I was thinking the other day. Typically quite the dangerous proposition, yes, but Borussia Dortmund’s apparent insistence on wrapping the majority of their transfer business before the summer even got off the ground has given me time to waste on such things. I have in the past, and again recently, noticed that teams in the Bundesliga seem to have a particular way of doing transfer business- a sort of preferred interleague customer approach.
One club in particular seems to wind up on either end of such deals: Those Black and Yellows. When Dortmund let Robert Lewandowski go, then one of the truly ascendant strikers in Europe after an inauspicious start to his professional career, to Bayern Munich, it was not a typical transfer for a player of his quality. For the longest time, members of both clubs refused to publicly elaborate on the move, despite it being one of the worst kept secrets in football. It was clear from the moment the 2013/14 season kicked off that he would be making the move the following summer.
Players often do maintain the power in negotiations with their club these days, and though Lewandowski’s contract was running down, Dortmund were almost astonishingly passive in letting him leave.
Dortmund are not always on the losing end of such deals, however, as they were able to take back Mario Gotze from Bayern Munich with little fight or outside interference for the fitness troubled but outrageously talented playmaker. In Gotze’s case, he was returning to the club of his initial rise to prominence on the global scene, but even with his issues he could have been in high demand and of intense interest all over Europe. Instead, his move was tracked with matter of fact reports that it was likely to occur, followed by its inevitable happening.
Even this summer, it had been known as far back as January that midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud would be leaving Borussia Monchengladbach for Borussia Dortmund for a steal of around €10 million (as we will later see, however, this is no one way street). Dahoud, it should be heavily stressed to fans that may yet be unaware, has serious talent. To give some perspective, there has recently been a midfielder possessing many of the same qualities that Dahoud himself has that received enormous amounts of hype from the press in his homeland: Jack Wilshere. If Dahoud was a British citizen, he would be hyped in much the same was as the Arsenal man was before injury issues struck him down. Dahoud is slick on the ball and can place passes anywhere on the pitch. He lacks discipline, both defensively, and in his use of space and pace on the attack, but at Dortmund and under Peter Bosz, a manager that loves young talent, he will become a star. Count on it.
In addition to Dahoud, Dortmund was also able to bag Omer Toprak for €12 million, one of the best shut down defenders in Europe. He will be incalculably important to the teams leaky defence from last season, and he and Dahoud represent a coup for Dortmund, collectively costing the club less than €25 million.
What seems to be unique about the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy is their ability and desire to cultivate relationships with other clubs in their own league. When contrasted with the fervent aversion English teams face when selling star players to clubs in the Premier League, and the corresponding backlash from fans, the Dortmund way could be seen by some as rather odd.
The club seem to take this approach with winding down contracts and veterans with clear desires. It is worth noting, as it seems to be the case in the Bundesliga, that some players simply never have an interest in playing abroad. For those players, simply playing in their homeland or chosen league, speaking a language that is comfortable to them and being a part of a familiar culture while making a healthy wage is a good thing. We as fans sometimes lose sight of the fact that the players are all human beings with different needs and desires. Whether it is for reasons like this or other, less private ones like money, play time or success, Dortmund, and other teams across the Bundesliga, seem intent to mostly honour their players wishes.
Unless one of Europe’s Elite come calling…
How Much Is He? Depends. Who Wants to Know?
Dortmund’s positive relationships with many clubs in the Bundesliga have served them well in a lot of their player signings and dealings, but they extend anything but the same courtesy to Europe’s biggest clubs inquiring about their stars. Dortmund’s biggest strength in their modern era of fiscal responsibility has been the identification of elite young talent that they can bring in to a place, with a proven track record in player development.
The most recent and obvious example of this is last summer’s signing of a then 18 year old Ousmane Dembele last summer from Stade Rennes for a relatively modest €15 million fee for a player of his potential (especially given that this season’s star 18 year old is worth about €120+ million). After one season in which he displayed all of the qualities that made him such a hot commodity across Europe, the predictable big names started calling: Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea.
All three of those clubs have two things in common: less guaranteed football for the youngster and enormous amounts of money. I reported last week that Dortmund were holding out for Barcelona to fork out €90 million, and their hardline stance appears to have worked, with the Catalan side opting to bring the underperforming but undeniably talented Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu back from Everton to his homeland instead. This has led the Spanish giants to back down from their Dembele pursuit.
Having heard that it would require exorbitant amounts of money, and that Arsene Wenger likes the player (making him immediately a Mourinho target), that could only pique the interest of Manchester United and Chelsea and their overloaded coffers. As a result, both teams are now said to be in on him, and if either one of those clubs are of interest to him, the fee will be no obstacle to a deal getting done. Right now, with Barcelona allegedly out of the hunt, it is more likely than ever that he will stay for at least another year of the 4 he has remaining on his Dortmund contract.
Another player subject to being too valuable an asset to give away is of course Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The rapid Gabonese striker is also seeing his valuation start to creep back up again toward those dubious figures we heard as the window first opened. With Alexandre Lacazette signing on at Arsenal for upwards of £52 million, the floor of the market has been set for Aubameyang, who is a far more unique talent than the Frenchman. Should he go, and it is likely given his transfer request, I fully expect him to do so for a figure comfortably north of €60 million. Not bad at all for a player few expected to so adequately replace the team’s last great striker, Robert Lewandowski.
A New(ish) Rumour
Finally, for the club bent on making my job difficult, there was one bit of transfer news this week that could conceivably count as new. Of course, there have been reports that he has been unsettled since his first season in Dortmund, but Matthias Ginter is the next player to leave Westphalia, heading to (guess who?) Borussia Monchengladbach for a deal worth up to €20 million.
Ginter is a quality young defender with good size and ball playing ability, and that had led to whispers that Premier League teams might be interested in his services, however, it appears that Dortmund had little interest in sending him abroad (or he had little interest in going). His fee, especially for a young German full International, is not bad at all, and one imagines it could have been even lower still if he had no interest from outside the league. Ginter’s loss will be felt by the club far more if one of their 3 starters at the back, including newly signed Omer Toprak get injured. At 23, the time was right for Ginter to leave in search of more consistent playing time and a larger role. He will be missed, despite Zorc and Watzke still having collected more young talent than their manager could know what to do with.
What do you think Dortmund fans? Does the team have a special relationship with other Bundesliga clubs? Are they going to sign anyone else, especially if players keep leaving? There is still a long way to go until the season starts. Is the squad good enough to challenge?