Goretzka: I haven’t reached my peak yet

Leon Goretzka Leon Goretzka

Germany’s Confederations Cup star Leon Goretzka hopes he can still improve, but is also trying to remain grounded amid rumours linking him with a move to Bayern Munich.

Schalke’s sporting director Christian Heidel has insisted Goretzka will be at Veltins-Arena next season, describing the energetic midfielder as arguably the club’s most important player.

The 22-year-old has earned plenty of new admirers in helping Joachim Low’s young side to reach the Confederations Cup final.

Goretzka struck twice in the space of two minutes early in the 4-1 semi-final victory over Mexico to help book a place in the decider against Chile in St Petersburg on Sunday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Bundesliga champions are believed to be closely monitoring his situation.

And Goretzka, thrust firmly into the spotlight thanks to his stellar recent showings, claimed there is still plenty for him to work on.

Asked by the German Football Federation (DFB) website about his impressive physical attributes, he said: “You always try to improve all areas of your game.

“I also think I’m tactically and mentally strong. But I also know that I can still improve all aspects of my game. I hope that I haven’t reached my peak yet.”

The accolades he has earned in Russia and the persistent links with the likes of Bayern and Arsenal could easily distract a young player, but Goretzka is seeking to preserve some balance as his public profile continues to grow.

“The art is making sure you keep things in perspective,” he said.

“The same goes for when things aren’t going so well. Then I have to ask myself who is criticising me and why. I mustn’t take everything to heart.

“There are people who, when they say I had a good game, I believe, and there are others who I thank for the praise but know how much I should value it.

“What’s important is the assessment of my true friends. That keeps your feet on the ground.”

Low’s inexperienced squad was derided by some as disrespectfully callow prior to the tournament, but they have emphatically silenced those critics by overcoming more seasoned and settled opponents.

For his part, Goretzka feels the team may have benefited from the initial scepticism.

“I didn’t even notice that, to be honest,” he said.

“I don’t read all the stories every day. But last year we had a similar situation at the Olympics. There a young German team showed that you can get a whole nation to rally behind you at a seemingly unnoticeable tournament. Suddenly you gain attention and the support of the fans. This is the case again at the Confed Cup.

“We’ve shown that we can play good football. What’s different to a European Championship or a World Cup is that first we had to win the support. That’s definitely not the worst thing in the world. It keeps everybody honest.”