Mitchell Weiser fired Germany to their second European Under-21 Championship last year and was one of Hertha Berlin's most consistent performers in 2017/18, earning a move to Bayer Leverkusen, but what else is there to know about the former Bayern Munich starlet?
bundesliga.com takes a closer look at the man once christened “the next Dani Alves”…
1) Flattering parallels
Almost inevitably for an overlapping right-back with a penchant for scoring important goals, Weiser has been drawing comparisons with some of the game’s greatest proponents of the position for some time. Chelsea scouted the 24-year-old when he was 17, with coaches and pundits alike struck by the similarity between the nascent talent and Barcelona legend Alves, now at Paris Saint-Germain.
2) Footballing family
Alves may have the name recognition, but for Weiser there was inspiration much closer to home. Mitchell-Elijah Weiser – as he was born – is the son of former Cologne, Rennes and Wolfsburg right-back Patrick Weiser. The two share a close relationship and a similar playing style, but with 15 career goals to his name already, Weiser junior has found the target five more times than his dad did between 1991 and 2007. “I always used to watch my dad at the stadium in those days, hoping he would score a goal,” reflected Weiser recently. “Unfortunately, I never saw one (laughs)!”
3) Record-setting debut
Weiser came up through Cologne’s youth academy - where his father was a coach - making his first-team debut in a 2-0 loss to local rivals Bayer Leverkusen in February 2012. Replacing Mato Jajalo for the final 15 minutes at the age of 17 years, 10 months and five days, Weiser remains the Billy Goats’ youngest ever debutant.
Unlike Alves and Weiser senior, Mitchell has played in every position except goalkeeper and centre-back on his progression from youth football to the senior game. Right-footed, he is equally comfortable on the left flank, and even plundered 20 goals and 25 assists as a forward in the Cologne youth teams, helping their Under-17s to the Bundesliga title ahead of Borussia Dortmund in 2010/11. “Steffen Freund [Weiser’s Germany Under-17 coach that season] once told me that he saw me as a right-back,” said Weiser. “At that time, I didn’t want to hear it, because I’d rather play up front. But now I’m very satisfied at right-back. It’s a lot of fun.”
Watch: Weiser's and Hertha's FIFA 18 Ratings reveal
5) …both on the pitch and off it
Weiser speaks French as well as his native German, having begun his primary education in Rennes between the ages of four and six as his father turned out for Stade Rennais in Ligue 1. Born in Troisdorf in North Rhine-Westphalia, Weiser also understands Kölsch – the regional dialect native to the area – although the famous Cologne Carnival is not his cup of tea. “I’m not the carnival type – it’s too intense for me, too big,” he said. “I did dress up as [German-born fashion designer and Chanel creative director] Karl Lagerfeld for a party not so long ago, though!”
6) Cologne-born; Bayern-bred
Between signing for Hertha in 2015 and his first steps in the game at the RheinEnergieSTADION, Weiser played for record German champions Bayern Munich. However, with a certain Philipp Lahm for company, Weiser found his game time restricted in Bavaria, making just 16 first-team appearances for the club in the three years from 2012. The stint did at least swell Weiser’s trophy cabinet: the U-21 European Championship was his seventh major trophy, following two Bundesliga titles, one DFB Cup, one DFL Supercup, one UEFA Super Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup in his time at the Allianz Arena.
7) International nearly man?
Capped at every level since the Under-16s, Weiser might have been beginning to wonder if international silverware would forever elude him after his early endeavours for Germany. In his first major tournament - the 2011 UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Serbia, Germany made it to the final, only to be undone by the Netherlands 5-2 – a team which contained future Hertha teammate Karim Rekik. Two months later, Weiser scored three goals at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico, which the hosts went on to win after beating Germany 3-2 in the semi-finals.
Perhaps fittingly for a player equally adept at right-back and attacking midfield, Weiser’s biggest idols in the game are former Bayern teammate Lahm, as well as Juventus, Real Madrid and France legend Zinedine Zidane, who now manages Los Blancos. Weiser has described Zidane as the “greatest of all time”, while his praise of the recently-retired Lahm is almost as glowing. “He’s my idol,” he enthused. “I’ve watched him a lot in training. He is always so calm in every situation. His ability to read the game is breath-taking. I’ve never seen him play poorly.”
9) Best of friends
Lahm may have drawn Weiser’s admiration, but it was with the champions’ full-back on the other flank – David Alaba - that the youngster built up the firmest friendship during his time in Bavaria. The pair drew the ire of the club for a risqué social media post in early 2015, but exchanges between them have calmed down since. "I'm a young man, I'm making mistakes, I'll learn from it," Weiser later reflected.
10) Famous birthdays
Born on 21 April, Weiser shares a birthday with former Dortmund and Bayern stalwart Thomas Helmer – who won the senior version of the European Championship with Germany in England in 1996 – as well as Zidane’s Real Madrid protégé, Isco. NFL legend Tony Romo and MLB alum Jeff Keppinger were also born on this day; whilst 2,770 years ago, a certain Romulus founded the Roman Empire. Weiser may have some way to go before he emulates Lahm, but then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day…