Mats Hummels has been a loyal servant and captain for Borussia Dortmund since 2008, but it seems like his time at the club is nearing it's end. Being raised in Bavaria and playing for Bayern at the age of seven, it's not too much of a shock that he wants to return to his home. According to the BVB official website, he has requested a transfer to Bayern. Whether or not Dortmund fans can accept this is a different story, but his pending departure provides an interesting glance into the future of Dortmund.
Personally, I'd be more inclined to force Hummels to see out his contract unless Bayern offers Dortmund some substantial money, greater than the reported 30 million Euro fee. The 27 year old is invaluable to Dortmund, and another year with him could help develop a replacement and keep Dortmund amongst the European elite. If Ilkay Gundogan is our only substantial loss in the summer, there's no reason to believe Dortmund won't have another superb season.
Hanging on to Hummels for one more year gives Dortmund time to recruit or vet a replacement, perhaps a guy already in the system like Matthias Ginter, or a prospect like Patrick Fritsch. Of course, the front office will consider the option of looking externally, with Niklas Sule fitting the bill as a potential replacement.
If I were in charge, I'd be inclined to let Ginter and Hummels form a decent partnership for the rest of the season, as the only meaningful game left is the DFB Pokalfinale. Ginter, another ball playing, attack-oriented defender, looked sharp at center back against a Stuttgart team who boast one of the better attacks in the league. Previous experiments at center back for Ginter did not work well in his two years at Dortmund, but Ginter was one of the hottest center back prospects in the league while at Freiburg.
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Allowing a partnership of two ball playing defenders to grow could pay dividends for Dortmund next season, especially if Hummels stays or is forced to see out his contract, which would give Watzke, Zorc, and Tuchel time to assess their options regarding a replacement and see how Ginter develops. In this plan, a lot depends on Ginter.
If Matthias Ginter is able to grow, this would make the process of replacing Hummels much easier. Dortmund are currently searching for a stable second center back alongside Hummels, and if the captain leaves then there's a problem in the entirety of the defense. Sorting out the second center back spot through Matthias Ginter lightens the eventual loss of Hummels, but this is all assuming that Ginter becomes the player we once thought he would become.
Despite his previous failures at the position, Ginter could still be a better option than Sokratis or Sven Bender. Both players aren't going to develop much more, while Ginter still has loads of potential and age is on his side. His style of play benefits Dortmund more than Bender's and Sokratis' styles do, giving Ginter an edge if he able to perform on a higher level.
Signing a young, promising center back like Niklas Sule already is a priority for Dortmund, but if Hummels sees out his contract, Dortmund could allow this player to grow and not be forced immediately into action, and be guided by Hummels. Ginter and Hummels could be the first choice partnership, which would pave the way for an eventual partnership between Ginter and whichever defender we sign.
If Matthias Ginter is groomed to be the center back of the future for Dortmund over the rest of this season and next (if we keep Hummels), then this makes the process of replacement our world class captain much easier. Tuchel has had a magic touch with many players in the Dortmund squad, and it'd be huge if he could work the same magic with Ginter. He'll have to sort out his inconsistencies, but given the lack of important games on the schedule, there's no reason he shouldn't have a chance.