2017 22under22 Countdown – #6: Julian Weigl

“Julian Weigl is going to be a world class player”
– Toni Kroos


Date of Birth: 8 September 1995 (21 years old)
Nationality: German
Position: Central Midfielder
Club Appearances: 88 (1 Goal)
International Appearances: 5
EIF Ability Rating: 68

*EiF Ability Rating is a representation of a combination of the player’s current ability and potential ability. It is determined by multiple rounds of voting, and then an addition of the scores given by each judge. The maximum score a player can have is 80.*


Three wingers, Kingsley Coman, Thomas Lemar, and Leroy Sane, occupied the #9, #8, and #7 spots in EiF’s 2017 22under22 Countdown. We move to #6 with a different type of player: Borussia Dortmund’s silky smooth central midfielder, Julian Weigl. The young German playmaker has been a revelation over the past calendar year, quickly earning himself a consistent starting role in the heart of the Borussia Dortmund midfield and 5 call ups to the ever-competitive German national team.

Julian Weigl was born in Bad Aibling, Germany in 1995. He spent the formative portion of his teenage years at 1860 Munich, and appeared 38 times for the senior team. Astonishingly, Weigl was named the captain of the 1860 Munich side for the first game of the 2014-15 2. Bundesliga season at the age of 18, although he would not retain his captaincy for the entirety of the campaign. After the 2014-15 season, Weigl joined Borussia Dortmund for a fee of just €2.5 million. He first started earning regular minutes for Der BVB during the 2015-16 season, and this year he has kicked on, establishing himself as one of the first names on Thomas Tuchel’s team sheet.


Strengths


Weigl
Weigl possesses intelligence and technicality far beyond his years (Photo: Fussball News)

Weigl’s outstanding passing ability is evident whenever he has the ball at his feet. Long passes, short passes, chipped passes, through balls, one-twos, Weigl does it all with aplomb. In 36 combined Bundesliga and Champions League appearances so far this season, the young German has averaged 73 passes per game with a pass completion rate of 90.4%. Comparing him with the passing completion rates of elite midfielders shows just how insane this statistic is. Thiago Alcantara has completed 90.8% of his passes this year, Sergio Busquets 90.2%, Xabi Alonso 89.1 %, Andres Iniesta 88.5%, and Mesut Ozil 86.6%.

Weigl is already right up there with the best in terms of passing, and this is largely due to the fact that he always knows what he wants to do well before he receives the ball. He is always sure to check his shoulder, he knows how to position his body in the most advantageous way in every scenario, he is aware of where his teammates are at all times, and his first touch is assured and deliberately executed to set up a pass. Additionally, Weigl knows how to dictate the tempo of the match. He is often the deepest-lying central player in the Dortmund midfield, and he knows when to slow the game down, when to go long, and when to drive forward himself to create space for his teammates. His position means that he is not usually too involved in the attack, but he is still certainly capable of scoring a worldie from time to time.


Weaknesses


Weigl
Weigl’s positional awareness and long legs make him an effective defender as well as a skilled passer (Photo: IB Times)

Although one might think that Weigl’s weakness would be in defending based on the type of player that he is, this is actually not the case. His superb positioning allows him to clog passing lanes, his long legs enable him to nick the ball away from attackers, and his height allows him to compete in aerial duels. However, although he is tall, he is not very strong. In a shoulder-to-shoulder battle, Weigl will lose out to most central midfielders. He also struggles in extremely high-paced games in which he cannot control the tempo of the match or when he comes up against a highly energetic, physical opposition midfield. One example of him faltering in this type of environment was in both legs of Dortmund’s recent Champions League semifinal tie against Monaco. Weigl was not his usual self in either game, and he failed to make his mark on the tie. Whether this was due to the presence of two menacing strikers or simply an anomaly is hard to tell, but Weigl’s match ratings, 6.55 and 6.25, respectively, reflect his poor play.


Make no mistake, Julian Weigl is an outstanding talent. At the age of 21, he is passing the ball with the same success rate as some of the greatest playmakers of the past decade, he is starting virtually every game for one of the premier teams in Europe, and he has earned 5 call ups to the German national team. He recently signed a new deal to stay with Dortmund until 2021, quenching talk of a transfer to Real Madrid, and the club could not be happier with his decision. In Weigl, Dortmund have a youthful equivalent of Sergio Busquets, and if his development continues as it has so far, comparisons to Busquets and the rest of the world’s greatest midfielders may not be too far off the mark.