Julian Brandt – Borussia Dortmund’s attacking midfield schemer

Julian Brandt has long been one of the shining lights of German football since he was precocious midfielder turned winger at Wolfsburg. Bayer Leverkusen scored such a coup in acquiring the youngster that Rudi Voller dubbed him ‘one of the most talented young German players’ upon signing him. Borussia Dortmund and Lucien Favre signed the 23-year-old for a 25-million-euro bargain to supplement an already lethal front-line. The last six months have proved transformative for the blonde-haired and deep-voiced German youngster with a change in position triggering a massive uptick in form. The Black and yellows are piecing together a squad that is primed to challenge in the Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League.


Roger Schmidt began to use the German youngster in the second-half of the 2014/15 season as Brandt repaid the faith in him by latching onto a Karim Bellerabi through ball on the counter to smash in at the near post to beat Manuel Neuer at home to Bayern Munich. As a winger, Brandt could operate as a one-man counter attacking machine with his pace and slight of foot. In the 2015/16 season at home to his former club Wolfsburg, Brandt took on a pass to play an intricate one-two with Hakan Calhanoglu to get in behind and finish with aplomb. At 19-years-old, Brandt played with such exuberance and industry as he drifted in from the left flank to create opportunities for the Werkself.

Julian Brandt winning possession.

Julian Brandt winning possession.


In the second half, he played a brilliant flick to Calhanoglu who curled his shot wide of the far post before Stefan Kiessling won the ball back to play in Brandt who crossed for Javier Hernandez to tee-up Vladen Yurchenko to blast past Diego Bengalio. Against Eintracht Frankfurt, Bellerabi outpaced his man to cut back for Brandt to finish well and continue his rich vein of form. Roger Schmidt’s side put together a consistent set of victories to qualify for UEFA Champions League football as Brandt scored his fifth goal in five games against Schalke when he took on a Bellerabi through ball to squeeze a shot past Ralf Fahrmann at the near post.


Leverkusen countered from a Schalke corner as Brandt played in Chicharito for an amazing finish to grab an assist with his goal. Bellerabi and Brandt steered the Werkself from 5th place to 3rd place as the former had a hand in 6 assists and 3 goals of Leverkusen’s last 13 goals while Brandt notched 5 goals and 2 assists. Soon Brandt continued his fine run with six goals in six as he took on a lob perfectly to volley a strike in at home to Hertha Berlin. In the 2016/17 season, he began to impose himself in games against the bigger teams as away to Bayern Munich, he worked a one-two with Calhanoglu for the Turk to score.

Julian Brandt outside of the boot assist for Charles Aranguiz.

Julian Brandt outside of the boot assist for Charles Aranguiz.


In the UEFA Champions League knockout phase against Atletico Madrid, the German youngster played an accurate cross in between Miguel Moya and Stefan Savic as the goalkeeper diverted the ball off the leg of the defender and into his own net. The 2017/18 season saw Brandt operate under Heiko Herrlich who trusted him with a free-role. Away to Borussia Monchengladbach, he took on a through ball from Kai Havertz to finish from a tight angle. He managed to earn an assist as he took on a ball on the flank to leave Oscar Wendt lying in his wake to cross for Joel Pohjanpahlo to tap in with his first touch.


He excelled in his free-role away to RB Leipzig as he showed consistency in his deliveries and decision making, playing clever no-look chips into alleys, innate slide-rule passes and accurate crosses. Volland flicked the youngster in behind to finish as he accumulated his 10th goal of the season before adding his third assist of the season by returning the favour when he crossed for Volland to tap in. Herrlich favoured a rigid 4-4-2 shape as Brandt would venture into the ten space when Bayer Leverkusen were in possession.


Last season, he showed signals of a wide player with a hope of playing more central as at home to Stuttgart, he constantly moved inside to work the ball as he drew markers so Havertz could play in space while he dropped deep so his young counterpart would not have to. Before the winter-break, Brandt even moonlighted at fullback in a 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt.


The appointment of Peter Bosz and a fulltime positional change would turn the 23-year-old into one of the most in-form players in the Bundesliga. Against Borussia Monchengladbach, he found space in the pockets, manipulating Gladbach’s man-marking structure as him and Havertz found space in between the lines to work good combinations. As a free eight, Brandt was given licence to move out wide as he saw more of the ball while he beat his man and played through Leon Bailey to cannon a shot off the post.


The German put in an extraordinary performance in a Friday night game away to Mainz as he took a ball off the toes of Stefan Bell to break forward and cut back for Havertz to arrow a shot past the keeper. The playmaker then worked a one-two with Volland to go through on goal and casually finish. He thrived with increased liberation when he drove past three men on the break to lay on a pass for Bellerabi who smashed past the keeper. Brandt controlled the game with a goal and an assist in the first half as he continued his torture of Mainz in the second half. He took on a pass from Julian Baumgartlinger in between the lines, instigated a one-two with Volland to finish well.


Brandt showed an artistry and quick sense of mind and feet to work intricate combinations in tight spaces. If Borussia Dortmund had any qualms about buying him in the summer, their concerns were allayed with his first-half performance at Signal Iduna Park. He was magical in the pockets, receiving the ball with his back to goal, swivelling past his marker and driving into the box to create opportunities. In the second-half, he lobbed a free-kick into Jonathan Tah who headed in off the palms of Roman Burki for a consolation goal in a 3-2 loss. Against Hoffenheim, he had another assist where he latched onto a Joshua Brenet clearance with his left to pass to Bellerabi who played the ball back to him to chip for Volland to head in.

Brandt lob for Volland against Hoffenheim.

Brandt lob for Volland against Hoffenheim.


Brandt is gifted as a central attacking player, especially in between the lines as he possesses a mastery of the one-two combination to create space, draw defenders while he frequently plays clever flicks to runners. He has an ability to drop deep and work the ball out of pressure as well as threading line-breaking passes to instigate attacking play. At home to Eintracht Frankfurt last season, he dropped into a left-back role to receive passes and refine possession into attacks by scheming from deep and then moving into the centre to create opportunities. He has retained and developed his ability as a counter-attacking conduit as he thrives when driving into space on the break.


“I’ve seen a lot of games involving Julian,” explained Bosz to the Bundesliga’s official website. “During my time with Dortmund when we played against Bayer, in Leverkusen. Back then he was playing on the wing, but I saw him as a midfielder. He’s such a good player and you’ve got to give good players the ball as much as possible.”


Borussia Dortmund already had a talented array of attackers with Marco Reus, Mario Gotze, Jadon Sancho and Jacob Bruun Larsen as they have now added Thorgan Hazard and Brandt. The 23-year-old German has knack of stringing together attacking moves in the final third as he finished with 8 goals and 12 assists last season. He is making inroads into being a key player for Die Mannschaft at International level as Joachim Loew looks to introduce a new generation. He will be a key addition who will allow Borussia Dortmund to put Bayern to the sword in the Bundesliga while giving the Black and Yellows an opportunity to make a deep run in the UEFA Champions League.