Why throwback midfielder Leon Goretzka is becoming FC Bayern's main man

FC Bayern bagged themselves the hottest free agent in soccer when they beat a host of Europe’s elite to Leon Goretzka’s signature last summer.

The Schalke midfielder’s deal at the Veltins-Arena expired at the end of the 2017/18 campaign and Bundesliga rivals FC Bayern signed him to a pre-contract agreement to guarantee the Germany international’s next home would be the Allianz Arena.

It was a coup for the Bavarians.

The former VfL Bochum youngster had more than 100 appearances in the German top flight despite his young age; he was just 23 when he made the move to the champions, and also finished as the joint-top scorer at the 2017 Confederations Cup.

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A versatile, goalscoring midfielder, on the open market he would easily command a fee in excess of $50million. Yet FC Bayern, as shrewd as ever, bagged Goretzka for nothing.

He took time to adjust to his new surroundings, netting just once for the club heading into the winter break in Germany. New coach Niko Kovač used Goretzka in a variety of roles as he worked out how the flexible midfielder could best serve him.

It wasn’t until the turn of the year that the No.18 truly announced himself to the FC Bayern faithful. But he’s done so in style.

In the 942 minutes he’s played for the Bavarians in 2019, Goretzka has netted six times and assisted a further three goals. His return of seven goals in the Bundesliga means the 2018/19 campaign is his most prolific to date.

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But the biggest positive has to be how the 24-year-old is influencing must-win games for Kovač's side. He scored twice in the 3-1 win over Hoffenheim in January.

He also assisted in the 3-2 win over Bayer Leverkusen as well as setting up the equaliser against Freiburg in Bayern's recent 1-1 draw. 

Those goals and assists have helped the reigning champions reclaim top spot from long-term leaders Borussia Dortmund. 

As well as performing in the Bundesliga, the Bayern No.18 also netted the opener in the incredible 5-4 DFB-Pokal quarter-final victory over Heidenheim recently. 

Like a good, old fashioned box-to-box midfielder, teams can't handle his late runs into the penalty area. It's an art very few of the modern-day middle third players have mastered, yet Goretzka appears to be at the top of his game despite being years away from his peak. 

He's in the top ten for goals from midfield in the German top flight this season with 0.43. Combine that with his 0.21 assists and Goretzka has had a hand in 0.64 goals per 90 this season. It's a record a number of attackers would be proud of – let alone a midfielder. 

He ranks in the top 20 for touches in the opposition's penalty area, top 15 for shots attempted and top 15 for big chances scored. Goretzka is a reliable goal threat from the middle third and, as shown in the heat map above, he's enjoying an impact all over the pitch. 

A throwback to the midfielders who ruled Europe in the 2000s, he could become the prototype for all coaches moving forward as they look to add goals to their middle third. 

Goretzka's debut campaign has been a big success. But now, fully acclimatised to the demands of playing for Germany's biggest club, he could push on and be even better next season. 

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