When Borussia Dortmund confirmed the signing of Julian Weigl from TSV 1860 Munich in summer 2015, most people assumed the youngster would likely require a couple of seasons before breaking into the first team. As it has transpired, that view could hardly have been further from the truth.
Far from remaining 'one for the future', the 20-year-old has played his way into not only the Dortmund first team but also the Germany squad for UEFA EURO 2016, establishing himself as one of the best young midfielders in world football.
As he prepares to make his international tournament debut in Thursday's EURO 2016 semi-final against France, bundesliga.com retraces his steps from Bundesliga 2 obscurity to worldwide prominence…
8 June 2015: ascent to the Bundesliga
Had events taken a different turn, Weigl could have begun the 2015/16 campaign in the 3. Liga. Instead, he helped 1860 avoid relegation in the play-off thanks to a last-gasp win against Holstein Kiel, before sealing a move to Dortmund less than a month later. BVB's sporting director Michael Zorc was adamant the young man had something to offer, although he seemed to agree the newcomer was more a prospect for the future than a candidate for the first team. “Julian Weigl is a central midfielder with great potential.”
15 August 2015: a starter on his top-flight debut
Thomas Tuchel had used Weigl frequently in pre-season, and so it perhaps came as less of a surprise that the obviously gifted Weigl began Dortmund’s Bundesliga opener against namesake Borussia Mönchengladbach. Weigl was the youngest player on the pitch in BVB’s 4-0 triumph, but few would have noticed.
5 December 2015: indispensable
Not until December and Dortmund’s 2-1 win at VfL Wolfsburg did Weigl miss a game in any competition, and that was only because of illness. His prolonged run in the side continued throughout the season, and he ended the campaign having played in 51 of his side’s total of 55 games – an astonishing achievement for one so young. “It’s all gone much faster that I’d have dreamed or imagined,” said Weigl shortly before the winter break.
14 May 2016: record-breaking send-off
Die Schwarz-Gelben’s final Bundesliga game of 2015/16 ended in a 2-2 draw with 1. FC Köln. The title race had ended and little was riding on the encounter, but Weigl still managed to leave his mark in his own unique way. He touched the ball 216 times in the 90 minutes, breaking the previous Bundesliga record of 213 set by FC Bayern München’s Xabi Alonso a year previous.
29 May 2016: Germany debut
Rewarded for a fine debut Bundesliga with a place in Germany’s provisional squad for EURO 2016, Weigl became a full international when he came off the bench against Slovakia. The game ended in a disappointing 3-1 defeat, but two days later, Weigl received confirmation that he had made the final cut for the tournament in France.