City report card: Mo’s demise a sad reminder of City’s struggles
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Moritz Leitner has gone from a Championship title-winning hero to a City outcast in 12 months. Connor Southwell analyses the 27-year-old’s fall from grace at Carrow Road.
When Moritz Leitner initially burst onto the Norwich City scene as a late substitute against Brentford back in 2018, everyone could see the technical ability the German midfielder possessed.
His arrival from Augsburg was considered to be something of a coup considering his reputation – and the performances on the pitch in the Championship during his loan stint seemed to back up that assessment.
As James Maddison hobbled off against Sheffield Wednesday in City’s crushing 5-1 defeat at Hillsbrough, many expected that would also be the last they saw of Leitner in yellow and green.
But the Canaries did manage to secure his services for £1.5million and the deep-lying playmaker had finally discovered a home to revive a career that had seen him struggle to settle at one club.
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From midfield, he orchestrated City’s offensive phases in the Championship. He dictated possession and served as the metronome within the side, setting the tempo and ensuring the intensity remained high.
Daniel Farke’s relationship with the midfielder was healthy. It was a major factor in Leitner’s decision to join City permanently and both were reaping the benefits in the Championship as the Canaries passed their way to the summit.
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A combination of injuries and positive performances from other midfield operators prevented Leitner from replicating his productive first half of the season, but the midfielder was still complimentary about Farke’s methods in an interview last year.
“He’s a doer. He recognises the potential of each individual and helps you to continuously improve. And then he forms the individual players into a team that goes through fire for him. It’s great how he does it.
“He is a super guy in character and profession, a real leader and a role model,” Leitner told German outlet Goal. Many supporters expected the German playmaker to shine in the top-flight - and that excitement was increased after an excellent individual display in the Canaries 3-1 victory over Newcastle United at Carrow Road last August.
Leitner, alongside compatriot Tom Trybull, was instrumental in asserting Farke’s philosophy onto proceedings.
Yet, a year later, Leitner’s agent has confirmed that the club and the player will part ways this summer.
Leitner’s quest for a home continues.
He has been conspicuous by his absence, with social media rumours surrounding a fall-out persistent throughout this season. Leitner’s half-time withdrawal in October’s defeat to Manchester United was his last appearance for the Canaries in the league.
City’s boss has always downplayed rumours, but Leitner’s fall from the heart of midfield is indicative of City’s own philosophical adaptation, with Alex Tettey and Kenny McLean becoming Farke’s preferred axis in the engine room.
Speaking about those rumours of a spat with the ex-Borussia Dortmund midfielder after the Canaries 2-0 defeat to Brighton, Farke said: “No, absolutely not. Moritz is so professional. There has been no fallout or a problem in the dressing room.
“It is a tough decision I have to make. He, in his own way, can be a genius.
“He is a player who, with his technical ability, can control a game. In that regard he is outstanding, but I had the feeling we needed some different type of players in these recent games.
“It is always harsh to leave a player out with his quality, but sometimes you have to make a decision for the 18 between perhaps him or Mario (Vrancic). In many topics they are quite similar, both good in possession, but maybe you would say Mario is more physical without the ball.
“You can’t switch between them from week to week so I accept right now it is a tough period for Moritz, but it is up to him to impress on the training pitch and then when his chance comes again he grabs it.”
The overarching emotion from supporters about the whole affair will be one of regret and disappointment.
Leitner was expected to implement the Canaries’ style on the big stage, but now he is in search of a new destination.
His technical quality is unquestionable, but whatever happens from here, rightly or wrongly, it will be his temperament that will come under the microscope.
For a player who was a named substitute in the Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund, his career hasn’t progressed in the manner anybody hoped.
And this time, City’s attempt to revive a career that promised so much has fallen by the wayside.