Dare I do it yet? Yes, today is the last day of the summer transfer window, and Borussia Dortmund will have to stop buying and selling players for what seems like the first time since the minute the transfer period opened. The team has seem great changes over the last 3 months, starting with the unceremonious ousting of manager Thomas Tuchel for Peter Bosz. With the new manager has come a second straight year of massive squad overhaul at the Westfalenstadion. Gone now are many of the team’s most valuable contributors from the last half decade, with a veritable army of fresh talent ready to take their place.
Without further ado, your Dortmund Transfer Window Awards:
It couldn’t have been anyone else, could it? Perhaps the most talented footballer to ever don the famous yellow kit, Ousmane Dembele will undoubtedly be remembered as a great player for the club, if not a club legend. The young Frenchman joined as a teenager only last summer from Stade Rennais, poised to take the Bundesliga by storm. A strong preseason was followed by a season in which Dembele’s influence seemed to grow by the game.
Able to create or score in near equal measure, Dembele combines those stat sheet stuffing abilities with sublime ball control and dribbling ability. He is a rare true two footed player with the ability to pick out his teammates in danger areas, a rarity among most incredibly skilled individual talents. Despite being of slight of frame, Dembele had little trouble making the step up to the more tactically inclined Bundesliga from his homeland.
As most fans may remember for a long time to come, Ousmane Dembele’s time with the club did not end amicably. Once Barcelona starting showing their interest, the young Frenchman quickly put one foot out the door. Though most fans would likely rather keep the player for this season and beyond, Dortmund was never going to be more than a stepping stone for the future Ballon d’Or candidate. €105 million is a small price to pay in the long run, especially given how long at the very top of the game the 20 year old Dembele still has.
Given how many player Dortmund signed last summer, there were bound to be some that didn’t pan out. Last summer, the club’s goal was to get younger, quicker and more skillful than they had been in years past. A year on, players like Raphael Guerreiro have made themselves indispensable to the team with their contributions. However, there were 2 players in particular that had the fans excited to see them in action (excluding Dembele of course): Emre Mor and Mikel Merino.
Mor, who was only just sold to a Spanish side Celta Vigo, is the exact sort of exciting player that fans love. At barely 5’7, his quickness is enough to leave many taller, slower defenders for dead. Despite the possibility of more playing time this season under Peter Bosz, Mor forced his way out of town when Celta Vigo came calling with a record fee (for them) and the promise of much more time on the pitch. There will be a time and a place where the Turkish attacker looks like a world beater, but given the depth of the Dortmund squad, he was not a luxury worth keeping.
For Mikel Merino, a move to Borussia Dortmund seemed to make perfect sense. Coming from Osasuna, the Pamplona born midfielder has excellent size and sublime passing skills, a combination of talents seen in the likes of Xabi Alonso, a frequent comparison. Much like Dembele, who was signed to cope with the loss of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Merino was thought to be part of the solution after Ilkay Gundogan departed the club for Manchester City, but despite singing a 5 year deal with the club, never seemed to hook on, scarcely playing at all in his first season. Though he has moved to Newcastle United for the season, Merino will have a job to do fighting his way into the first team upon his return.
Most Questionable Signing
Perhaps the window should have closed a week ago? For Dortmund, easily the most puzzling signing of the summer was its final one: Ukrainian attacker Andriy Yarmolenko. Perhaps handicapped by being the first signing in response to the Dembele departure, Yarmolenko left his homeland for the first time to play abroad at the age of 27.
An attacker without a defined position, Yarmolenko does not possess the stand that us physical traits that Dembele did. Instead, he is an intelligent attacker with good technique that uses his rocket of a left foot to score the majority of his goals. Most likely a right wing at Dortmund in their high octane 4-3-3, expect Yarmolenko to score a couple crackers cutting in from the flank. Was he a necessary addition though? Impossible to say just yet.
At €12 million, it must be Mahmoud Dahoud. Despite Omer Toprak being cheaper and perhaps more helpful immediately to the club, Dahoud walks into the team with one of the highest potential ceilings of any player in the squad. A compact, skillful midfielder, Dahoud can function in any role in central midfield, with his insane passing range, excellent technique and better than expected defensive abilities. He is a tricky customer on the ball, with a playing style that some in England would recognise from a pre-injury ravaged Jack Wilshere. For those fans that have not yet caught on to the potential brilliance of a midfield including both he and Mario Gotze, take a look at some of his highlights from his last two seasons at Borussia Monchengladbach, and then realise that this is a player that hasn’t even put it all together yet. Dortmund got a phenomenal talent for the future, and given the way the market has ballooned this summer, for a fraction of the price that he would have fetched on the open market just 6 months on.
Most Valuable Addition
Dortmund are one of the best attacking teams in all of football. Having traditionally been an exciting side, the foundation for the current team was built on Juergen Klopp’s energetic tenure as manager, followed by the eccentric but equally attacking Thomas Tuchel, and now former Ajax man Peter Bosz. All three managers have instilled an attacking, proactive tactical approach, and the goals have flowed for years.
The unintended consequence of such forward thinking verve, however, is a less than stellar defence, which only seemed to decline under Thomas Tuchel. Enter Omer Toprak. Coming in from Bayer Leverkusen, Toprak is exactly the sort of tall, commanding defender that Dortmund have been lacking for so long. As intelligent as Sokratis is instinctual, Toprak will slot immediately into the Dortmund back line as their best defender. Considering the potential offers on the table the last 2 seasons from some of Europe’s elite clubs abroad, signing Toprak for around €10 million was quite a tidy bit of business for die Schwarzgelben. His impact should especially be felt on aerial duals, where he has excelled in the Bundesliga the last couple of seasons. Toprak represents the best, most useful player in this season’s crop of new signings.