Borussia Dortmund and Switzerland centre-back Manuel Akanji is known for his speed of thought on and off the pitch. - © DFL
Borussia Dortmund and Switzerland centre-back Manuel Akanji is known for his speed of thought on and off the pitch. - © DFL

Manuel Akanji: Who is the Borussia Dortmund and Switzerland defender hailed by Giorgio Chiellini?


Borussia Dortmund's Manuel Akanji has the brawn and the brains to thrive at the very highest level for years to come - and that's just the opinion of legendary Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini. profiles a centre-back with some very impressive career numbers...

Manuel Akanji

Age: 26
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Centre-back
Country: Switzerland (38 caps)

Key stats

Akanji was born in the town of Wiesendangen in the district of Winterthur and took his first professional steps at the same club as his sister. At 19, he was snapped up by Basel and quickly began to build an impressive reputation with the Swiss Super League giants, making eight top-flight appearances despite an injury-hit maiden campaign with the club. Picking up a league winners' medal in his first season, Akanji subsequently featured 18 times in all competitions as Basel won a league and cup double in 2016/17. The right-footed centre-back featured in 28 games in all competitions prior to completing his switch to BVB in January 2018.

Across 151 competitive appearances for Dortmund, including 112 in the Bundesliga, Akanji has lifted the 2019/20 DFL Supercup and 2020/21 DFB Cup. He ranked in the top five Bundesliga-wide for passes completed in 2019/20 and 2020/21, and started every game during Switzerland's run to the UEFA Euro 2020 quarter-finals. To date, the 38-time senior international has played his part in 88 to-nil pro matches for club and country, whilst scoring nine times.

Plays a bit like: Vincent Kompany

Akanji likes to carry out his defensive duties at centre-back, but, comfortable playing with either foot, has also been successfully deployed on the right and left. Standing at 6'1" and weighing 85 kilograms, he also boasts impressive speed.

His specialty, however, is bringing the ball out from the back, be it via well-timed runs or long, accurate passing in a manner not too dissimilar to retired Anderlecht, Hamburg, Manchester City and Belgium defender, Vincent Kompany.

Akanji boasts all the necessary atttributes of the modern ball-playing centre-back. - imago images/Laci Perenyi

Did you know?

It's more than just Akanji's defending that adds up. The Dortmund defender showcased his ability to perform mental arithmetic faster than a calculator when appearing on a Swiss TV talk show.

The Switzerland sentry wowed the audience as he answered a mind-bending sum before the Sportpanorama presenter could even start typing.

Asked about his remarkable talent, Akanji revealed that he used to do maths equations with vehicle license plates.

Watch: Manuel Akanji - a maths whizz!

What they're saying

"Akanji has always intrigued me because he's not yet the finished article. He's still got a little way to go but, for me, he's now nearing an age where he he can really hit his peak." - Chiellini, speaking in late 2021

"The defensive partnership between Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji just gets better and better. They're the heartbeat of this team." - Dortmund captain Marco Reus

"It does us the world of good whenever Manuel plays. He oozes confidence and tries to marshal the defence." - Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc

"It's clear that Manuel's a really good footballer with real pace. We knew he could play left-back, and he didn't disappoint." - former Dortmund coach Peter Stöger after Akanji deputised for Marcel Schmelzer at left-back in a Bundesliga match against Bayer Leverkusen