Moritz Leitner 19 Midfielder Borussia Dortmund
Mortiz Leitner describes himself as a “cheeky guy” and we have to agree. We would also add ‘confident’ and ‘precociously-talented’ to the list. He plays with a smile on his face and is clearly popular amongst his team mates, but that in no way diminishes an iron will and a strong self-belief no matter who stands in his way.
We are in the very early days of a career in which he moved to Dortmund from 1860 Munich on the strength of a handful of appearances in 2011, and then impressed in a loan spell with FC Augsburg to force his way into Jürgen Klopp’s thinking last season. He’s not the first name on the team-sheet by any stretch of the imagination but when you consider the pedigree of the first eleven at Dortmund, to be involved in any way at 19-years of age is pretty impressive.
What we know and have seen of him so far we’ve liked. He’s two-footed, small and technical but utterly fearless in the tackle, not afraid to try anything anywhere on the football pitch, and is being lined up for a big future at the Westfalenstadion. He fits the mold of the rambunctious style of football Dortmund enjoy, the take on all-comers attitude present and correct. This season he has already clocked up nearly 500 minutes in the first team so will comfortably go past his previous bests, and as a rule if not a starter he has been in the match-day squad for nearly every game so far.
This is all very impressive so why are we all not beating the drum and proclaiming him from high? The truth is that he’s a really good prospect, well on the way to becoming an excellent midfielder in one the top league’s in world football, but he suffers with his surroundings.
At the moment German football is brimming with exciting young talent, this list alone has the names Merkel, Schürrle, Leno, Gündoğan, Draxler, Holtby, Götze and Kroos on it, and two of them are Leitner’s team mates at Dortmund - Gündoğan blocking his path to the first team directly. The country has perhaps the richest pool of young players to pick from in nearly every position, standing out has never been harder to do.
At another time the football world would be purring over Leitner and don’t get us wrong, some are, but in truth he’s not there yet by virtue of being outshone by those around him. As good a prospect as he is at 19-years of age (soon to be 20 by the time this is published) he has less than 30 first team appearances for Dortmund total. Julian Draxler has over double at the same age at Schalke, Leitner’s team-mate Mario Götze even more despite a long term injury last season. It’s not that we don’t feel Moritz Leitner can make it – he has the talent and reports suggest the attitude as well to really push on – but he’s one of many whereas once he would have been a standout.
Now he may flourish by flying a little bit lower on the radar but he must be aware the bar is being continually raised by his team-mates domestically and internationally. He has already starred at Germany’s U19 and U21 levels, but the next step up is the biggest. He appears to have the temperament but he is going to really have to move things up a gear to stay competitive at the very top. At the moment there are one or two obvious flaws in his game, a tendency to overelaborate chief among them, but we’re hesitant to really pick holes in a player so fresh into his career. His chief weapon for improvement will be experience and we’re certain over the next two years he’s going to get plenty.
So to the mark and it has to be a C doesn’t it? If you look at our definition of the grade is states that we consider it the norm, that the player in question is ‘performing well and their development is on course’. You couldn’t ask any more of Leitner at the moment other than what he’s achieved in the last twelve months – he’s into the match-day squad, flirting with the starting eleven, providing cover as and when, performing really well internationally at U21 level and starting to find his natural game. It’s not the stellar progress a Götze or Hazard may have made last year, it’s not the dramatic fall from grace of a Juan Iturbe, it’s a nice, steady progression and for the moment that’s definitely enough.
It may be that he’s destined for a good Bundesliga career, occasional call-ups to the full international squad and that’s enough. He may never measure up to the outstanding batch of midfielders around him but realistically, few will. It’s still very early though and we like him a lot, watching him he feels like he has something a little bit different so who knows what lay ahead. We’ll keep watching with interest, over to you now Moritz.
“Yet to force his way past the battery of hugely talented midfielders at Borussia Dortmund on anything like a regular basis. Very much a case of not yet.”– John Dobson (European Football Correspondent)
"Leitner has the vision and the skill to be one of the best deep lying midfielders in the business. The problem is that he is being kept out of the side by İlkay Gündoğan. Despite being a fantastic passer of the ball, he struggles to impose himself when he get his chances. He needs an extended run in the Dortmund side to fulfil his potential. Either that or a new club." – Terry Duffelen (bundesligalounge)
C The best is yet to come but starting to show some really positive signs, yet another very exciting young German talent