Yet another pulsating season has passed and, yet again, several players have stepped up to make a name for themselves after a strong campaign. Such intrepid spirit shown by many can only be bested by Julian Weigl; the young holding midfielder has made a real name for himself in helping Borussia Dortmund regain their foothold in the UEFA Champions League.
Unsurprisingly, Weigl was relatively unheard of in the world of football during his spell with 1860 München. The academy product was saw as one for the future by the Lions’ hierarchy, and rightly so; making his debut in February 2014, the youngster has went from strength-to-strength ever since putting in shifts crucial to helping his side.
The start of the 2014/15 campaign saw Weigl gifted with the captaincy, albeit soon stripped after an off-the-pitch incident. Despite the distinct possibility of relegation, performances excelled throughout the season, and, as a result of putting his teammates to shame, interest from Borussia Dortmund arose and a move to Westfalia ensued.
A new manager in Thomas Tuchel brought reform; tactics and formations were altered to bring a breath of fresh air to the club in need of change on the back of a poor season. Moving players around and a new philosophy was a start, but it was wise transfers in the summer that propelled Dortmund back up the table.
The addition of Roman Bürki and Gonzalo Castro were smart additions, but it was indeed Julian Weigl who stole the show. As philosophy shifted towards possession-based Juego de Posición, the ex-Münchener blossomed instantly in picking the ball up from the back and building play through the spine of his new side. In short, Weigl was the bridge between the defence and midfield.
Weigl played for one of the country’s worst sides, last season, in a position overlooked by many. However, the lanky 20-year-old doesn’t just spark attacks up the pitch; he also embraces the very essence of his natural holding midfielder mentality. Breaking up play efficiently through reading the game and intercepting the opposition's passing lanes may sound easy on paper — or on Fifa 16 — but on the pitch it couldn’t be further from the truth. So impressive has his performances been in catching the headlines, the Bavarian has often been likened to Barcelona ace Sergio Busquets, who also finds himself dwarfed by the likes of Andrés Iniesta, Neymar and, of course, Leo Messi.
Such skill is baked up in the complimentary words of former boss Torsten Fröhling: “With Dortmund he is showing his true quality in a league that allows him to. He always demands the ball, it’s a courage I’ve never seen from such a young player before.”
Reading all this, you’d be forgiven for thinking Dortmund purchased the player for an astronomical fee, but this couldn’t be further from the truth; Weigl arrived from die Sechzger for the cut-price of €2.5m. No matter how hard you may try in putting a dampener on the transfer, the player has already paid off the minimal fee in getting der BVB back to the promised land of the Champions League.
Whilst participating exceptionally in many notable games this season, there is one that stands out from all others in jumping out from under the radar and that is the final home game of the Hinrunde, the dominating win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
The game sticks in the minds of many and it is where Weigl fully announced himself as one of Germany’s hottest prospects. Although, going behind early, Dortmund rallied to a strong win — just days after losing to Greek side PAOK. However, it was the Bad Aibling-born player who was the pièce de résistance of the match. To set the tone, Weigl set a new Bundesliga record by taking 191 touches; 182 of which were passes — which emphasises how quickly play was shifted, pinning Frankfurt well inside their own half. On top of this, the German boasted a strong passing accuracy rate of 95.6%, which, needless to say, was impressive.
On account of the countless performances in all competitions in his breakthrough campaign, it comes as no surprise national coach Joachim Löw has kept Weigl in his plans for the Euros tournament in France and, by all right, should use him in abundance.