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Julian Weigl Addition Boosts Benfica Midfield

It was one of the most left-field transfers of recent times, coming completely out of the blue when announced on New Year's Eve.

Julian Weigl now calls the Eagles of Benfica home after leaving Borussia Dortmund in a $22 million move.

However, it is a transfer the player wanted and specifically asked for:

"Julian came to us with this wish and we agreed - also because of his services to the club. We wish him all the best for his future!" said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc when the move was announced by the Bundesliga giants.

The 24-year-old joined the Yellow and Blacks in 2015, arriving from TSV 1860 München for just over a third of the price he was eventually sold for.

Under Thomas Tuchel the midfielder played a crucial part, an essential cog in the German's preferred systems of 4-1-4-1 and 4-3-3.

The defensive midfielder was the go-to choice to provide the link between defense and midfield in Tuchel's quick transitional game.

A DFB-Pokal winner, the Bavarian native had been linked with a move to Manchester City after his breakthrough first season.

Lothar Matthäus likened Weigl's presence in the center to that seen by Sergio Busquets at FC Barcelona, the link to Pep Guardiola seemed ready made.

But, Borussia Dortmund saw their central pin as far too precious to sell, moves were rebuffed as the North Rhine-Westphalia side dug their heels in despite numerous enquiries.

The departure of Tuchel coincided with the slump in Dortmund's fortunes. Under Peter Bosz the club crashed out of the Champions League, faring no better in the Europa League. Weigl was one of many players who simply couldn't find their feet in a changing system

Lucien Favre arrived in the summer of 2018, but the defensive midfielder found himself short on game time.

When it arrived it frequently signaled defensive duties – Weigl was asked to play center back as Dortmund struggled with injury problems throughout their backline.

As the 2019/20 season reached its winter break, the once touted future of Dortmund's midfield had been limited to just 12 starts, and out of his 16 Bundesliga appearances only seven came in the preferred role of defensive midfielder.

The time was right for a move, and Benfica saw their opportunity. Just four weeks prior, Barcelona had been linked as a destination, for $27.5 million.

Beating off competition from a number of highly regarded teams, including PSG—where Tuchel now resides, Benfica have acquired Weigl's services under his current market value.

Transfermarkt, regarded as the oracle on player data and value by the Centre for Economic Performance, has Weigl listed as $23 million when it comes to his worth, the capture of his services for $3 million less is remarkable, as is the confirmed release clause of $111 million.

The transfer should allow the midfielder a platform to reassert himself as first choice for national boss, Joachim Löw.

Weigl will bolster a Benfica squad that includes the free scoring Pizzi and Carlos Vinícius, the German's ability to turn defense into attack could see the duo double their already impressive return of 22 goals combined so far this campaign.

The German took to the training field with his new teammates for the first time on January 6th and should be part of the matchday squad to face C.D Aves on Friday January 10th.

Bruno Lage has opted for a 4-4-2 primarily, with Benfica utilizing a double pivot in midfield, something Weigl could easily slot into.

The Eagles currently call upon Adel Taarabt and Gabriel to fulfil their two midfield slots, but with the dedicated defensive midfield trio of Florentino, Andreas Samaris and Ljubomir Fejsa only mustering a handful of games each so far, the arrival of Weigl looks set to give the German guaranteed game time in his preferred position at the The Estádio da Luz.

 
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