BERLIN (AP) — Bayern Munich signed Austria attacking midfielder Marcel Sabitzer from Leipzig on Monday, boosting its own squad while weakening its closest rival in the Bundesliga last season.
The 27-year-old Sabitzer was given a four-year contract and will wear the No. 18 jersey, Bayern said in a statement.
Sabitzer, who was Leipzig’s captain, will be reunited with coach Julian Nagelsmann and defender Dayot Upamecano, who also joined Bayern from Leipzig over the summer.
Leipzig finished second, 13 points behind Bayern in the Bundesliga last season, and it was third in both seasons before that.
Bayern was reportedly paying around 15 million euros ($17.5 million) for Sabitzer, who joined Leipzig from Rapid Vienna in 2014 and quickly went on to become a key player for the Saxony-based club. He helped Leipzig reach two German Cup finals, qualify for the Champions League, and establish itself as one of Germany’s best.
Sabitzer scored 32 goals in 145 Bundesliga appearances for Leipzig, four in 21 Champions League appearances, and seven in 18 German Cup games. The club was keen for him to stay, but Sabitzer declined its offer of a contract extension and could have left without a transfer fee next year.
“As a child my Bayern kit was my pride and joy,” Sabitzer was quoted as saying. “I got a new one at Christmas every year. I’ll give everything for this club, I want to win as many matches as possible and, of course, collect lots of titles.”
Sabitzer has eight goals in 54 appearances for Austria.
Bayern has long signed its closest rivals’ best players. The Bavarian powerhouse dealt Borussia Dortmund a blow in 2013 when it signed Mario Götze, signed Robert Lewandowski in 2014, and convinced captain Mats Hummels to join in 2016.
Bayern has won the Bundesliga every year since 2013 and is bidding for a record-extending 10th consecutive title.