The emotions were running high at Schalke's Veltins Arena on Saturday. There was a general air of delight at having secured second place and a spot in next season's UEFA Champions League, but it was tinged by sadness: Leon Goretzka made his final appearance for the club after five years in Gelsenkirchen, the midfielder set to swap Schalke for Bayern Munich this summer.
And while everyone is happy - the über-talented Goretzka gets his headline move, Schalke get a return to the European elite – there were still a few tears. bundesliga.com was in the mixed zone to hear what the Germany international had to say after his final appearance in royal blue - a 1-0 win against Eintracht Frankfurt.
Question: Leon Goretzka, how did your last day out there as a Schalke player feel?
Leon Goretzka: Something like this is always hard to put into words. It was the first day I really allowed myself any emotions. Beforehand, I'd been pushing everything to one side to focus purely on football. At the final whistle, and then with the video that was played in the stadium, I was slightly overcome. We've experienced a lot of good moments together this season and then I realised it was all over. It was emotional, but I'm pleased about how the farewell went. I couldn't have asked for any better.
Classy farewells for @leon_goretzka & @markopjacaofficial from @s04! Show them some 💙💙 #Schalke fans! . . . . #S04 #Schalke #Schalke04 #Gelsenkirchen #veltinsarena #königsblau #Bundesliga #Football #Soccer #Germany #fussball #futbol #goals #lovefootball #thebeautifulgame #instasport #team #soccerislife #footy #skills #matchday #player #match #footballgame #ball
Question: Did you cry at all? The team lifted you up in front of the main stand after the final whistle.
Goretzka: I was really trying not to, but my eyes were certainly a little bit wet. It was very emotional at the end when they showed the film on the video cube. We've really been through everything together, but after the season we've had, nobody should be singled out. I found that a bit uncomfortable, even though I knew what the lads were trying to do. After the season we've had, the whole team deserves to be celebrated.
Question: How were the few days building up to the farewell?
Goretzka: I kept getting presents from the fans – an unbelievable amount of people thanked me for the five years I've spent here. That made me really proud. If you look at how the transfer panned out and then the number of people wishing me the best, thankful for the time we've had together, it's really remarkable. It's outstanding, in fact, and shows how good the Schalke fans are. I can't thank them enough.
Question: You even put on the armband towards the end of the game against Frankfurt. Was it agreed in advance that Ralf Fährmann would go off and you'd take the armband?
Goretzka: I asked him this week if he fancied a rest, but he said he really wanted to play! I didn't actually know that he was going off at half-time, but it was lovely that I was able to wear the armband, too. That was also a sign from the team, who have been behind me for the last six months. The fans, the club and most of all the team are the reasons it ended on such a positive note.
Watch: Check out Goretzka's top five Bundesliga goals!
Question: In fact, the only thing missing from your send-off was a goal ...
Goretzka: That would have been the cherry on the cake, but the most important thing was that we played well. It was one of our best performances – we dominated, gave them no chances to counter, played good football and created loads of opportunities. It would have been great to score myself; I had the chances, but it's not the end of the world.
Question: You gave your shirt away after the game. Who was the lucky recipient?
Goretzka: I visited a fan club a few days ago and was welcomed so warmly – it was unbelievable. Beforehand I was a bit worried about how they'd welcome me, or whether they even wanted me there. When I got there, there was a little girl who said the thing she wanted most in the world was the shirt from my last game. If you'd seen her big, wide eyes – it was pretty tough to say no to that, so I kept my word.
Question: What's the overriding feeling as you prepare to leave Schalke?
Goretzka: I've experienced a lot in five years here, both positive and negative. The emotional extremes swing both ways. There's an outstanding fan culture here – the whole of the Bundesliga knows that. No team enjoys coming here, because they know what atmosphere is going to await them. When you add that to the performances we've been putting in this season, and how we're playing football, it makes for an outstanding combination. Of course I'll miss that. That goes without saying.
Question: You could be seeing Schalke again quite soon with Bayern in the Supercup. Would you look forward to that?
Goretzka: Of course, I'll always enjoy coming back here. That's why it was important to clear everything up – now I can come up with a clear conscience! I've even had a few comments from some of the lads who want to show me that the move was a mistake.
Dietmar Nolte reporting from Gelsenkirchen