Marcel Sabitzer was born in Wels, in the foothills of the Upper Austrian Alps, on 17 March 1994 and was regarded as one of the country's greatest attacking talents in his youth. Now, his preferred position is central midfield. He is attack-minded and forward-thinking on and off the ball. One of his great strengths is counter-pressing and he specialises in long-range shots: 12 of his 34 Bundesliga goals have come from range, including three direct free-kicks.
The son of former Austria international Herfried Sabitzer, he was born into a footballing family. Sabitzer first joined ESV Admira Villach and then moved on to Grazer AK, where he laced his boots until he turned 14 in 2008. He left Austria Vienna in 2009 for the Admira Wacker youth set-up, where he first played for both the U17 and U19 teams before making his debut at senior level in the Regionalliga in the 2009/10 season. The then 18-year-old was wanted by several top-tier German clubs by the 2012/13 season, but Sabitzer approached his career with caution and transferred to Austrian record champions Rapid Vienna in January 2013. The newcomer scored seven goals in 29 appearances for the capital club in the 2013/14 campaign and enjoyed his first taste of European club football in the UEFA Europa League.
A German club did then secure the midfielder's services, but Rasenballsport Leipzig then loaned him to FC Salzburg for the 2014/15 campaign. He made a major contribution as the club retained the title, scoring 19 goals and notching 16 assists in 33 league appearances. He also had a big hand in their ÖFB-Cup triumph, registering seven goals and six assists in only five appearances.
Sabitzer began a six-year spell in Leipzig in the summer of 2015, playing first in the second tier and then in the top flight following promotion in 2016. He stood out thanks to his technique, his dynamism, his speed and – despite his tender age of only 23 – his maturity too. And also his versatility. He was deployed in attack, in the hole behind the striker(s) and on the flanks. "I'm a bit of everything," he said of his playing style in kicker magazine (August 2015). He was voted the Austrian Footballer of the Year in 2017.
When Julian Nagelsmann took over as the Saxony outfit's head coach in 2019, he made Sabitzer his "aggressive leader" in central defensive midfield. His move – from the flanks to the heart of midfield – is reminiscent of Bastian Schweinsteiger. The Austrian, who was by this point the Leipzig captain, moved together with his coach to Bayern Munich in the summer of 2021. He was loaned out to Manchester United until the end of the season in January 2023 (18 competitive appearances, 11 of them in the starting XI; he missed the final five games due to a meniscus injury). He shone in the UEFA Europa League quarter-final first leg against Sevilla, scoring two goals in a 2-2 draw. At domestic level, he helped the club win the English League Cup.
During pre-season for the 2023/24 campaign, Sabitzer decided to join Borussia Dortmund. His long phone conversation with coach Edin Terzic proved the decisive factor. "He explained to me how he sees me, what my strengths and also my weaknesses are, and what role he has for me. That makes you think and impresses you. When a stranger knows you so well and has studied you, it shows that he has really taken notice of you. I first asked myself about the possibility of a transfer and then got my family on board. I then gave the green light and it happened very quickly. It was a process of maybe 12 to 14 hours."
Sabitzer is "convinced by the team, the club, the fans, the stadium – simply impressive. It was not easy to come to Dortmund as an opposing player. It's never really fun when 75,000 are against you. I want to attack, I want to have fun here and showcase myself in the league like I did before." The newcomer sees his role as follows: "On the pitch, things have to get nasty sometimes. I've done that in the past too. You need guys like that: who don't shirk away when things aren't such fun." Sabitzer sees his strengths as an a No. 8: "I make a lot of runs in behind, but I'm also not above tracking back and doing the dirty work. My role is a box-to-box player."
In this role, he can rely on one of his weapons – long-distance shots: "That can help against opponents that sit deep." In his youth, he did a lot of shooting practice with his best buddy, a goalkeeper: "That certainly played a part in my shooting technique. I want to contribute that."
Sabitzer will wear the shirt number 20 at BVB. Many numbers in the squad were already taken. He chose this one because he used to wear it in his early days with the Austrian national team. He was 18 years, two months and 19 days old when he made his debut on 5 June 2012. He now has 71 caps to his name. Sabitzer became a father to a daughter (Mary Lou) in April 2019.