It made things difficult for us. The last game against Spain was the low point. We need to work our way out of it. Despite all this though, we have got quality in our squad and we can justifiably hope for a successful European Championships."
bundesliga.com: How can the German team have success?
Goretzka: "It's very important that we find a settled team that we want to play with, that's been a huge challenge for the coach because of a lot of injuries, players missing due to Corona, not many games, not many training sessions. We've hardly had any training sessions. I don't know how often we've played with the same 11 but very seldom. That's important for a team, you have to know how things are going to play out, to get to know each other better, learn each other's strengths, learn how to balance out the weaknesses. That's the key to success for every team and that won't work fully until during the tournament. We have to make sure we have more than three games but we'll do that."
bundesliga.com: How do you see your role in the Euros?
Goretzka: "Ideally I want to deliver in the Euros in the same way I do at Bayern. That's what I'm talking about, we need to find a settled team which will take us forward. You'll see then who is needed and for what. Once we have defined that, we have the quality in the team to carry it out."
bundesliga.com: You started playing football at four and later transferred to Bochum, can you still remember that transfer?
Goretzka: "Yes, I played for Werner SV against Bochum in the Mini Kicker and I think we surprisingly lost 8-3 and I scored all three goals. That's when Bochum became aware of me I think."
Watch: Who is Leon Goretzka?
bundesliga.com: You even went to school alongside starting your professional career at Bochum, how cool and how stressful was that for you?
Goretzka: "It was intense when I look back at how my days were. I don't think I could've managed it for any longer than the two years I did it for. I played for one year in the second league when I was doing my A-Levels and one year for Schalke in the Bundesliga and Champions League. That was a fine balancing act, being on the road for three or four days a week. It only worked because of a high level of engagement from the school, the club, a lot of understanding and a lot of hard work from my side. At the same time it was an incredibly great time, I made some of my closest friends in those classes and I'm still friends with them. They're very important for me. It was a great opportunity to get some distance from the football universe and live in a different bubble. It helped me a lot to develop personally."
bundesliga.com: You are from the Ruhr and used to play for Schalke, what are your thoughts on the situation at Schalke?
Goretzka: "It hurts at the moment, as it does for everyone connected to Schalke. You don't want to believe it. I don't want to talk about the reasons, I can't really because I'm so far detached, but there isn't a football fan in Germany who wants Schalke to get relegated. It's a great club which belongs in the Bundesliga and represents what the Bundesliga is about. We have to hope for the best."
bundesliga.com: Which coaches from your youth were important for your development?
Goretzka: "There are always important coaches in a football career. My youth coaches, Christian Britscho and Dariusz Wosz from my under 17 and under 19 teams, I took a lot from them and had a great time with them. Domenico Tedesco was definitely a very important coach for me when I was at Schalke, he taught me a lot tactically and we had a very successful time together. We were runners up with Schalke. My coach at Bayern now, Hansi Flick, he is important to me. He helped me onto the next step and I have won the biggest title of my career with him. Jogi Löw as well, he trusted me from very early on and invited me to play in the national team. We then won the Confed Cup. There are always a lot of coaches, I have probably forgotten one or two who will send me an angry text message after the interview! They're the ones who I can think of off the top of my head though."
bundesliga.com: What connects you to the Ruhr and which values are associated with this area?
Goretzka: "You can summarise it in one word - home. I'm from there, I grew up there, I spent the majority of my life there. Of course, there's a certain culture there, also concerning football. Honesty and hard work are the most important things. That's something that is reflected all over and you can't avoid it. To give an obvious example, in a stadium in the Ruhr they celebrate a tackle which you had to sprint 40 metres to make in exactly the same way as a goal. That's the honest hard work which is really valued. That is evident in all areas."
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