Leandro Morgalla is an 18-year-old German center-back that has signed for RB Salzburg on a €1.8M transfer from 1860 Munich. The 186 cm lean built defender will spend 2023-24 on loan at feeder club FC Liefering to continue his development. Last season, he appeared in 31 matches in 3. Liga as both a center-back and right-back while picking up an assist in the Bayernpokal. Morgalla displayed discipline by picking up only one yellow card all season. National team-wise, he earned a call up to the U19s last November and has been a consistent member this cycle ever since.
Physically, he could stand to pack on a few more pounds. Although he does not shy away from contact, Morgalla’s frame did not take kindly to it as he missed time due to an assortment of injuries, the most recent affecting his left shoulder. On the contrary, his pace for a center-back is borderline elite and aided him both in defensive recoveries and when playing right-back. In aerial duels, he does well to win them, utilizing his height, though in the box he must make his aerial presence better felt. Morgalla could also stand to become a better decision-maker as he ages, though there is plenty of time for him to become more tactically intelligent as only a teenager.
On defense, Morgalla thrives in 1v1s with well-timed tackles and determination. His knack for poking his foot in at the right time while back pedaling prevented his club from having to defend in their own box countless times. His clearances afterward must be better as they do not consistently clear danger. When beat in 1v1s, Morgalla displays the hustle needed to stick with it and continue applying pressure from behind, while his pace aids in the recovery. Generally, when on ball he is technically astute while making good use of his frame. He is quick to make a defensive action and plays with the anticipation to intercept and block, especially around the box. There is a lot to build upon for Morgalla to reach his potential as a European level 1v1 defender.
When operating off ball, he does well to use his frame to mark and keep his head on a swivel. His pace in recoveries is also a major positive and allow Morgalla to be active when covering for teammates as transition play begins to enter the box. He could improve in his communication when passing off defensive assignments as his marker found ways to cut across his face to get open too often. This tends to be the only way he is caught out off ball. In addition, Morgalla needs to assert himself more as a defender in his own box when it is full of traffic, such as on set pieces and when possession has gotten deep into his own third.
In the buildup, Morgalla is a huge asset as a ball carrier and passer to progress possession. When ball carrying, his dribbling ability is impressive for his position as he uses skill to beat his marker when pressure engages. This ability also translates when Morgalla is positioned at full-back, using skill and pace to beat his marker down the flank. When distributing, he displays the vision and range to pick out open teammates with his dominant right using ground and aerial passes to break lines. Morgalla has admirable accuracy and maturity as a distributor but must make better decisions when passing over the top as he can get too ambitious and give away possession.
Tactically, Morgalla is best suited as a right-sided center-back in a back three or as a defense-minded right-back in a back four. He is not quite polished enough defensively to be trusted completely in the center of a back four, though he would not struggle. Playing in a back three would protect his defensive deficiencies as he develops, and it put emphasis on his strengths as a ball-playing defender. As a right-back, Morgalla stays back when the attack goes through the opposite wing while doing his best to provide overlapping support with his pace when on his. If played in this position, it would be best if he mostly stayed back, even inverting as an extra midfielder to better utilize his ball-progressing/line-breaking abilities in the buildup.
Overall, Morgalla has a lot to offer as a ball-playing center-back with positional versatility. It will be interesting to see how he develops and what RB Salzburg have planned for him. He is suited well for a position change, although he does look at home in the center of defense. Morgalla has the potential to dominate Austria’s 2. Liga early and quickly challenge for a place in the Austrian giant’s first team. I see him back in his home nation with Leipzig in only a couple years if all goes well.