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Under our Talent Radar banner, we have constantly strived to document and highlight the progress of the younger stars of the beautiful game, before they progress into household names. Our latest initiative within the burgeoning Talent Radar section is the introduction of #The7 feature.
The second edition of this annual feature champions the combination of youth & diversity, as we look to reward seven of the best young individuals across seven primary categories.
When 19-year-old Julian Weigl arrived in 2015 at Dortmund coming from second division side 1860 Munich, nobody – including Weigl himself – could foresee his steep ascend. With newly appointed Thomas Tuchel transforming the Black and Yellows into a possession-based team, the youngster immediately became an integral part from the outset. Weigl is hardly phased by pressure in midfield and, like a good quarter back, he takes his time to play savvy passes with an accuracy far beyond the 90% mark in almost every match. After mostly playing lateral passes to shift the ball quickly from one side to another in BVB’s ball circulation, the now-21-year-old has upped his game in the second year with a more vertical edge.
He is not the great play-making element in this Dortmund team just yet, but he often acts as a sole holding midfielder when Dortmund play in a 4-1-4-1 shape. It’s not necessarily Weigl’s distribution per se, but his intelligent positioning that makes him so valuable for the Ruhr side, and has granted him a call-up to the German national team. He helps building triangles in midfield and is almost always a passing option for his teammates when they are stuck. By now, most opponents have made it their first priority to mark the midfielder out of the game in order to stifle the Black and Yellows, which underlines the significance Weigl already has for this team in only his second season.
Transfers between Munich and Dortmund have tended to be explosive in recent times with the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels, Mario Gotze (twice!) all making the headlines. One player who did trade Munich for Dortmund in uncharacteristically low-key fashion was Julian Weigl. It of course helped that he left 1860 Munich and not their more illustrious neighbours.
When Weigl was snapped up by Thomas Tuchel, many expected him to be one for the future but the young German had other ideas. Not only did Weigl make the step up to the top flight look ridiculously easy, he also wasted little time in establishing himself in Tuchel’s XI. To add to the general impressiveness of this feat, the 21-year-old nailed down a starting position in a role integral to Tuchel’s set up.
The defensive midfield position has seen a major upheaval in terms of style as the Makelele role has slowly but surely transformed into the Busquets role. Weigl is one of the new generation as the numerous similarities in terms of his style of play to that of the Spanish international would indicate. Unlike other young central midfielders who tend to bank on their athletic ability and energy to cover huge amounts of space in the central areas of the pitch, Weigl is more dependent on intelligent positioning and reading of the game. This is not to say the young midfielder lacks energy; it’s a testament to his advanced understanding of the game, he simply doesn’t need to run around like a headless chicken to retrieve the ball.
Another area where defensive midfielders are now expected to excel in is distribution of the ball out from the back. With aggressive pressing all the rage, Weigl and his ilk need to be technically proficient as not only do they have less time on the ball, they also have little to no margin for error. This is again where Weigl’s advanced intelligence stands out as he forms connections between his defence and more advanced midfielders seamlessly. The 21-year-old has impressed a lot of watchers and with Sebastien Rode, another who has turned out for both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, alongside we may see Weigl make his way up the pitch into more advanced areas. Regardless, there is no doubt that Weigl is important to Tuchel and Dortmund’s fortunes this season and many more if he does remain at the club.
Talent Radar Accolades
Team of the Season 2015-16
Runner-Up Player of the Season 2015-16