June 24, 2017

SOCHI, Russia (AP) With his lung-bursting runs, shrewd vision on the ball and versatility linking up play, Leon Goretzka's reputation as Germany's midfield dynamo is growing by the game.

Thanks in no small part to a change in diet.

Once lethargic and injury prone, Goretzka eradicated dairy, pork and nuts from his menu and he's never looked back.

A debilitating bowel inflammation that used to slow his recovery from ailments has been soothed by the nutritional changes and the 22-year-old midfielder is now one of the in-demand players in Europe.

''I have changed my diet in the extreme,'' Goretzka said Saturday at the Confederations Cup. ''It's been the case for a year now.''

Having been denied a part in Germany's World Cup-winning campaign in Brazil in 2014 due to injury, Goretzka has been making a resounding case for inclusion in the squad for the title defense in Russia next year.

Goretzka has excelled as a midfielder fulcrum in an inexperienced squad brought to Russia this month for the Confederations Cup by coach Joachim Loew. After playing a role in all the goals in the opening 3-2 victory over Australia in Group B, Goretzka went one better by opening his international account to force a 1-1 draw with Chile on Thursday.

''To perform at this level and do to well at this level requires more than a match,'' Goretzka said through a translator. ''I am certainly not the kind of player who always scores two goals in a single match. People should get used to that and not expect that of me.''

Goretzka is trying to downplay the hype, shutting out the plaudits from pundits in the same way he tells younger players to ignore bad ratings in newspapers.

''I am not someone who is impressed by media reports and the hype that is generated about how I play and what kind of player I am,'' he said ahead of Sunday's game against Cameroon. ''I do know that my performance at the moment is high and is not influenced by what the newspapers write about me. I am certainly going to keep level-headed and keep my feet on the ground no matter what.''

Loew has no qualms about talking up Goretzka's influence on the team as he prepares to make only his eighth international appearance.

''He has delivered,'' Loew said. ''He has played very well in both matches. Given his youth he is already quite a personality in this team and it seems to be clear that he is carefully planning the next steps in his career.''

That could involve a move from Schalke, with German champion Bayern Munich and FA Cup holder Arsenal linked with a move for Goretzka in the summer transfer window.

Loew has been offering guidance to a player who is already displaying maturity beyond his 22 years.

''We had long conversations and talked about different possible scenarios because I wanted to know what he was thinking and what kind of opportunities he envisaged,'' Loew said through a translator in the Fisht Stadium. ''I certainly spoke my mind but ... it was a personal, intimate conversation. He said he wouldn't focus on his future on clubs right now ... but he is intelligent enough to come up with the right solution for his career.''

Though Goretzka rails against the commercialization of soccer, his technique, pace and flexibility across midfield has made him a valuable commodity.

Peter Neururer, who coached Goretzka at boyhood club Bochum four years ago, has called his former pupil a ''once in a century talent.''

''There is no one comparable in Germany who is endowed with these qualities,'' Neururer told Germany's Sport1 television this week.

In 41 appearances last season, Goretzka scored eight goals and provided eight assists for Schalke. In a year, Goretzka could leave for free when his contract expires. The motivation for moving in this off-season could be to play in a European competition ahead of the World Cup, with Schalke missing out on a return to the Europa League after a disappointing 10th-place finish.

''I won't talk on possible switches to a different club (during the Confederations Cup),'' Goretzka said. ''As soon as there are facts I will be providing them and publicizing them on what my decision is. But now there is no news in that respect.''

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Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup

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