The January Transfer Monger vol. 1: Wing Help, High Prices and Sino-German Relations
Hello and happy 2018 Dortmund fans! Have you missed the Transfer Monger since the summer? Ok, be honest, did you even know he was gone? Well, no matter, it’s transfer season again, and with the compulsive purchasing habits of Michael Zorc and Hans-Joachim Watzke, fans know to expect something from die Borussen this January. However, there is an air of the unknown surrounding the club at present, with the current manager, Peter Stoeger, likely only a temporary solution and former chief scout Sven Mislintat has left for Arsenal (and already signed the exact sort of young, talented but unknown defender he would have with Dortmund). “Diamond Eyes” was an exceptionally gifted talent evaluator, but the club has lost key pieces every season over the last decade (some considered far more important to their success) and continued to soldier on.
It might have been a tumultuous first half of the season, but the squad is as talented as any in the Bundesliga (besides Bayern Munich of course), and the second half should be as much about cohesiveness and getting healthy is it should be about new faces. Still, this is Dortmund we are talking about, and the odds of them letting a transfer window pass by without doing any business are slim, to say the least.
The Aubameyang Saga Continues
This week it finally seemed that a conclusion to the never-ending drama surrounding Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s status at the club was imminent, after it was reported that Dortmund has agreed a massive €72 million fee to send the striker to Guangzhou Evergrande in China. It appeared that the club had successfully thwarted their league rivals Beijing Guoan in securing his services, but the story quickly became convoluted. The Chinese Super League released a statement about the two club’s involvement in Transfer negotiations, in which they cited the enormous fee as a probable violation of the League’s newly implemented spending regulations. Not wanting to run afoul of the league, Evergrande quickly released a statement denying the deal had been struck, citing Dortmund’s denial in the process and leaving the threat of legal action on the media who “falsely” reported the story up in the air.
For Aubameyang, it seemed that after all of the speculation surrounding his future, his decision would ultimately have been a financial one. His time to truly become the centre-piece of a top club is drawing to a close, but certainly, he is still good enough to be one of the most feared strikers in Europe. Something about a player choosing the less competitive action in Asia solely for the wages tends to rub fans the wrong way, and with Aubameyang, his commitment to the club has fallen under scrutiny after he was disciplined earlier this season for tardiness and a lack of effort. As it stands, clubs like Liverpool (who are the trendy pick this year to land just about everyone, and it has been posited that they could offer up Daniel Sturridge in part exchange) and Real Madrid could check in his availability, but it seems this situation in China will need monitoring.
Despite the wing being one of the deepest positions in the squad, especially when Marco Reus returns, several notable players have been linked to Dortmund this January. Perhaps the most obvious is former star Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who left for Manchester United just a year and a half ago. Despite his involvement in over 30 goals in all competitions the season before his switch, the versatile playmaker never made his mark with Jose Mourinho’s side, where his creativity was stifled by the restrictive role he was asked to play. One of those players that needs to be confident and feel wanted to perform, Mkhitaryan would do well to cut his losses and return to a place where he had tremendous success, and his time in Manchester serves as a classic case of what happens to a player when he lets his powerful agent decide his future.
In addition to Mkhitaryan, die Schwarzgelben have been linked to Atletico Bilbao attacker Inaki Williams and Bordeaux attacker Malcom. Williams was linked last season, and at this point is mostly being pushed by betting sites, but he would be a tremendous fit in Dortmund’s cadre of attacking talent. He works hard for a winger in defence, and he also has the size, pace, and many of the same skills that precipitated Aubameyang’s successful move to the striker role. Perhaps he could do the same in Dortmund, but his skill set would be a welcome addition anywhere across the attacking front.
The same can be said for Malcom, the young Brazilian winger currently attracting the attention of loads of top clubs. Manchester United are reported to be interested, as well as Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and (you guessed it) Liverpool. He would likely be the most expensive player of the ones mentioned, but his upside is also arguably the highest. Unfortunately, talent magnets Bayern Munich has also reportedly sent scouts to watch him play for Bordeaux in Ligue 1 this season. As talented as you’d expect a Brazilian winger to be on the ball, Malcom also has very good vision and a solid build to deal with the physicality of the league. He only cost Bordeaux £5 million, but when he moves on to a bigger club, it will be for a significant profit.
Pulisic To Go In The Summer?
Bundesliga expert Raphael Honigstein recently spend time with Dortmund at their winter training camp, and mentioned that he would be shocked if Liverpool didn’t come in for Christian Pulisic in the summer. With over £100 million burning a hole in their pockets from selling Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona, they are being linked with several wingers and playmakers, with the young American thought to be among them. There are loads of options in those positions looking to make moves either in January or during the summer, many of which will cost far less than Pulisic, so perhaps Liverpool will need to consider other options, especially with some big names arriving on Merseyside.
Priced Out of Akanji?
Speaking of Liverpool, Dortmund could find themselves fighting with the English giants for Basel defender Manuel Akanji either in January or the summer. Both clubs have had incredibly proficient attacks but inconsistent defending in recent seasons, so the move would make sense for both clubs. At just 22, Akanji is a versatile and intelligent young defender brimmed with potential. His good quickness for a defender would be a good fit in the counter attack happy Bundesliga, and he has become a known commodity around Europe since carving out a place in the first team a year ago.
Unfortunately for Dortmund, Basel are extremely reluctant to sell him until the summer, and with a Premier League club in the mix, the fee will quickly sail north of €30 million, leaving Dortmund unlikely to pull the trigger. Still, the thought of him joining Dan-Axel Zagadou, Jeremy Toljan and Felix Passlack (when he returns from loan) to form a talented young defensive core for years to come is a tempting proposition. Should Aubameyang make his big money move, Akanji becomes more viable, but until then it appears the club have a battle on their hands for his signature.
Thinking Ahead, or Just a Coincidence?
Does it seem as though there are more English or American players in the Bundesliga these days? With Jadon Sancho’s arrival from Manchester City in the summer, some predicted that it was a marker for a new trend that would see an increasing number of young players leave their Premier League clubs for more opportunities to play meaningful minutes in Germany. Schalke and Dortmund’s American players have obviously garnered much attention as well, but still it begs a question; is this a coincidence or a trend?
Dortmund have been known for their penchant for good business since the club nearly went bankrupt, but having taken a few hits to their back room and coaching staffs in recent seasons, it’s fair to wonder if they will still be able to maintain their almost unparalleled ability to find good talent for a reasonable price. Mislintat was essential in that, but the signing of Jadon Sancho (and the reported bid for Robert Snodgrass) could hold a clue to the club’s next foray into the bargain market.
England is currently dominating international competitions at the youth level, but given the money in the Premier League, more and more clubs are feeling the pressure to build expensive, veteran squads, as the financial impact of relegation is almost too great these days to be brushed off. As a result, young up and coming players are not being given the time needed on the pitch to develop. The problem is only compounded further by the use of u23 squads in England as opposed to “B” teams like they use in other European leagues. However, if Dortmund have identified this as a possible supply line for young talent, they will once again have proven their guile and resourcefulness on the massively inflated market.