Cologne - "In Julian Weigl, we have signed a real prospect in central midfield," explained Borussia Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc when confirming the deal to bring the 19-year-old from TSV 1860 Munich to the Signal Iduna Park. "He has a lot of potential to develop."
Ups and downs
While the term 'potential' is often used to ensure that fans do not expect too much too soon, Weigl, who joined 1860 at the age of 15, is bullish about his ability to fit into an all-star BVB midfield. "I'm hoping to be in the squad and to play regularly," he told goal.com in one of his few interviews since joining. "I'm not coming to play in the youth team." After all, Weigl packed more into his 2014/15 breakthrough season than some manage in a career.
An inability to give regular interviews hardly comes as a surprise; it has been a busy summer for the youngster. After helping 1860 avoid relegation from the Bundesliga 2, Weigl jetted to New Zealand with the Germany U-20 side for the FIFA U-20 World Cup. There, he impressed, earning a starting berth despite stiff competition, and helping his side to victories over Honduras and Nigeria, before elimination in the last eight on penalties against Mali.
The call-up was reward for an outstanding yet "exhausting", season with 1860. Weigl, who explains that his best position "is as a classic holding midfielder", made 24 appearances for the Lions in 2014/15, impressing not only with his accurate passing game, but also his bite in the tackle. Former coach Friedhelm Funkel praised his vision and calmness in possession, while the Bad Aibling native's leadership qualities were such that he was appointed the club's youngest ever captain early in the season. Although off-field misdemeanours ended his possession of the armband prematurely, the youngster responded with hard work to develop into a key element of Sechzig's fight against relegation.
It is a work ethic which will serve him well under new Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, who is renowned for a high-pressure style. Indeed, while Weigl's statistics from last season bear witness to his potential (completing nearly 80 per cent of passes and winning over half of his tackles), they also underline areas in need of improvement (the youngster struggled in aerial duels). "I have to get bigger," he told goal.com. "I'm going to undergo special training to improve my physicality." Such is his commitment to hit the ground running at BVB, that Weigl is reportedly eating egg whites on a regular basis.
Such meticulousness is also likely to impress Tuchel, who has already left his mark on the young Weigl. "I had some really good conversations with Thomas Tuchel," he explained. "It's going to be an honour to work under him. The project convinced me and I certainly don’t need to remind anyone how big a club Dortmund are." He went on to add, however, with characteristic bullishness: "Now, I want to be part of it."