Amidst the excitement that international tournaments bring, there has been the small matter of clubs looking to strengthen for the coming season of football frenzy. While the Euros and the Copa America may hinder clubs from completing transfers early, this does not apply to German clubs like Borussia Dortmund. Typical German efficiency, you may say.
The backpages of the Mirror and the Sun have been quick in criticizing Dortmund’s policy. Selling their captain and figurehead to their only rivals (arguably) in Germany? Selling their midfield metronome (albeit injured in recent times)? All signs of a regressing football team, they say.
However, there has been lesser focus on the incomings at the Westfalenstadion. Astute dealings under the cover of the Euros have gone under the radar, but that’s how Dortmund like to deal. It is difficult for them to challenge Bayern given their situation, but in moving to secure the services of some of the coveted talents around the world, they ensure they stand the chance to make a profit a few years down the line as well as help to develop the players. Here are the main talking points concerning Dortmund’s transfer policy so far:
Primary Focus is on Long-Term Future
After the successful transfer of Julian Weigl from 1860 Munich - which saw him seamlessly integrate into the Dortmund first XI and become a key player for them while earning a call-up to Germany for the Euros - Dortmund are continuing to act towards their long-term future. The signings of Ousmane Dembele, Emre Mor, Mikel Merino and Raphael Guerreiro are testament to that.
Dembele rapidly put himself on the list of highly coveted youngsters in the market as he hit 12 goals in 29 appearances for Ligue 1 outfit Rennes in his debut season. A stunning achievement; plaudits came in from all directions, and the likes of Barcelona batted their eyelashes at him. Dortmund, however, is the best choice for him. He will be able to settle in and will be given time to justify that price tag (€15million) and the hype.
Dembele is not the only young forward purchased though, as Emre Mor will also be joining up next season. Mor is a lesser-known individual, previously playing for FC Nordsjælland. There has been plenty of interest in his services and Dortmund were quick to get him to sign on the dotted line. The quick winger was called up to the Euros to play for Turkey, which shows their eagerness to fast-track him into the national team. He isn’t ready yet for the first-team, but with time and patience, he could well emerge to be the next star.
Mikel Merino, a box-to-box midfielder, is a deal that has gone completely under the radar, perhaps because the signing was confirmed in February 2016. Merino has had enough game time for CA Osasuna in the Liga Adelante. His signing draws comparison to another young Dortmund midfielder. You guessed it right, Julian Weigl! Merino, Dembele and Mor are all deft acquisitions, and the chances are they will fulfill their potential at Dortmund.
The 4th young signing is a more established one. Raphael Guerreiro, the left-sided Portuguese, is an interesting buy. Purchased from Lorient, he can play as a left-back as well as left-midfielder, providing Tuchel flexibility as to how to use him. He will naturally be the backup for the more experienced Schmelzer in his first season but with time he will grow to be the replacement for the German on the left-flank.
Orel Mangala has also reportedly joined the Black and Yellows. Mangala is a central midfielder who has played for the Anderlecht U19 team and starred for Belgium in the U-17 World Cup last year. This deal works in tandem with Michael Zorc’s policy of developing youngsters, and given the deal being a loan with an option to buy, it will give them an opportunity to observe Mangala in close quarters. All in all, while Dortmund’s short-term future may have question marks, they have been quick to secure their long-term future.
Shrewd Purchases of Under-Rated Players
Marc Bartra and Sebastian Rode may have been fringe players at Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively, but let that not distract you from their talent and abilities. They are not the most spectacular players, operating defensively, but they may turn out to be invaluable for Dortmund.
The Catalan cost only €8million, a real pittance in today’s market, and they have the Barca board to thank for that. A defender schooled in the La Masia way of defending, and honed by senior pros such as Carlos Puyol (coincidentally his agent), Pique and Mascherano, Bartra will finally have a chance for more regular time, something his ability warrants.
His lack of game time at Barca is well-documented, but that has not dimmed Bartra’s hunger. At 25, he has immense potential and should slot into the Hummels-shaped hole relatively well. He has shades of the German, being a good passer and a ball-playing defender. Time will tell if he can step out of the shadow.
Sebastian Rode is another player who has had limited game time at Bayern; naturally so, with the midfield options available to the Munich-based side last season. However, by turning down Tottenham in favour of Dortmund, Rode will have immediately made a good impression. Rode is an engine who puts in his all on the field, which will suit Tuchel’s pressing style of play. His ability to harry the opponents will undoubtedly help Tuchel in the upcoming style.
Rode and Bartra aren’t statement signings. But they don’t need to be. They will slip in seamlessly into the Dortmund engine.
Need to Move on from the Loss of Senior Pros
The loss of Ilkay Gundogan and Mats Hummels, established German internationals, will rankle deeply within the Dortmund faithful. The duo have been the cornerstones of a Dortmund side that has seen a number of departures in recent years, including Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski, now of Bayern.
Hummels, captain and the defensive rock of the side, saw the need to win trophies overrule his loyalty to his current club. It must be said that he was a Bayern youth graduate, and so is only returning back home. The loss of a captain will always hurt, and the defender’s move to rivals Bayern will have hit the hearts of the loyal Dortmund fans deeply. The 27-year-old moves to Bayern at his peak, but whether his success there is guaranteed is another question. In the years to come the sale of Hummels may prove to be the best decision for the club.
Ilkay Gundogan is the other key player to leave the club in search of glory elsewhere. The midfielder was linked with a move to Manchester United and Barcelona the previous season but instead chose to stay for the 2015-16 campaign. However, the lure of playing under Pep Guardiola and the money on offer means his new home will be at the Etihad Stadium.
The famous Yellow Wall to the ‘Emptihad’ stadium is a downgrade in terms of fan atmosphere, but City have bought him with a clear purpose in mind. Dortmund have done extremely well to get £20million for a player entering the final year of his contract, and who has suffered a couple of major injuries. For all of his ability, it is the best time for Dortmund to cut loose on Gundogan.
The club have still made major profits on both players, and the transfer fees of the six news players do not exceed the money gained from the sales of Hummels and Gundogan. The club could really go and make a statement signing now with the money they have.
Unresolved Futures of Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan
Henrik Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Two remaining cornerstones, experienced heads of the Dortmund side. Two world-class players in their right, both liberated by Tuchel. Mkhitaryan, a creator who struggled to fit in under Klopp’s Gegenpressing but found himself at ease under Tuchel, who gave the Armenian the freedom he needed. Aubameyang, an erst-while right-midfielder who never found much success until he was put up front due to the lack of viable strikers at the club. He hasn’t looked back since. A speed demon, he enjoyed his most fruitful season last year and has been linked to Real Madrid, Barca and the Manchester Clubs. Mkhitaryan has also been linked to the Manchester clubs and Arsenal. Here lies the question: to cash in or to keep?
Mkhitaryan has a year left on his contract and is very unlikely to sign a new contract. Interest from Arsenal and Manchester United has left his superagent, Mino Raiola, angling over a move for his client. Dortmund have two choices regarding the Armenian: force him to stay and lose him on a free next year, or cash in now. There is precedent over the first option with Robert Lewandowski, who did well for the club in his last season.
Mkhitaryan, however, cost the club a fair bit of money and so the cash is invitingly tempting; they could make profit on a player who wants to leave. The red half of Manchester seems the likely place and if United bid the price Dortmund want, the midfielder is likely to leave. Whatever be the case, it is vital for Mkhitaryan and his future to be settled quickly so as to not cast a pall on the rest of the team, given pre-season starts in a few weeks.
Aubameyang is as likely to leave the club. Despite professing for a dream Madrid move, Manchester City are more likely to land the player. This would be a hard blow, to lose a world-class striker of the Gabonian’s ilk. The fee however, in the realm of €60million, could lessen the blow, but there are few strikers similar to Auba in world football. He is loved by the Yellow Wall, but at 27, a big move has to come now. Under Pep, City have become an attractive force and given the players at the club, there is no reason why he would want to reject a move. A move would herald the end of Klopp’s Dortmund as we know it.
Both players may end up at Manchester, and Dortmund will be shorn of four key players. It is not the end though, and with that money they could spend big. They have the nous to do so. Intrigue will hover around the duo’s future at the club. We can only wait and watch as to where they end up.