Nobody will ever accuse Borussia Dortmund of resting on their laurels. With some clubs barely getting their transfer plans in motion, Dortmund capped off a week in which they were able to replace a very highly respected manager on the world stage, as well as wrap up their fourth signing of the summer. This week also brought some disturbing departure rumours to the club, with mention of not just established stars on the way out, but perhaps one of the club’s young centrepiece talents as well. Let’s have a look at the week that was for die Schwarzgelben on the transfer market.
All but a done deal at the time of reporting last week, Peter Bosz has finally been confirmed as the next Dortmund manager. Though much of the personnel decisions are made by the club hierarchy, it was vitally important for the club to wrap up their managerial search in a timely fashion. Not many clubs have the sort of power structure in place to allow the club to continue to make signings even without a proper manager on staff yet, but Hans-Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc have earned a lot of political capital at the club for their successes.
Stories revealed this week that Bosz wasn’t simply leaving Ajax for Dortmund as a career move, but it may have also had something to do with a deteriorating relationship between the Dutch giants and their former manager. Rumours suggest that Bosz and longtime assistant Hendrie Kruzen had deep issues with the rest of the coaching staff, including Dutch legend Dennis Bergkamp, which supposedly resulted in Bosz shutting out the opposing voices and the team’s second half of the season being much more productive than the first. This could have the potential to concern a club that has just recently parted ways with its own highly respected manager, but there seems to be little question about the fit from a football perspective: One of the best managers of young talent taking over a team filled to the brim with it. He should have Dortmund flying by the winter break next season
One of the more worrisome aspects of a summer in Westphalia, besides the humidity, is the inevitable news that some of last season’s stars will be moving on to other clubs, but even for Dortmund, the rumours have been especially plentiful this summer. The first of two names gathering mentions this week is the centrepiece of the Dortmund defence, Sokratis Papastathopoulos. Sokratis has emerged as a target in the Premier League, where his combination of strength and pace could be a good fit. Probably the best defender at the club, he presents a more direct and traditional approach to defending than the rest of his counterparts, who are also well known for their ball playing abilities. Should he leave the club this summer, particularly if Matthias Ginter leaves as well, there could well be a dearth of grit and physicality at the back for a team that already struggles to keep goals out at times. With plenty of clubs in England and beyond looking for a sturdy defender with the pace to keep up with the world’s best attackers, should Dortmund decide to sell, as Sokratis is open to a move, I could certainly see this happening.
The next name to come up this week is one that could probably have been predicted from the moment the player arrived at the Signal Iduna Park last season, but there are no stories linking French sensation Ousmane Dembele with a move away to one of the world’s biggest clubs: Barcelona. The Catalan club, when not shaming its former academy stars at other clubs into returning, is usually only connected to the best players in the world. Dembele, fresh off of a season in which he electrified supporters with his amazing pace and trickery, certainly qualifies. Though undoubtedly already one of the Bundesliga’s most creative players, it is unlikely that Dembele would be able to start for the Catalans until Lionel Messi finally either leaves or declines significantly. As Barcelona sometimes take the long approach to convincing transfer targets to join, this could simply be an establishment of interest and groundwork for a potential future deal. Should the club lose both Dembele and want-away star Pierre-Emmerick Aubameyang, it will leave a significant amount of goals to replace next year in the starting XI.
Soon after confirming the signing of the excellent Mahmoud Dahoud, Dortmund continue the remake of their midfield with the signing of 23 year old Max Philipp from Freiburg. An attacking midfielder with the versatility to kick out wide if necessary, Philipp will provide another goal threat to a club in danger of losing its top scorer from last season. Philipp is very technically proficient, and he will provide cover for a team that was decimated by injuries in the midfield last season. He projects to a similar role as Mario Gotze in the Dortmund XI, and may need to fill in for the German international as he fights back this summer from injury. He could also aid Christian Pulisic in covering for the often injured Marco Reus too. He is a very good signing for the club, and when all are healthy, Dortmund have one of the most talented pools of attack minded midfielders in the world.
Mentioned last week as a potential one for the future, Axel-Zagadou made his arrival from PSG to Dortmund official this week. The 17 year old is expected to be a quick study, with a potential breakthrough to the first team even being in the cards this season. A tall, athletic customer at the back, he is one of a huge bumper crop of talented French teenage defenders that will be dispersing throughout Europe’s major leagues over the coming years.
After already signing 4 players this summer, Dortmund should now turn their attention towards the possibility of having to replace Pierre-Emmerick Aubameyang, who contributed 40 goals last year for the club. It seems that despite being linked with an exit in the past and ultimately staying, Aubameyang has submitted his request to leave this summer, with clubs like Arsenal, Real Madrid and PSG all circling. With near Olympic pace and a poacher’s touch, Aubameyang could be a fit at any club in any league.
Dortmund fans will loathe seeing their star man go, as many will remember the fateful decision to fill the loss of Robert Lewandowski in 2014 with….Ciro Immobile. That season saw the club finish 7th in the league, battling back from the bottom of the table after a rotten start to the season.
There are plenty of strikers out there that could fit extremely well with the armada of attacking talent already here, but the name most often associated with the role is Alexandre Lacazette. Though not quite as gifted in the pace department (few are), Lacazette represents a similar style to the incumbent Aubameyang. Both started their careers out wide where they were able to use their physical gifts to impact matches, until later developing the requisite finishing skills to move into a more central role.
Lacazette has been one of the most prolific scorers in Ligue 1 for over 3 years, and now it seems that he is committed to leaving Lyon for a fresh start at one of the world’s biggest clubs. Though reports initially suggested that Dortmund would not seek to replace Aubameyang after he is sold, the club will be desperate to avoid the kind of regression that happened the last time they sold their key man. If Dortmund are to win the Frenchman’s signature this summer, they will need to do something they loathe to do: spend top of market money to beat out the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, both of whom have been credited with interest.