The Marcel Sabitzer saga is finally over!!! Bayern Munich have completed the signing of the 27-year-old Austrian from RB Leipzig, and I can barely hide my excitement. After an entire day of non-stop partying, I can tell you that I’m super drained. After clamouring for this transfer for the better part of a year, I feel absolutely vindicated. Thank you Bayern board, and thank you Marcel, for picking this club!
Sabitzer is a coup for Die Roten, and looks like another one of those game-changing transfers in the “Brazzo Era.” So, what makes this midfield signing so special?
Evolution at Leipzig
Since Sabitzer’s integration into the Leipzig first team in 2015 (after a short loan stint at Salzburg), the Graz native has gone from strength to strength and gathered an arsenal of weapons. Starting out as a right midfielder, Sabitzer was quite confident playing in the wide areas, but preferred drifting inside and playing a more direct/central role. The then manager, Ralf Rangnick, also tried him out at the 8 quite often.
Then came Ralph Hasenhüttl, who coached Leipzig for the next two seasons till 2018, during which time Sabitzer perfected his trade as a free roaming 10 and as a box-to-box 8. An Austrian himself, Hasenhüttl understood what he had in Sabitzer and used the player’s versatility to the max. The midfielder would go on to enjoy success in both positions until summer 2018, when he’d meet with a coach who’d make him a complete player.
Julian Nagelsmann waltzed his way into the Leipzig footballing landscape with a lot of expectations on him. He was Germany’s best coaching talent back in 2018, and everyone at Leipzig was excited to have him at RBL, given his performance with Hoffenheim. And few players benefitted more under Nagelsmann’s coaching than Sabitzer. The coach brought out the best in Sabitzer, deploying him as a 6 (deep lying playmaker), an 8 (box-to-box) and a 10 depending on the squad situation. And Sabitzer delivered.
It is this evolution that we Bayern fans have to thank, since we’ll be enjoying this versatility so much. Very few players are cut out for ‘Nagels-ball’ as much as the Austrian.
A 6, an 8 or a 10? How about all three?
Then arises the question: where would he play at Bayern? Yes, it’s great that he can play in all three positions, but don’t we already have top players in all the aforementioned areas?
I totally agree; Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka are the world’s best midfield pairing when on form, and Müller is the heart of this Bayern side. However, you just can’t have all three of them starting every game of the season, especially given fatigue and/or injuries always take a toll. Sabitzer can fill in at the 6, 8 or the 10 whenever required. So he could play as an AM when Müller needs to be rested, and compete with Kimmich and Goretzka for midfield minutes. We wouldn’t have to run Kimmich to the ground anymore.
Also, the way Goretzka has started the season, it certainly looks like Sabitzer could even bench him if his performances don’t improve. This might push Goretzka to perform better, since suddenly, you’re no longer guaranteed a starting role. The same applies for Kimmich, but to a lesser extent, since he’s different gravy and will definitely get to his usual level soon.
One of Sabitzer’s characteristic features (call it a unique selling point, if you like) is his ability from long range, and his outstanding dead ball prowess (free kicks, corners, penalties, you name it). Sabitzer has this uncanny ability to send the ball swerving and make it dip unexpectedly, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. Almost a knuckle-ball, but not quite. It’s really beautiful. Here’s a nice Twitter compilation that demonstrates how insane he is from long range:
His free-kick abilities would make him the clear first choice for long range dead ball situations (yes, we have Lewandowski and Sané, but Sabitzer seems to have unlimited range) and mean that Bayern will instantly look much more menacing off set pieces.
An unofficial leader
Sabitzer has been RB Leipzig’s captain for quite a while, and for good reason. He gels that team together, his orders and instructions help the team attack and defend as a unit, and he’s got a great mentality. I’m sure Kimmich would love to have him play beside him. If there’s one thing that’s certain, it’s that Sabitzer never gives up; at least not without a fight.
At Bayern, a team that’s already full of leaders (Lewandowski, Müller, Kimmich, Neuer), Sabitzer’s addition would further help bring the best out of the team, help create tactical advantages and give the team the experience and the grit they’d need to fend off top opposition. He’s a seasoned midfielder in his prime, and Bayern now undoubtedly has the best midfield in the world.
A Nagels-ball player who’d blend right in
Last but by no means least, Sabitzer speaks German fluently (the dialect in upper Austria is almost the same as that used in Bavaria, so he would find it super easy to talk to Müller, for instance), is used to the culture here and most importantly, has already played under Nagelsmann, so he should have no troubles fitting right in. His direct, aggressive style of play also makes him a top addition to this squad.
I expect Sabitzer to integrate in Munich quickly, and be ready to start as soon as the boys are back from the international break. I still think he won’t start against Leipzig, but we can expect him to start soon after that. After all, it’s hard to keep a player of Sabitzer’s calibre benched for too long.
Additional bonus: His sea-farer hair style and that moustache. With Pavarrrr and Howitzer on board, FC Bayern might well be renamed FC Barbarossa.