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Leon Goretzka as a right-back? Get the Löw-down

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How close was Leon Goretzka to becoming Germany’s right-back of the future? It almost happened until Joachim Löw ultimately decided against asking the player to move.

Germany v Norway - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images

Leon Goretzka has been one of the breakout performers for Bayern Munich since the season’s restart last month. Always a tremendous athlete and talent, the 25-year-old seems to have finally begun to “put it all together” in Bavaria, while also bolstering his physique as an added perk.

As much as Goretzka seems to be cementing himself as a midfield staple for his club, it was not too long ago that Germany coach Joachim Löw was considering asking Goretzka to move to... right-back. Yes, the fallout from Joshua Kimmich’s move to the central midfield almost meant Goretzka would have to drop further back in Germany’s formation until Löw thought better of the situation.

With performances like he had against Bayer Leverkusen, Leon Goretzka is asking a strong case to be a long-term starter for Bayern Munich.
Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

As the 60-year-old coach admitted to kicker, a potential position shift for Goretzka was firmly in the cards for the national team as Low toyed with the idea. Ultimately, Low decided against the move. Why?

“Because Leon never played this role,” Low said. “And that requires games and training. With his dynamism, his feeling for the ball and his understanding of the game, this would have been an opportunity.”

Löw later went on to praise Goretzka’s development as a player. “(Goretzka is a player) who you can rely on as a person and as a player,” said Löw. “He has a certain depth, is very professional, lives very consciously, is clear about his role and with his attitude an example.”

Löw also noted that Goretzka “looks outside the box” and remarked that the player is a “very interesting conversation partner.”


BFW Analysis

Goretzka’s development and maturity as a player has been tremendous this season, especially since Hansi Flick took the reins in Munich. A physical, aggressive, and athletic presence in the midfield, Goretzka has shown the ability to smoothly transition between sitting back as part of a double-pivot to playing as a distributor centrally, to becoming a dive-bombing presence within the box.

FC Bayern Muenchen - Training Session
Is this the double pivot for the long-term future in Munich or will the club commit to an extended stay for Thiago Alcantara?
Photo by M. Donato/FC Bayern via Getty Images

Even with all of those attributes, Goretzka has historically had a bit of a tough time shifting to a wide position on the big stage, as he displayed for both club and country. In 2018, Löw infamously pushed Goretzka to right-wing against South Korea where Germany was the victim of a massive upset. It was a disappointing effort for Goretzka (subbed off in the 63rd minute) in a World Cup-elimination loss that will long sting Germany fans.

For Bayern Munich, Niko Kovac attempted to play Goretzka at left-back against FC Augsburg in September of 2018. Goretzka looked extremely uncomfortable in the match and was hastily subbed off in the 46th minute.

Still, those instances do not degrade the overall progress and maturity that Goretzka has shown this season. With his future now cemented as a central midfielder, Goretzka has also put Bayern Munich in an interesting position. Thiago Alcantara’s contract negotiations are in progress, but the club must assess what the immediate — and long-term — future looks like in the central midfield.

With three players essentially competing for two starting roles, it will be fascinating to see if Bayern Munich officially commits to Thiago or opts to declare an allegiance to a future with midfield anchored by Kimmich and Goretzka.