I was originally planning on making this an opinion piece. I was going to write about how Thomas Tuchel should opt to sit Mats Hummels for Saturday's DFB Pokal Cup Final against Bayern Munich, the team Hummels is set to join this summer. But as I discussed the game and thought more about it, I realized it wasn't so clear.
I was worried about Hummels mindset, and that may still be a valid concern. He is still Dortmund's captain, but he's playing against a team he will soon join. He's playing against players who he will eventually have to befriend and work with as teammates. As a center-back, his room for error is none. One lapse mentally in defense is all it takes to change the outcome of a game.
Hummels is aware of the discussion surrounding his mindset going into the Pokal Final. When he spoke about the game to reporters, he recognized that he would be under pressure.
"I am aware that an immense pressure is on me," said Hummels. "If I make a mistake, the people will say that I already had my mind in Munich. I will give it my all, 100 percent, and throw everything into it that I have left in me."
Obviously Mats isn't going to come out and say that he's not going to give 100 percent, but it's good to get a picture of his mentality going into the game. He appears focused, but questions over whether he should play remain.
It's only natural that a player, especially a defender, in Mats' position would think twice about certain things on the pitch as he plays against a team he will soon play for. There's the question of a 50/50 ball that Hummels' hesitates from lunging into because of a split-second thought about hurting his opponent. There's the question of just how much he will really want to win, knowing he is playing against future teammates. But the question that looms largest for me is how Hummels will deal with the boos from the Dortmund fans.
Every time Mats touched the ball against Wolfsburg he was booed by thousands at the Westfalenstadion. I'm not saying it wasn't deserved, but it was pretty brutal. The boos were not as loud in the final match with Koln, but the message was sent. Don't be surprised if the Dortmund fans at the Olympiastadion for the final make themselves heard in a similar way.
Despite the way Hummels is leaving, no one would ever accuse him of never having loved Dortmund or its fans. There's no way that being booed so heavily, in such a big game, wouldn't affect him in some way. It's like breaking up with a long-term significant other who you (Mats) really cared about. Yeah you're the one who initiated the break up, but don't act like it doesn't hurt when she keys your car and leaves every article of clothing you had in her closet burning on your front lawn. That would mess anyone up.
The problem with not playing Hummels in this match is simple, who would you play instead?
On his day, Hummels is one of the best ball-playing defenders in Europe, there's no one-game replacement for that. Sokratis is a quality defender, but his talent is enhanced by playing alongside someone as good as Hummels. Matthias Ginter can do a job when needed, but I really can't make the case that Thomas Tuchel would be better off with Sokratis-Ginter over Hummels-Sokratis at the back, especially against a team as talented as Bayern Munich.
BVB have been linked to quite a talented few center-backs since the news broke that Hummels was moving to Bayern. If one of these players, like say Omer Toprak were already in Dortmund's squad, then maybe it would be worth it to sit Mats. But without a clear choice off the bench to replace a possibly distracted Hummels, I think it is best that the Captain play this one out.
What say you? If you were Thomas Tuchel, what would you do with Mats Hummels for this crucial Cup Final? Vote below and sound off in the comments!