Marcel Sabitzer: 10 things on Bayern Munich's new Austrian midfielder
Marcel Sabitzer hails from a football family, is one of Europe's most versatile midfielders, has established himself as an RB Leipzig legend, and will now be reunited with Julian Nagelsmann at Bayern Munich.
bundesliga.com turns the spotlight on the record German champions' new signing after the 27-year-old penned a four-year contract with Bayern.
1) The Sabitzer Howitzer
While Sabitzer has the legs and engine to do the running required to help out defensively, his 2014/15 campaign on loan at Red Bull Salzburg — in which he scored 19 times and got 16 assists in 33 league games — showed what he is capable of with the ball at his feet.
He has yet to break into double figures in a single Bundesliga season for goals, but has hit nine and eight in the last two campaigns, many of them his trademark long-range blockbuster. "I always knew I had a good shot on me with my right foot," he stated, something Bundesliga opponents can unhappily testify to.
"He wasn’t the biggest or toughest physically, but he had great technique, already had a great shot on him and always went out there with total self-confidence and commitment," said Reinhard Holzschuster, one of Sabitzer's Grazer AK youth coaches, confirming the midfielder's explosive strike has long been part of his footballing baggage.
"He has great shooting technique," said Leipzig teammate Willi Orban following Sabitzer's net-bursting UEFA Champions League strike against Zenit St Petersburg in the 2019/20 season. "I've no idea where he gets it from, but he's always got it ready to go."
2) Family tradition
Marcel's father, Herfried, was a striker who made six appearances for Austria and played at the top level for the likes of LASK Linz, Grazer AK, and even SV Casino Salzburg, between 1991 and 1993. That last name might not be familiar, but it's the club that has since been reborn as Red Bull Salzburg, the team Marcel represented on loan from Leipzig in the 2014/15 season after joining the German club from Rapid Vienna.
There could be another chapter in the Sabitzer football dynasty too: Marcel's cousin Thomas, 20, is an Austria U21 international, came through the Sturm Graz youth academy and has been on LASK's books since 2019.
3) Unlike father, unlike son
His talent wasn't the only thing passed down from his dad. To be a footballer at the level Sabitzer has reached, you have to have a single-minded dedication to your work, something Marcel thought Herfried didn't have.
"He had a fifty-fifty mentality. He let his focus slip from time to time, which is why he didn't have a huge career," said Sabitzer Jr. "I got the positive 50 percent of his mentality and 50 percent of his talent. I have had to work hard for the rest."
4) The Sabitzer hairdryer
Sabitzer's flowing locks must take some care, but the Austria international is not afraid to ruffle the carefully cropped mops of his teammates, something they must have experienced when Nagelsmann made Sabitzer his Leipzig captain for the 2020/21 campaign.
"I’m not constantly barking out orders. I often stay quiet, sit back and observe a lot. But I step in if someone needs a push or has to be told to calm down," Sabitzer said of his leadership style. "I can tell anyone in the team the truth to their face and would want it to be the same the other way round. Honesty is the absolute priority for me."
Watch: Sabitzer hammers one home versus Hertha
5) A sore loser
Anyone who wants to win as badly as Sabitzer takes defeat just as badly. A word of warning: you do not want to be around Marcel after a loss.
"There was just one thing Sabi wasn’t any good at back then, and that was losing," explained Holzschuster. “Even losing in practice was almost physically painful for him."
"He has never liked to lose, which I absolutely believe is a positive thing. But he used to get a little too fired up," added former Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick.
"I never wanted to do anyone any harm, I just wanted to win games," countered Sabitzer. "Maybe I broke something at times, and maybe I was a little louder and more aggressive. But it was nothing personal. It was all a result of being committed to the cause and having a will to win."
6) Family man
His approach is less blood-and-thunder since having a daughter in April 2019, though.
"A child gives you a different perspective on life and certain situations," he says. "I'm just happy to have such a beautiful family life. And I’ve learnt to deal with moments of stress better. If you want to convey calm to your child, it'll only work if you exude calm yourself, not if you’re loud."
7) Master of all trades
Versatility is now treasured by coaches and Sabitzer is a veritable Swiss Army knife of a footballer.
"His level is constant with periods of brilliance," Nagelsmann previously said of the midfielder who has now followed him from Leipzig to Munich. "He is of fundamental importance because he always performs well and is utterly solid."
Nagelsmann exploited that metronomic consistency across the pitch, even pushing Sabitzer into a support striker role as well as having him drop into a defensive midfield position during his two seasons in charge.
"I enjoyed the position," said Sabitzer of playing as a 'Sechser' — a six — in front of the back line. "The new position also changed my game again. In the centre, you will receive the ball more and you have to make faster decisions. However, I still have the urge to create something offensively."
8) Leipzig legend
Sabitzer has left an indelible mark on Leipzig as one of the standout figures in the club's young history, having joined them in Bundesliga 2 in 2014 and been a central figure in their transformation into Bundesliga title challengers and UEFA Champions League regulars.
"Quite honestly, I didn't think I would play a season for RB Leipzig, but everything has gone very differently," said the man himself, who has 145 Bundesliga appearances to his name at the time of signing for Bayern.
But after spending his first year as a Leipzig player at Salzburg, he was questioning the wisdom of opting for the up-and-coming German club.
"I can’t be as good as I thought I was or I wouldn’t be playing in Bundesliga 2 in Germany," he said. Twelve months on and just seven years after the club's foundation, promotion was secured. A further year later, Leipzig had finished Bundesliga runners-up, leaving Sabitzer to admit: "Looking back, moving to Leipzig was the right decision."
9) Critical voice
As the rest of the Bayern squad will no doubt discover, Sabitzer can be vocal, but he's just as happy to be on the receiving end when his own standards fall short, even if listening was not on his long list of natural talents at first.
"I had to learn to accept others' advice, even when I didn’t like it," he explained. "There was a while there when I was 16, 17 where I thought that I'd already done it all and was getting it all right. And I hadn’t achieved anything at that point. You only get better by taking constructive criticism on board."
10) Sleep, eat, play, repeat
Sabtizer's single-mindedness extends to all aspects of his professional life. Ever wondered how he puts in all-action performance after all-action performance?
"When I eventually stop playing football, I want to be able to look back on an utterly brilliant career with great clubs and huge success to my name. Whether I achieve that or not is partly up to me and partly isn’t. So I’ll focus on the thing I can affect: my performance."
To do that, he tries to be in bed by 10pm, hasn't eaten crisps in over half a decade, and ensures he is in optimal shape, a reason he has missed just six league matches through injury in the last three Bundesliga seasons. That's quite a feat for someone often in the heat of the midfield battle.
"It’s no skin off my nose to play 90 minutes every third day, as long as I stick to my rhythm," he says. That's a good thing because given Bayern's ambitions on the domestic and European scene, Sabitzer is going to be busy.
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