Interviews

Let’s Talk: Julian Weigl with Luca Gierl

On Wednesday afternoon, Sky Sports reported that their sources had made them aware of a £19m bid being prepared for Dortmund youngster Julian Weigl from City. Sky Sports Germany followed through and even Sport BILD got in on the act. However, it’s all been very quiet since…

Julian Weigl is the latest in a batch of young players linked with City this January. As with seemingly every transfer link these days, Pep Guardiola is presumed an admirer of said player (I wonder how he finds time to manage Bayern Munich?) and Weigl is no exception. The 20 year old German has been a common feature in Thomas Tuchel’s new look Dortmund side, earning rave plaudits and inevitably being linked away.

To find out more on Julian Weigl, I spoke to Borussia Dortmund fan Luca Gierl, a writer for the @yellowwallpod.

Who is Julian Weigl?

Julian Weigl has probably been the biggest surprise of the first half of the Bundesliga season. The 20 year old joined Borussia Dortmund at the beginning of this season for less than two million pounds. At his old club, 1860 Munich, he was made captain at 18 years of age but lost his captaincy after a taxi ride with his teammates where some not so nice words about his coach were said. As it turned out, the taxi driver was an 1860 fan himself and told the club’s officials all about it.

Last season Julian wasn’t even a regular for 1860 in the second division. But when Thomas Tuchel become the new coach of Dortmund in 2015, it turned out relatively quickly that he preferred this skinny kid named Weigl over Johannes Geis, a long-time Klopp target and at the time, a much higher rated player. Many BVB fans weren’t impressed with the signing and very few people even expected Weigl to feature in the first team at all; but Weigl was able to prove all those people wrong and became an important first team player as the deepest midfielder for Tuchel’s possession based system.

It’s been noted, particularly on Twitter, how well Weigl is doing in such a notoriously tough position to play in and at such a young age. How special is he?

It basically says it all that Weigl featured in all but one competitive match this first half of the season. Weigl is such an integral part of the team that Tuchel can barely afford to take him out, especially with Nuri Sahin still injured. Weigl’s style of play might not be very flashy nor is he very athletic but he’s always where he needs to be to keep the ball circulation alive and there aren’t many more reliable passers out there, especially not at that age. An incredibly important attribute in Tuchel’s Juego de Posicion like system.

Sport BILD claimed that Manchester City see him as Yaya Toure’s replacement. They might seem on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to build and height but what a lot of fans don’t realise is that it is Yaya’s technical prowess and passing range that needs replacing, not his athletic ability. Is Weigl the right player to replace him?

In my opinion it’s not as much a question if Weigl is good enough to replace Toure but more if he is the type of player that could replace Toure. The short answer to that question is: no, he’s not. Weigl isn’t strong or fast enough to drag the ball to the final third like Toure does, nor is he a goalscoring threat and he can’t produce magic in the blink of an eye like Toure does at times. But is that what City need? Assuming Guardiola will take over at City next summer I’d argue they don’t. Weigl probably comes closer to the deepest midfielder at Guardiola’s Barcelona: Sergio Busquets. Of course, Weigl still has a long way to go but the similarities are there. Both aren’t the most physically gifted and have a similar body type. Both have a great feeling for the game and know how to position themselves to make others shine. Both are reliable but rather unflashy when it comes to defensive duties and prefer short combination play over long hoofed balls upfront. Weigl isn’t as good a dribbler as Busquets (yet?) but he’s still very good when put under pressure.

Contrary to popular opinion, Dortmund aren’t really a selling club. You’ve rarely sold players you want to keep, especially young stars. What are the chances of a proposed January move for that sort of money?

First of all, the move would make a lot of sense from Manchester City’s perspective. Guardiola appreciates Weigl a lot, he would fit his style almost perfectly and he plays at a position where Manchester City need strengthening.

But here comes the big BUT: Dortmund won’t sell Julian Weigl and especially not during this winter. As pointed out earlier Weigl is an absolutely key player for Dortmund’s success and there is no way there will be changes made at such a crucial position during the season. Weigl has a contract with BVB until 2019 without a release clause and Dortmund is finally debt free with quite some cash up the sleeve. As you stated, Dortmund don’t sell players they want to keep, even when the financial situation wasn’t as great. All the key players leaving BVB in the last few years either had a release clause, were in the last year of their contract or had their contract running out. Neither of these three things are the case for Julian Weigl, which is why he won’t leave Dortmund anytime soon.

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