Leon Goretzka took centre stage prior to the game with FC Bayern. FC Schalke 04 paid tribute to the U21 national team skipper after he represented the Royal Blues at the Olympic Games in Brazil, together with team-mate Max Meyer. Although the 21-year-old was forced out of the tournament in the opening group game due to an injury, he can still call himself a silver medal winner.
In his return to the Bundesliga, Goretzka produced a good performance but was unable to prevent the record champions from securing a 2-0 victory. In an interview with DFB.de, Goretzka spoke about Schalke's performance against Bayern, being honoured before the game and how he is finding his new playmaker position.
Question: Mr. Goretzka, what is your verdict on Schalke's performance against Bayern?
Leon Goretzka: I think that we played well for long periods in the game. We were so close to taking some points from Bayern. Initially, we had the better chances. In the end, we may have struggled with mental fatigue in one or two situations and Bayern clinically took advantage of that.
Question: Does that mean the team lagged behind mentally?
Goretzka: We invested a lot into our defensive performance in the first half and we produced a good display. But it was also very, very intense. I do think that we were the fitter team. But when you struggle to get close to your opponents in the second half, and allow Bayern to circulate the ball without anything to show for all your running, it can get really tough.
Question: Can you remember any similarly intensive games from the past two years?
Goretzka: We've had a few bright spots here and there (laughs). It was good that we had a compact defence today. We went in for every tackle, and the defenders also pushed forward when we were in possession and attacking. It felt more like we were a cohesive unit than last season. I hope that this will continue to be the case in the upcoming games.
Question: Bayern were booked four times. Rather unusual, wouldn’t you say?
Goretzka: Like I said, we had them on the verge of dropping points. In the first half they didn't really know what was going on. They were losing possession in unusual ways and sometimes cleared the ball poorly. It was actually quite a lot of fun to give them such a hard time. It's just a shame that we couldn't get our reward for it.
Question: What was it like to be honoured prior to the game?
Goretzka: Obviously it was a great feeling. But it also has a bit of a sour aftertaste. I did make my contribution and even stayed in Brazil for a few days after I suffered my injury. But I didn't play as many minutes as Max Meyer and I didn't give the team as much as he did. I'm still happy anyway, and of course it’s a big honour.
Question: Were you still concerned with your shoulder injury during this game?
Goretzka: No, I'm not worried about it now – I wouldn't have been on the pitch otherwise. We already debated if I should play in the Eintracht Frankfurt match, but we decided for the less risky route. I feel completely fine and hope that it stays that way.
Question: You played in the attacking midfield role once again. What was that like?
Goretzka: It was a lot of fun. I can identify with this position. It doesn’t make a great difference to me whether I play in attacking midfield or slightly further back. I'm just really happy to be part of this team. I will continue to play whatever position my coach feels is the best for me in the future, and where I can help the team the most.