With the signing of Ousmane Dembele, Dortmund have added some key depth to its already talented midfield. The former Stade Rennais man is expected to make an immediate impact in the Bundesliga, soaring up the depth chart ahead of players like Felix Passlack and Moritz Leitner.
The latter, however, could end up replacing Dembele at Stade Rennais. French media outlet L'Equipe is reporting that Rennais are interested in signing Leitner. It will likely be a loan deal that sends Leitner to France. With Leitner's contract set to expire next summer, there is also a possibility of an option to purchase permanently.
There is a slight positional discrepancy, as Leitner is a central midfielder while Dembele is a winger so it will not be a, de-facto, direct swap. However, there are certainly options for both teams to consider, so let's break down the deal from two sides.
Why it makes sense for Rennais?
The French club already has one stellar winger in Kamil Grosicki on the left side. Dembele's now vacated right side could be filled by Paul-Georges Ntep. Normally a left winger, Ntep's speed could match that of Dembele's, and he could be a very capable replacement.
At striker, the on-loan Ola Toivonen could be recalled into the squad with the departure of Dembele, providing stability up front.
So where does Leitner fit in?
Although he is a central midfield, he is right-footed and has previously played in an attacking role on the right side. If Ntep were to go down or prove unsuited for right winger, Leitner could evolve positions and slot into that role. It just may be crazy enough to work. The deal would essentially become a swap if this were to be the case.
If the deal goes through, Leitner will probably begin the season in central or right midfield and possibly in a reserve role. But seeing his position evolve to right winger could be the jumpstart which the out-of-favor midfielder needs in his career.
Why it makes sense for Dortmund?
Acquiring Dembele only adds depth to the midfield for Dortmund. On the wings, BVB has Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Christian Pulisic, Dembele, and Jakub Blaszczykowski. In central midfield, there is Shinji Kagawa, Gonzalo Castro, Julian Weigl, Nuri Sahin, and then Leitner.
There is simply no room on the team for the midfielder, and getting him off the books, even if its only for a year, could allow for further moves to strengthen the defense. If the move is permanent, then it effectively works as a swap with Rennais, one in which Dortmund clearly got the better outcome.
Will it happen?
Why not? If Leitner was an important part of manager Thomas Tuchel's plans, then maybe there would be some reservations about it. But Leitner barely played last season, and a player cannot develop unless they are seeing regular action.
Maybe a loan move to Rennais is the right thing for Leitner at this stage in his career. Whether or not his position evolves to that of a winger is still yet to be seen. However, even if he remains a center midfielder, he will have played a full season in France getting regular minutes and becoming a better player.
Even though this rumor is relatively new, there is a decent chance Leitner is at least loaned out next season. If not to Rennais, then another club. But with his contract set to expire next summer, a loan away from Signal Iduna Park may be the last of Leitner in Dortmund.