Dortmund’s transfer market misses
Borussia Dortmund are world renowned for their incredible recruitment and youth development.
The club have garnered a reputation for making staggering profits, often signing young players for low fees before selling them on for astronomical figures.
Jude Bellingham is the latest example; the Englishman was brought in from Birmingham City in 2020 for around €30m before leaving this summer for €103m.
BVB’s two most expensive signings cost just €35m and €31m respectively (Ousmane Dembélé and Sébastien Haller).
Behind Dembélé, Bellingham has become the club’s second most expensive sale and sixth player to be sold for over €60m.
Dortmund’s golden era under Jürgen Klopp was built upon bargain signings: Roman Weidenfeller, Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Błaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski are just a few of the endless list of names.
In the years since the German was in charge at Signal Iduna Park, ‘die Borussen’ have also reaped the rewards for their development of talents such as Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho and Christian Pulisic.
But the club’s acquisitions in the transfer market haven’t all been hits.
Albeit rare, they’ve had their fair share of misses too.
This is a look back at some of the Black and Yellows’ most underwhelming signings.
Brazilian wonderkid Reinier Jesus followed in the footsteps of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo in joining Real Madrid for €30m in 2020.
But unlike his compatriots, the forward didn’t hit the ground running in the Spanish capital and was loaned to ‘die Schwarzgelben’ six months later for two seasons.
Reinier made just two starts during his time in North Rhine-Westphalia, with his other 37 appearances coming from the bench.
In that spell, he mustered up just one goal and an assist.
The hype surrounding Reinier, however, was nothing compared to that surrounding Turkish wonderkid Emre Mor.
Mor signed for Thomas Tuchel’s side for almost €10m in 2016 and netted off the bench on his league debut against Darmstadt.
But a red card quite early on in his time at the club and one or two injuries meant he made just six starts in total, as he failed to make an impression.
Still, BVB made a profit as he was sold to Celta Vigo after a season for €13m.
Argentinian defender Leonardo Balerdi came to the Bundesliga from Boca Juniors for an eye-catching €15m fee in 2019.
But the now 24-year-old made just one start in 18 months for Dortmund, as he featured more for the club’s reserve side.
His only start came in a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Hoffenheim in 2020 – his final appearance before he was sent to Marseille, initially on loan.
Borussia Dortmund couldn’t quite work their development magic in these cases.
Germany international Nico Schulz joined ‘die Schwarzgelben’ from Hoffenheim for €25.5m in 2019.
A star performer for Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim, the left-back arrived at Signal Iduna Park with heavy expectations and a hefty price tag.
Set to be the heir to club legend Marcel Schmelzer’s throne, Schulz was released this summer after an uninspiring stint as a black and yellow.
The 30-year-old made 61 appearances for the club across three seasons, failing to get on the pitch once last term, and battled with injury throughout his stay, while failing to deliver when on the pitch.
Juventus academy product Ciro Immobile signed for ‘die Borussen’ as one of Italian football’s next generation of stars.
After bagging 28 goals in Serie B with Pescara, the striker netted 22 times in the top flight for Torino in the 2013-14 season.
Such form caught the attention of some of European giants, including Borussia Dortmund, who brought the Italian to Germany for almost €20m the following summer.
Immobile scored just three times in the Bundesliga for Klopp’s side.
However, he did net on four occasions in the club’s Champions League campaign and scored three in three DFB-Pokal starts.
10 goals and 2 assists across 17 starts in all competitions is, by no means, a bad total.
But despite going on to become arguably the greatest Serie A goalscorer of his era, the 33-year-old couldn’t overthrow Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the club’s main number nine and also had to compete with another striker.
He was sold on to Sevilla two years later after a loan spell for around half of his original transfer fee.
Colombian number nine Adrian Ramos also arrived in North Rhine-Westphalia with Immobile in 2014.
He had scored 58 goals across his previous five league campaigns with Hertha Berlin.
Ramos came in for a little under €10m but managed just two Bundesliga goals in his debut campaign.
The South American made just 19 league starts in his three years with the club, as he failed to secure a regular starting role.
His tally of nine goals in his next season wasn’t to be sniffed at, but was deemed insufficient by Thomas Tuchel, who couldn’t put his trust in Ramos.
Aubameyang’s incredible form was another factor that added to the misfortunes of both Ramos and Immobile.
He was moved on to Granada in 2017.
German forward Maximilian Philipp played a key role in helping Freiburg return to the Bundesliga in 2016 and staying there.
Peter Bosz’s Dortmund brought the then 23-year-old to Signal Iduna Park for €20m in 2017.
Philipp operated in a number of different roles: as a striker, a second striker and as a left-winger.
It was perhaps because of this constant position changing, along with many injury troubles, why he couldn’t establish himself as a regular fixture in the team.
The team’s poor collective form in his debut year won’t have helped his cause either.
Nine goals in 15 starts that year was a good total in the circumstances but Philipp netted just twice the following season, failing to build on his early promise.
BVB still recouped their money, earning €20m when he was sold to Dinamo Moscow in 2019.
Like Schulz, fellow German wing-back Jeremy Toljan joined ‘die Borussen’ from Hoffenheim at 23 years old in 2017.
A player tipped to have a bright future, the right wing-back had impressed while helping 1899 qualify for European football.
€7m appeared to be a bargain fee for Bosz’s men.
But Toljan managed just 19 starts across all competitions in a disappointing campaign for the club.
For the following season, the former Germany youth international lost his place in the squad, failing to make an appearance before joining Celtic on loan in January 2019.
Only four players in the history of Borussia Dortmund cost more money than André Schürrle.
A star of German football in the early 2010’s, the winger played a key role as ‘die Mannschaft’ lifted the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Schürrle had starred at Mainz, Bayer Leverkusen, Chelsea and Wolfsburg, leaving plenty of promise for the Yellow Wall when a 26-year-old Schürrle returned to North Rhine-Westphalia.
Despite claiming eight goals and 10 assists in 27 starts for ‘die Schwarzgelben’, he had major fitness issues and couldn’t be relied upon.
Schürrle missed 38 games in total while injured at the club.
19 league starts across two seasons meant that the €30m paid to bring him to Thomas Tuchel’s side was ultimately wasted.
He was loaned out to Fulham and Spartak Moscow before retiring at just 30 years old in 2020.
Another recruit of the seemingly cursed summer of 2017, Bayer Leverkusen centre-back Ömer Toprak joined the Black and Yellows for €12m.
Having been one of the Bundesliga’s best defenders of the previous seasons, this seemed like a smart pickup: picking up an experienced defender in his prime years at 28.
But in a poor season for the team, the Turkey international failed to impress and secure a regular role in the team.
Also battling with injury troubles, Toprak managed 37 starts in all competitions across his two seasons in black and yellow.
He left to join Werder Bremen in 2019.
Dynamo Kyiv legend Andriy Yarmolenko made his move to the big leagues with Borussia Dortmund in that same notorious 2017 summer.
Joining for €25m, the winger became the club’s first ever Ukrainian player and brought hope of a fresh dimension to their attack.
Also arriving in his prime years with over 300 goal involvements for Dynamo, Yarmolenko was expected to thrive in the Bundesliga due to its open, expansive football.
The forward made a good start to life at Signal Iduna Park and eventually racked up six goals and six assists.
However, a foot injury in the second half of the season meant Yarmolenko made just 19 starts and with the emergence of Jadon Sancho, he was sold on a year later to West Ham for €20m.
Several of these Borussia Dortmund flop transfers have happened to come in recent seasons.
In the early years under Klopp, the club rarely missed with their transfers; in the iconic team of 2010-2013, the majority of players were bargain buys or academy products.
While the philosophy and identity remain the same, the board have delivered a mixed bag of results in the transfer market since.
The jury is out on a number of recent signings, with the hierarchy coming under scrutiny in the summer for the deals they struck.
Sometimes the pressure of playing for one of Germany’s biggest clubs in front of something as sacred as the Yellow Wall can be too much.
This isn’t helped by the recent decline of German football.
But as has been the case on many occasions, players can thrive at this club in these circumstances.
‘die Borussen’ will be hoping their new buys won’t end up on such a list in a few years’ time.