January may not see the total, massive expenditure of the summer transfer window, but it never fails to deliver a few compelling storylines, particularly for a club like Borussia Dortmund. It isn’t expected to be the most frantic window in the club’s recent history, as the squad has already experienced an incredible rate of turnover the last two seasons, but one long-simmering issue appears to have finally hit the boiling point, demanding a final resolution this month. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s situation has become untenable this season having already been suspended for disciplinary reasons on 3 separate occasions. It is around his situation that the club’s January plans revolve, but Michael Zorc and Hans-Joachim Watzke should never be discounted for their willingness to make radical decisions if they believe it will benefit the club long term.
First Order Of Business: Complete
Peter Stoeger’s hiring to replace Peter Bosz just before the Bundesliga’s winter break has already had a positive effect on the team’s defending, but adding another talented body for the manager to add to the mix at the back could only be a good thing. Enter Manuel Akanji, the 22-year-old star of this season’s second place team in the Swiss Super League, Basel. Akanji is a special talent in defence, with a marauding streak that points to an extreme confidence for such a young player. Not content to just play the ball into the feet of the nearest player, Akanji is not afraid to carry it out from the back through the midfield or play an aggressive forward pass to an attacker. At 6’2, he has the size to play in central defence in the Bundesliga, and will likely continue to improve in the air as he matures. He joins the Dortmund defence in a €20 million move, and his arrival is expected to precipitate a departure or two from the group before the end of January.
So Long Subotic or Bye-Bye Bartra?
Initially, it looked as if Neven Subotic would be the obvious choice to leave following the club signing its 3rd defender in the last 2 transfer windows, but he has been joined on that list by another, more surprising player in Marc Bartra. The club and the city closed ranks around their fallen man after the terrorist bombing of the team bus left Bartra stricken with a broken arm and an understandably traumatic psychological hurdle to overcome last season.
The repercussions of the harrowing events of that day are still being felt in the shakeup of club’s coaching and backroom staffs, and for Bartra, it has apparently resurfaced as intense home sickness. It is not often considered by fans how difficult uprooting a young family and moving to a foreign land can be, and when something so unspeakable happens soon after the move, it can be almost impossible for that family to ever feel truly comfortable in their adopted home. The club and its fans have done much to try and help Bartra and his family feel welcome, but perhaps the player truly needs a move back to his homeland again for that piece of mind that all players deserve in their careers.
Sven Gone But Not Going Away
Sven Mislintat may have departed his role as the Head Scout of Borussia Dortmund in November, but the club is currently finding him deeply intertwined with their own January transfer plans. Arsenal’s recent charge into the pole position for Aubameyang’s services has been bolstered by the recommendation of Mislintat, who initially helped to bring the striker to the Westfalenstadion back in 2013. It appears that Aubameyang is ready to shoot his way out of town, and he is one last showdown meeting with club CEO, Watzke from having his move finally sanctioned. Though Arsenal appears reluctant to meet the €60 million valuation placed on him by the club, his value is difficult to assess in such an inflated market because of his transparent desire to leave and the club’s public disappointment in his behaviour. Despite being one of the most cash-rich clubs and playing in the world’s commercially dominant league, Arsenal themselves have spent the better part of the last year being dragged around by Alexis Sanchez over his future, and aren’t likely to be in the mood for a gouging after seeing the sale value of their own world-class goalscorer plummet.
As if that wasn’t convoluted enough, the two clubs appear to both harbour an interest in Henrikh Mkhitaryan, as the midfielder has gotten caught up in an apparent deal between Arsenal and Manchester United for Alexis Sanchez. However, Dortmund likely won’t make a move for the Armenian, who had his best ever season in 2015/16 with die Schwarzgelben, unless Aubameyang is sold, but Arsenal likely won’t want to finalise that deal until Sanchez departs them, which could bring them Mkhitaryan in exchange before Dortmund even get a crack at him. Thanks a lot for making it all so complicated Sven!
The Replacement Identified?
With the latest reports making Aubameyang’s departure seem inevitable, Dortmund have once again been linked with a player that they pursued heavily in the summer of 2016, current Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi. The former Marseille man was a serious target for the club before he elected to go to West London, but despite scoring the title-sealing goal in the Blues’ triumphant 2016/17 campaign, he has been a peripheral figure for much of his time there. One of the younger players in Belgium’s current golden generation, he is a key figure in the future of his national team, and pairs his good size and strength with a technical finishing ability that would have many managers salivating at the opportunity to work with him. Chelsea signed Spaniard Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid in the summer to replace Diego Costa who has finally gone back to Atletico Madrid, leaving Batshuayi, the one time presumed successor to Costa, as mostly a late match substitution for the Blues. Despite this, he still scores goals at an impressive rate, scoring 11 goals in all competitions in just 386 minutes, good for a goal every 35 minutes. If he produced at just a third of that rate if given more minutes and a place in the starting XI with Dortmund, he would replace Aubameyang’s output almost perfectly. He may have been buried in the squad at Chelsea since his arrival, but any club who manages to pry him away will be getting a very talented player indeed.