The January Transfer Monger: English Blitzkrieg Becomes a Siege as the Aubameyang Deal Drags Out
As transfer windows go, this January might lack the typical variety of players linked to or from Borussia Dortmund, but it more than makes up for that with the sheer importance of those that have been linked. Rarely has the behaviour of a player been discussed so candidly before he has even left the club, but such is the case with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and his deteriorating relationship with the club. To be fair, Dortmund might have made the best move for the second half of their season already when they fired Peter Bosz, so most of the players linked to the club are done so on a conditional basis and far from concrete, pending the sale of a player currently in the team. As always, Michael Zorc and Hans-Joachim Watzke have exuded competence this window, and they certainly will not be taken for fools in any negotiation, no matter how rich or how familiar the person or team sitting across the table might be.
Dragging It Out
If the sudden strength to the rumours linking Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to Arsenal a little over a week ago suggested a deal was rapidly approaching a conclusion, the perception is that the deal has stalled this week as the clubs continue to disagree over the fee. Reports have been difficult to decipher, mainly because there isn’t much clarity over exactly how many offers have been made, although it is now generally thought that Arsenal’s offer currently stands at just over £50 million, while Dortmund are holding firm with a valuation somewhere between £55-60 million.
Arsenal supporters were bursting with excitement earlier this week when club CEO Ivan Gazidis, Contracts Expert Huss Fahmy, and former Dortmund man and current Head of Recruitment for the Gunners, Sven Mislintat, were pictured together in Dortmund alongside what appeared to be Aubameyang’s car. To be fair, the player side of the deal looks to be all but wrapped up, as the striker sadly appears to have already left the club mentally. His movements have been followed in painstaking fashion, and the social media accounts of Arsenal players and Aubameyang’s entourage have been followed intently for clues of a breakthrough in proceedings. Dortmund residents have gotten a taste this week of the crazed nature and micro-reporting of transfers by the English press, and it has been bemusing to some to see the dramatic way in which every development has been received by Arsenal fans.
Further adding to the tension in negotiations is the difficulty the club have had in finding a suitable replacement. January transfers are usually expensive and most clubs loathe to sell their best players before the most pivotal part of the season begins. Olivier Giroud has been considered as a possibility to be sent back the other way in the Aubameyang deal on a 6 month loan, but his reticence (and that of his wife, apparently) has led to talk of him requiring a £1.5 million loan payment to consider the move, or elsewhere he is stated to generally not favour the move. By Thursday night, a deal for the Frenchman looked all but off. Similarly, all has gone quiet around the Michy Batshuayi rumours, as the Chelsea striker has not been mentioned in any substantive new reports with Dortmund since last week.
The latest two names to be linked this week are Sevilla striker Wissam Ben Yedder and Lyon forward Maxwell Cornet, who both profile slightly different in how they would replace the Gabonese star, but either could prove to be an intelligent purchase for the club. Ben Yedder projects as a smaller, quicker sort of striker who excels on the dribble rather than as an aerial threat in the box. He is extremely explosive and is able to create space for himself in the box to get off his accurate shot. A two-footed player, Ben Yedder could fit extremely well with the attacking talent already at the club, and he would probably play up top in a similar way to Emre Mor when he spent time leading the line for die Schwarzgelben on occasion last season. Cornet is slightly larger than Ben Yedder, and also very quick, but he has played mostly as a winger at this point in his career, and if he were to replace Aubameyang, he might not do so through the middle. However, Cornet is 6 years younger than his compatriot, and is generally agreed to be one of Lyon’s brightest young talents. Neither player appears close to joining at this point, but Dortmund could look to move quickly should Arsenal complete the move for Aubameyang.
It was almost a certainty once Manuel Akanji moved to the club earlier this month, but Dortmund have officially sold one of the most experienced defenders, Neven Subotic. The 29-year-old Serbian defender agreed with the club to terminate his contract, allowing him to leave for St. Etienne in an attempt to get his career back on track. Subotic will be remembered by some for his inconsistencies at the back, but he has been a reliable servant of the club since joining from Swiss side Basel in 2008, making 263 appearances for the club. He was at times one of the better defenders in the team a few seasons back, but repeated serious injury has robbed him of his opportunity to lock down a place in the starting XI, and he leaves for France at the perfect age for a defender to experience something of a career renaissance. Should he put his injury problems firmly in his past, Subotic could likely contribute to a decent European side for at least another half-decade. He will be missed by many fans, some of whom have taken time to appreciate his charitable work during his breaks from football, for which he has donated his wages in the past.
Keeping Company In The Departure Lounge?
Perhaps they have been drowned out by the sheer weight of the Aubameyang transfer saga, but other clubs have been reportedly sniffing around the Dortmund squad, potentially weighing up offers for a few other important pieces of the team. The first, and most devastating if true, is the report out this week claiming that not only are Manchester United interested in Julian Weigl, but they are also confident that they will be able to land him. Weigl is a member of a very deep midfield in Westphalia, but his youth, intelligence and passing range make him one of the hottest commodities currently at the club. His skills translate to any league where teams like to run a single, orchestrating midfielder at the base of a trio. He is versatile and capable of playing other roles in the centre of the pitch, but he is best suited anchoring a three. Should Manchester United come after him, it is imperative that Dortmund make the wealthy English club pay through the nose (as they are often baited into doing by selling clubs) for their man, as he not only figures brightly in the future of the club, but also of the German national team as well.
Elsewhere, it has been reported that Andre Schurrle could be heading back to England. Having failed to impress between 2013 and 2015 at Chelsea, he then spent a year with Wolfsburg before landing with Dortmund at the beginning of last season. Despite being a highly touted player in his younger days, Schurrle has not made good on his potential at this point in his career, and his time with Dortmund has been uninspiring to say the least. He may possess many positive attributes, but he does not excel enough at any one position to lock it down and make it his own. However, he could be getting yet another chance for a move to boost his career, with West Bromwich Albion and Newcastle United having both expressed interest. Should Aubameyang leave, Dortmund might hesitate to sell another attacker, but if both players were to go, the club would have little choice but to bring in a replacement. No agreement has been made with either Premier League team, but of the two, Newcastle appear the more likely to possess the means to get the deal done.
A Potential Long-Term Weigl Replacement
One of the clues that Dortmund might be getting prepared for the possibility that Julian Weigl could go this summer is their reported interest in 20-year-old Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek. The young Dutchman is a versatile midfielder, having also been played at right back, and he has many of the same traits that make Weigl so important to the team: a good engine, a vast passing range, composure on the ball and an ability to control the tempo of the match. He isn’t quite as sound in defence as Weigl, but he offers much more of a goal threat than Weigl with his powerful shot. He can even play effectively in a box to box role should he be required, and should improve aerially when he fills out his frame more as he matures. The club would likely much prefer to keep their young German pivot, but should he make the move to the riches of England, they could certainly do a lot worse than the very competent van de Beek.