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Bayern Munich’s Leon Goretzka talks over his developmental days with Schalke 04

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Without a strong developmental program at Schalke 04, Bayern Munich’s Leon Goretzka might not be regarded so highly these days.

1. Bundesliga, Offizielles Mannschaftsfoto und Portraits FC Schalke 04 Photo by Team 2 Sportphoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka was not one of those prodigious talents that essentially blow off school to focus on his sporting career.

In fact, Goretzka was one of the players who managed the dual role of student and budding professional.

“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,” said Goretzka in an interview with Bundesliga.com. “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.”

1. Bundesliga, 1. Spieltag, FC Schalke 04 - Hamburger SV
Leon Goretzka manning the midfield in the Schalke 04 youth system.
Photo by Team 2 Sportphoto/ullstein bild via Getty Images

From those youth days, Goretzka credits coaches Christian Britscho and Dariusz Wosz as major factors in his development, along with former Schalke 04 manager Domenico Tedesco.

“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,” said Goretzka. “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.”

The Schalke connection for Goretzka runs deep and he does not like to see the club in its current state (i.e., a dumpster fire).

“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,” Goretzka remarked. “It’s a great club which belongs in the Bundesliga and represents what the Bundesliga is about. We have to hope for the best.”

Even with the sorry state of affairs at the club, Goretzka has a strong fondness for the Ruhr region.

“You can summarize 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,” Goretzka said.” 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 meters 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.”