Leon Goretzka: Another German gem joins Bayern Munich
Every now and then the Bundesliga gives birth to a star. Then Bayern Munich arrives to move him into its constellation. Schalke 04 midfield sensation Leon Goretzka is the latest.
The Royal Blues have been raided before. In 2011 Bayern announced it had agreed to a deal with young shot-stopper Manuel Neuer. Without his club's consent.
At the time, Neuer was Deutschland's brightest custodian. In less than five years at Veltins-Arena the baby-faced goaltender amassed over 150 appearances. He almost single-handedly pushed the Gelsenkirchen outfit to its first Champions League final. On two prior occasions the 'keeper-sweeper' was whiskers away from deliver the league's top honours to Schalke.
Just when S-04 thought they were beginning to mount some sort of assault on the Bundesliga after a torrid seven years without their goalkeeping wunderkind, the Bavarian bullies returned, uninvited and at full tilt. It wasn't for another keeper, rather 22-year-old midfielder Goretzka. Similar to Neuer, the youngster was poached without the club's knowledge. His four-and-a-half contract with Die Roten begins next summer.
His switch further exposes the can of worm contaminating German football. Bayern's habitual modus operandi of pilfering its rivals best players erodes the league's competitive balance. The five-time Champions League winners have cherry-picked the best legs in a league they have perpetually dominated. Mario Götze. Robert Lewandowski. Joshua Kimmich. Without remorse. Because they can.
In Goretzka Bayern has robbed Schalke of Germany's most-rounded young midfielder. While he often cites Toni Kroos as his role model, Goretzka is completely distinct. He feels at home in a holding position but covers far more ground than the Real Madrid superstar. Standing 6'2", he is much stronger with calmer presence. Heedless of danger, he constantly dives into tackles. Kroos is far more reluctant.
Not your orthodox defensive midfielder, Goretzka thrives at winning the ball, carrying it all the way up the pitch, then using it to devastating effect. While managing to regain and retain possession steadily, he adds an extra ingredient to his bag of goods. Unannounced, Goretzka storms forward to contribute his quota to the team's attack. Last season, he garnered a combined 15 goals and assists. This term is proving to be his most potent. He has four strikes in just eight starts. For the national team, he netted seven times last year alone. Kroos, in contrast, barely gets into positions inside the penalty area, never inside the six-yard box.
Like most German lads, Goretzka worked his way to the top. Born in Bochum, the 22-year-old began his career at nearby Werner SV 06 Bochum as a pre-teen. Two years later he crossed over to city rivals VfL Bochum. Eye-catching displays for Die Unabsteigbaren youth teams followed. Goretzka was the talk of Deutschland. Superb showings for Die Mannschaft's U17 further swelled his fast-rising reputation. Yet, he remained focused. In all he had spent a dozen seasons developing with the second-tier side before taking the next big step to join Schalke. Five years on, Bayern came calling.
Goretzka's signing brings Bayern's recruits to eight this season. Half were 'donated' by direct rivals. So beware RB Leipzig. Just beware.