Versatile PSG-target Weigl impresses league leaders Dortmund

Berlin (AFP) –


An injury crisis has swept Paris Saint-Germain target Julian Weigl from the bench back into the starting line-up of Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund.

Germany international Weigl can expect only his fifth start this season in Saturday's home league game against strugglers Hanover, with Dortmund six points ahead of defending champions Bayern Munich.

"Julian has impressively demonstrated that he is a true professional and has reacted outstandingly whenever needed, which speaks for his great character and extraordinary mentality," said Dortmund's CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke in German newspaper Bild earlier this week.

Usually a defensive midfielder, 23-year-old Weigl has drawn the praise after slotting in seamlessly at centre-back in Dortmund's hour of need.

Former Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel, now at PSG, has reportedly expressed interested in signing Weigl as cover for Adrien Rabiot, who was dropped after failing to agree a new contract.

However Dortmund insist he is going nowhere in the January transfer window.

"Jules is staying - that's clear," director of sport Michael Zorc told magazine Kicker.

Injuries to centre-backs Manuel Akanji, Dan-Axel Zagadou and Omer Toprak mean Dortmund can ill afford to sell the versatile Weigl, known for his well-timed passes and for popping up exactly where needed.

- Makeshift defender -

While Axel Witsel's superb first-half strike grabbed the headlines in last Saturday's 1-0 win at RB Leipzig, it was Weigl who led the way as Dortmund defended the lead in a magnificent personal display.

Leipzig's Germany forward Timo Werner was constantly thwarted by the combination of Weigl's defending and a excellent performance from Dortmund goalkeeper Roman Burki.

"He's behaved extremely professionally and has played exceptionally well in his new position -- we are happy he's here," said Zorc on Thursday.

It's a far cry from the start of the season when Weigl found himself surplus to requirements iMoenchengladbachn the defensive midfield after Dortmund signed burly Dane Thomas Delaney and Belgium's World Cup hero Witsel.

New coach Lucien Favre preferred Delaney-Witsel as his midfield axel, leaving Weigl out of the first four matches.

Things were looking up when Weigl made only his second start of the season in the 3-2 crunch win over Bayern in November, but was taken off at half-time after picking up a yellow card.

He was kept on the bench until a groin injury to Akanji in December presented him with a chance to play centre-back and he impressed in the 2-1 win over title-rivals Borussia Moenchengladbach just before Christmas.

Having made his Bundesliga debut under Tuchel following his arrival at Dortmund in 2015, Weigl has matured into one of the most promising defensive midfielders in Germany and has made five appearances for the national team.

If his recent form continues, Weigl could well force his way into the Germany squad for March's match against the Netherlands.

Tuchel has stayed in contact with Weigl and the chance to play alongside Neymar in PSG's star-studded squad must appeal to the German.

However, Dortmund are on course for their first Bundesliga title since 2012 and with another two years left on his contract, versatile Weigl is showing his worth.