The signing of Moritz Leitner is a huge coup for Norwich City.
When his loan signing was announced at the end of January, I doubt that many members of the Canary Nation thought that we could actually sign him permanently, such was his pedigree from Borussia Dortmund.
I wanted to know exactly what we’d got and figured I’d use Twitter to ask a German journalist that I’d started to follow after we nicked Daniel Farke from Dortmund.
Lars Pollmann (@LarsPollmann) covers Borussia Dortmund and was the journalist who first broke the Farke to Norwich story.
Pollmann’s response to my question about how good Moritz Leitner was, not only surprised me but it excited me too.
— Tuckster (@Tuckachelli) January 25, 2018
Lars’ response suggests though that Mo has plenty of ability but that he needs to apply himself.
From the first time I saw him pass the ball in yellow and green, in that late cameo against Middlesbrough, I could see that he was a baller.
So how has he ended up signing on for four years at Norwich City?
I don’t think that there’s any doubt that the boy has got talent. He’s clearly very comfortable with a football at his feet and he likes to play possession based football. So far so good.
He forced his way into Jurgen Klopp’s thinking while at Dortmund, which when you consider the side they had at that time, was no mean feat.
Dortmund had Ilkay Gundogan and Mario Gotze as young prospects already in the first team back in 2012/13, with Gundogan directly blocking Leitner’s route into the first team.
Despite the quality in front of him, Mo made 30 appearances in that season, although only 10 were starts and he was a regular on the substitutes bench. That lack of starts prompted Leitner to consider a move away from the Westfalenstadion.
Between 2013-15, Leitner moved on loan to VfB Stuttgart, making 40 appearances in those two years and scoring two goals
The arrival of Thomas Tuchel, replacing Liverpool bound, Jurgen Klopp, saw Mo’s future in doubt with BvB and it wasn’t until the second half of the season that he started to get game time after an injury crisis. He spent the first half of that season with the reserves and that’s where he spent time being coached by Daniel Farke.
A transfer to Lazio followed in August 2016 for €1.5m but it was slow going as he struggled to break into the first team. The move to Italy was short lived and in January 2017, Mo returned to Germany with Augsburg, signing a four year deal for a fee of €2m.
Again though, Mo struggled. This time he didn’t immediately adapt to the playing style of his new club and that resulted in limited game time and an eventual loan to Norwich in January 2018.
Leitner has represented Germany at U19, U20 and U21 levels, making 24 appearances for the U21s between 2011-15 and scoring 7 goals, Captaining the side 3 times.
Those U21 appearances came in the era of Gotze, Gundogan, Draxler, Can and Reus, remember and he was widely thought, at that time, to be the senior team’s next number 10.
Here’s a quote for you from another German journalist, Terry Duffelen of Bundesliga Lounge from December 2012:
“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 Ilkay Gundogan. Despite being a fantastic passer of the ball, he struggles to impose himself when he gets his chances. He needs an extended run in the Dortmund side to fulfill his potential. Either that or a new club.”
Well, Mo now has a new club and with a Head Coach who knows him and who, you would imagine, played a big part in his decision to move to England permanently.
It sounds like he needs an arm around his shoulder and some trust placed in him on the pitch as well as some extended game time. He should walk into the Norwich midfield and assuming he stays fit, become an integral part of the team.
Make no mistake, Norwich City have signed a player of great quality, who it seems is capable of playing Champions League football. In the hurly burly of the Sky Bet Championship though, things will be very different to the Westfalenstadion and it’s yellow wall on Champions League nights.
If Mo can finally settle and put some roots down, then hopefully it will all come together for him on the pitch and if that happens we’re going to have a helluva player on our hands.