Goretzka: I want to pass on that ‘Mia san mia’
Leon Goretzka has been at FC Bayern some four-and-a-half years now, becoming one of the club’s key players. He’s currently with the squad at their training camp in Doha. Although he had a shortened session in the most recent training, Goretzka still has the first game of the second half of the season against Leipzig firmly in his sights. The 27-year-old midfielder has spoken in an interview about motivational gym sessions with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, his development as a footballer and person in Munich, and what needs to happen by summer for him to look back on this season happy.
Interview with Leon Goretzka
Servus Leon! Before looking ahead, let’s take a quick look back. How long was the World Cup on your mind?
Goretzka: “I obviously needed some distance at first. I got that on holiday, also thanks to my private life, with people who are always there for me. The World Cup chapter is closed.”
On Instagram, you were seen on holiday, in the snow. Under one post you used the hashtag #DigitalDetox. How did you spend the days off?
“I spent Christmas with my family at home in Bochum. Afterwards, I went to Austria to enjoy the snow. Especially during winter holidays, it's automatic for me to have my phone with me only very rarely. I added the hashtag so that people understand why I wasn't so active on social media.”
What are your favourite things to do away from football?
“My friends from my time in Bochum are very important to me. I use the time to do a lot with them because I don't see them that often anymore due to the distance. Otherwise, I like to go out for dinner and actually do all sorts of ball sports as a kind of compensation, especially on holiday.”
There's been a lot of talk about how you've grown physically in terms of muscle over the past few years. How has your style of play changed since you moved to FC Bayern?
“I was a key player at Schalke, and that's the role I've gradually taken on at Bayern, because you can't do that at a club like this overnight. You always have to develop, and the philosophy here is different from Schalke. At Bayern you have the ball a lot more, so you concentrate more on what you can give the team when you have the ball. But also the range of tasks out of possession became bigger. Especially in my position in the centre, you’re involved significantly in both attack and defence.”
Even in your youth, you were a player who often led the way. FC Bayern boasts a special mentality like no other club. To what extent have you developed your character in recent years?
“A lot has happened in these four-and-a-half years. I have matured, both on and off the pitch. For example, when I was at Schalke, I still lived at home. I soaked up that 'Mia san mia' in my first year and want to pass that on. At that time, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben were still here, two of the most decorated players in the club's history. You saw how, despite all their success, they continued to give their all every day in the gym and on the pitch, and were already drenched with sweat before training. When you see that, you have no other option but to join in. It motivates you and really rubs off.”
A lot of new and also younger players have joined since then. Do you then grow into a role model?
“It happens all by itself. If you behave properly, you’re inevitably a role model for others, even if you don't realise it. I don't think, for example, that Franck and Arjen thought at the time: 'I'm going to the gym to show the boys how to do it.' But in the best case, you give others a bit of direction through what you do. Of course, over the course of your career, you also have an eye on giving a steer here and there.”
After an injury in pre-season, you quickly fought your way back as a pillar of the team. How do you personally look back on your first half of the season with Bayern?
“The knee operation came at a bad time, of course. I already had two weeks of pre-season in my legs, was in good spirits - and then I had to go under the knife. But I still saw the time as pre-season. I was able to run again quickly and lay the foundations. I used the rehab to come back in top shape and not have any problems hitting the ground running. That paid off quickly, so I was able to get straight back to playing and helping the team again.”
First place in the Bundesliga, into the last 16 in the DFB Cup and Champions League - how satisfied are you with the season so far?
“We can be satisfied, especially in terms of the development of our game, regardless of the results. We had a more difficult period, but we fought our way out of it because of the way we played. Now we’re doing well in all competitions. We have to make sure that we pick up where we left off and quickly remember the automatisms that we trained here at Bayern. That's the task up to the start of the second half of the campaign.”
It’s well known you have a close relationship with many of the players, including from your youth days. How would you describe the team structure and spirit?
“The weeks before the World Cup were brilliant, we played as if we were one. You can also see that the chemistry off the pitch is top and is transferred to our game. That's not limited to specific players. There's a really good spirit in the team as a whole. We hope we can pick up where we left off and transfer the chemistry from the outside onto the pitch again.”
You mention the good run before the World Cup - how do you want to resume this flow after the two-month break?
“By working hard in the training camp. We put on our running shoes at 7:30am. It's been a while since we did that. It's simply a matter of creating a good foundation so that we can follow through with the programme in the second half of the season.”
How thrilled were you when you were told you’d have running training at 7:30 in the morning?
“As a footballer, of course you prefer to do something with the ball. But I've done these kinds of sessions in training camps in the past and it's always done me good. I know it's very important.”
Do you like pre-season or are you glad when you can get back to the normal playing rhythm?
“You always prefer to be playing, that goes without saying. But we’ve often come up short in pre-season, especially in the past few years. You can see that in some of the injuries. The opportunity to recover from one season and prepare for the new one was never really there. We’ve now had the chance to take a breather. That was important.”
You return with a big game away at Leipzig. How excited are you for the restart?
“Really excited. It just feels good now to have the Bayern badge on our chest again and to prepare for our goals here. We are looking forward to the restart.“
You are four points clear in the Bundesliga. How hungry are you for your fifth title?
“It's the nicest thing there is, to stand there at the end of the season with the trophy and know that everyone is trying year after year to knock us off the top. The title is of course our absolute goal again this year. Although many people say it's boring, we can't take any notice of that. That won't change anything about our motivation.“
It’s Paris Saint-Germain in the last 16 of the Champions League. What do you expect from this heavyweight tie?
“Paris are one of the strongest opponents in Europe with outstanding individual players. It will be a super tie. The Champions League is there for teams like these to meet. This pairing would’ve also been a nice final. At the end of the day, we don't need to hide from anyone and we’re looking forward to the clash. It is an absolute highlight and we’ll be ready.”
What needs to happen in the next few months so that you can look back on the season with satisfaction in the summer of 2023?
“I think we need to have won more titles than we did last year.”
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