Bayern Munich midfielder Leon Goretzka is looking forward to the challenge of taking on Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi after going up against Cristiano Ronaldo.
When he was at Schalke, Goretzka twice faced Ronaldo’s Real Madrid, losing 6-1 in February 2014 and winning 4-3 at the Santiago Bernabeu a year later – with both matches part of Champions League last-16 exits for the Bundesliga side.
The imposing midfielder will get his first chance to take on Messi in a professional match when Bayern play Barca in the Champions League quarter-finals in Lisbon on Friday.
However, Goretzka knows it will take a team effort to contain Messi, who was pivotal in getting Barca past Napoli in the last-16 second leg last week.
“After having played Cristiano Ronaldo several times, it’s nice to be able to play against another leading footballer of our decade,” said Goretzka.
“The only way it works [stopping Messi] is collectively. Everyone knows just how gifted he is, he is capable of finding many solutions also in tight situations.
“We will have to fight back as a team. If one player can actually take away his fun in the game, I don’t know. We just have to fight back as a team and try to play our game.”
Goretzka left Schalke for Bayern on a free transfer in 2018 despite interest from Barcelona, and he feels resisting the lure of Camp Nou was the correct decision.
“Back then I deliberately took a long time. I had a few options to stay with Schalke. I listened to everything and made a conscious decision in favour of Bayern. I have never regretted making this decision,” he said.
The suspension of major football during the coronavirus pandemic means the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Champions League will be played as single games rather than over two legs, with UEFA squeezing in the closing stages of the tournament ahead of the start of the 2020-21 season.
Goretzka believes Bayer Leverkusen’s Europa League exit at the hands of Inter on Monday was a reminder of how that change has altered the dynamics of European competition.
“This is a knockout game. The right mental mix is always required. Yesterday the Leverkusen game annoyed me because they actually played a good game but were eliminated because of 20 minutes. I had the feeling that they would have progressed over two legs,” he said.
“I think we can beat any opponent. Nevertheless, we know that a very good team is waiting for us with world-class players. But we will play with our chests puffed out, like we have over the past nine months. We are already in a positive mood.”