He may not be guaranteed a starting spot for Germany at the FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer, but Bayern Munich-bound midfielder Leon Goretzka has been singled out by Bundesliga legend Lothar Matthäus as the player most like him in his prime.
Matthäus captained Germany to World Cup glory at Italia ’90 with the No.10 shirt on his back, although at his peak he was a force at either end of the field rather than the mercurial playmaker traditionally associated with the number.
“I think I was someone who worked very well for the defence and the attack,” Matthäus told bundesliga.com before being pressed on which player today most resembled him. “Nobody can play like me (laughs!). There are differences and similarities but my position was box-to-box and Leon Goretzka is a player like this.”
Matthäus won seven Bundesliga titles with Bayern between 1985 and 2000, with a Serie A triumph with Inter Milan in 1989 in between. As his career progressed the now 57-year-old prolonged his career by dropping deeper, eventually becoming a sweeper. It is a journey Goretzka may one day make, given the pace of the game today.
“The speed is much higher than 20 or 30 years ago,” Matthäus continued. “It’s the same when you compare the World Cup to the ‘60s and ‘70s. That was football standing still, and football at Italia '90 was moving and running a little bit more than before, but now it’s really high-speed!”
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Goretzka scored four goals and assisted another two as Schalke finished as runners-up to Bayern last season, sealing a return to the UEFA Champions League for the Royal Blues after a four-year hiatus. Bayern pounced, and if Goretzka can emulate Matthäus this summer, their faith will feel vindicated even before he has pulled on a red jersey.