Manuel Akanji will add talent, youth and drive rto Borussia Dortmund's defence. - © © imago
Manuel Akanji will add talent, youth and drive rto Borussia Dortmund's defence. - © © imago

Manuel Akanji: 10 things on Borussia Dortmund's new Swiss international defender


Borussia Dortmund have strengthened with the signing of Swiss talent Manuel Akanji, but who is the confident centre-back set to grace SIGNAL IDUNA PARK with his defensive prowess? offers ten things on the former FC Basel star ...

1) A sports mad family with African roots

Akanji's father - a financial expert from Nigeria - was an amateur footballer in his younger years and still plays the sport in his spare time. Dortmund's newest addition also owes his middle name - Obafemi - to former Wolfsburg, Inter Milan and Newcastle star, Obafemi Martins. Akanji's Swiss mother is a former tennis player while his eldest sister, Michelle, is an athlete. Another of Manuel's siblings, Sarah, plays football for FC Winterthur in the Swiss second division.

Akanji has played a starring role for Basel in this season's Champions League. - © imago

2) From Winterthur to Basel, a steady rise

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 FC 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.

Akanji is hopeful of a FIFA World Cup call up with Switzerland this summer. - © imago / Geisser

3) Titles begin to flow

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. He featured in 28 games in all competitions prior to completing his switch to BVB this term.

4) The complete defender

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 1.87m and weighing 85kgs, he also boasts impressive speed. His speciality however, is bringing the ball out from the back, be it via well-timed runs or long, accurate passing.  

5) Facing his heroes

A self-confessed Manchester United fan, Akanji got to play at the home of his heroes this season when the English Premier League team triumphed 3-0 against Basel in a UEFA Champions League group stage encounter. The Swiss side - with their trusted defender on board - gained their revenge against the Red Devils, running out 1-0 winners in the corresponding fixture last November.

6) Confidence part of the package

A senior Swiss international on four occasions, Akanji appears set to feature at this summer's FIFA World Cup in Russia, where his team will face Brazil, Costa Rica and Serbia in Group E. Speaking in a recent interview, the defender said, "I don't want to sound arrogant, but I have faith in my own abilities. I have to improve my heading and I still need to learn more tactical aspects in terms of my defensive work."

7) Fighting spirit

Akanji suffered a severe setback shortly after signing for Basel when he tore his cruciate ligament. Thus began a nine-month recovery process with some critics even suggesting the player had moved clubs too soon. "There were those who said I changed clubs too early or that I wouldn't be able to return to my best. I was determined to show them," he said following his comeback. Once fully fit, the 22-year-old immediately slotted back into Basel's defence, featuring regularly for the title winners.  

8) Telling tattoo

The Swiss defender has a tattoo on his left forearm bearing the words, "Prove them wrong," in English. "This saying has been a motto of mine for a long time," Akanji explained. "I had the tattoo done when I was injured as at times it wasn't clear if I would ever fully heal."

9) Revierderby set for friendly face-off

Akanji is good friends with Schalke forward Breel Embolo, so much so that the two recently spent Christmas together in Paris. Both are Swiss international teammates and were also on the books together at Basel. "Breel Embolo is the strongest player I've ever played against," Akanji explained in a recent interview. "When I was at Winterthur, we played a cup game against Basel in 2014 and he mercilessly showed me just how much work I needed to do to improve."

10) Swiss success in Dortmund

The talented defender is, of course, not the first Swiss player to have entertained the masses at the Westfalenstadion. Akanji will join his international teammate, goalkeeper Roman Bürki at Die Schwarzgelben while previous Swiss crowd favourites at the club have included Stephane Chapuisat (ninth on the club's top goalscoring list) and Alexander Frei.

*Borussia Dortmund has agreed with Basel on an immediate transfer of the player Manuel Akanji. The 22-year-old defender signed a contract until June 30, 2022 and receives the number 16. Welcome, Manuel!

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