Defender | Borussia Dortmund | France
You’d like to think that Paris Saint-Germain would have some of the best young talent in the world. So far ahead are they in the league, and so little should they care about the French Cups that the Ligue 1 side could well be considered feeder club based in one of Europe’s Big Five leagues.
But it wasn’t like that when Dan-Axel Zagadou was a PSG player.
One of the Parisian academy’s bright hopes, Zagadou found himself shut out of the team and with his development on the line, opted to see out his contract and move to Borussia Dortmund instead.
That was last summer, and it wasn’t the happiest of first seasons at his new club. But in the latter half of 2018, that may well have changed dramatically.
2018 Has Been…
… Possibly momentous.
Thrown into the deep end during the ill-fated reign of Peter Bosz in late 2017, Zagadou struggled with the demands of playing as a full-back in a team who played a frighteningly high line. The modern full back is a thoroughly athletic and pacey creature who contributes in both attack and defence, running up and down the wing for 90 minutes, often thanklessly.
At 6’5” Zagadou probably isn’t built for such a role, but his ability with the ball at his feet meant that he was chosen in the unfamiliar, often ungainly position.
The first half of 2018 was difficult for Dortmund, as they struggled to secure a spot in the Champions League. Under Lucien Favre, the start of the new season heralded a new Dortmund; one who are now in with their best chance of winning the Bundesliga in years and who have excelled in the Champions League, thumping an Atletico Madrid side who succumbed to their heaviest defeat in the Diego Simeone era.
Zagadou has established himself as a big part of that team, cementing his place in the heart of the defence in the latter months of 2018.
If this review were happening in the summer, Zagadou might have been given a very low grade indeed. His move to Dortmund - despite his very tender age at the time - seemed to herald a chance at first team action and the emergence of a new defensive starlet. Instead, he struggled for minutes and a combination of injury and poor form meant he didn’t play a single minute of the 2017/18 season from the end of November right up until the end of the campaign.
The second half of the year, however, has seen him begin to establish himself. It remains to be seen as of yet whether he will continue to get the same levels of game time as he has done in October, November and December, but at the very least he’s shown that he belongs in a team having their best season in recent memory.
It may be too early to proclaim this a real breakthrough, but 2019 will prove whether he can make the position well and truly his own.