Just a few days ago all was relatively well in the world of Borussia Dortmund. The bus-bombing was still on everyone's mind but the players seemed to have processed the attack and ready to move forward, even Marc Bartra started training again. The bitter rivals from Bavaria were defeated in a thrilling game to reach the fourth consecutive DFB Cup final and a chance at silverware which would make this (injury-marred) season an instant success. And finally a duel with TSG Hoffenheim loomed on the horizon, a win would see the black and yellows reclaim third place, a spot that guarantees Champions League-participation next season.
Who knew one interview could create so much chaos?
In a quite surprising turn of events the calm world of Borussia Dortmund went into a tailspin when Hans-Joachim Watzke made some controversial comments in an interview with Der Westen. During that interview Watzke had some, well, let's say interesting words about the season, the attack and Thomas Tuchel. Watzke seemed evasive about a possible extension for Tuchel and dropped a bombshell when he admitted that there is a clear dissent between the two, especially about the events that led to the postponed Monaco-game and the decision to play that game a day after the attack.
So what exactly led one of the most powerful BVB-officials to make such comments knowing full well that it would cause an uproar for the rest of the season?
Tuchel vs everyone?
First of all we have to understand that this "duel" has been a long time in the making, even though both sides did their best to hide it. You could assume that it all started last offseason when Watzke promised that at least one of Hummels, Gündogan and Mkhitaryan would stay, a promise that he couldn't keep and that obviously displeased Tuchel. When it came to choosing the replacements for arguably Dortmunds three best players, Tuchel was ignored when he reportedly wanted Toprak, Dahoud and Bellarabi and got none of them.
The internal feud continued when Tuchel reportedly got into a fight with Sven Mislintat, BVB's head of scouting. It got to a point where apparently both of them aren't talking to each other and Mislintat is banned from the training grounds.
Just a couple months later the three men in charge of Dortmund created another PR-mishap when Watzke and Zorc claimed that Tuchel was fully informed of the Alexander Isak transfer only for the latter to state that he didn't know anything. Coach Tuchel later retracted a bit when he admitted that he was informed "very late", nevertheless it offered another look into the inner life of a relationship between coach and club that was more than a little damaged.
The straw that broke the camel's back?
While all of this sounds relatively bad, it still looked like all of those issues could be fixed or at least worked through like they apparently did all season long. However Watzke's interview, which comes at the worst possible time, shows that the rift between both parties is so big that it couldn't even wait until the end of the season.
The latest dividing point is the attack on the BVB-bus and the aftermath. In the following days and weeks of the attack Watzke received the blunt of the criticism for "making" the team play the game against Monaco barely 24-hours after the actual attack. Tuchel on the other hand seemed to gain admiration from the press and Dortmund fans alike for his perceived protection of the team and his criticism against the BVB and UEFA-officials for making them play. Indeed it seemed like the support for Tuchel amongst the Dortmund faithful increased in the aftermath of the attack.
Watzke, a man that has devoted the last decade of his life to form this club from a near bankrupt mess into one of the best clubs in Germany appeared hurt that anybody could think that he would do anything to the detriment of this club or its players and yet he found himself in the public spotlight for a decision that he supposedly made.
In fact the steps that led to the decision to postpone the game do seem a bit odd. While Watzke and Dr. Reinhard Rauball claimed that they talked to Tuchel before they made the decision, the coach later made headlines when he stated that he was informed via text message. So did Tuchel lie?
Will Tuchel be coaching Dortmund next season?
After the interview the questions pile up and we have no clear answers.
Was Tuchel actually more involved in the decision to play the Monaco game and just lied? If so why didn't nobody call him out then and there? Did Watzke just bite his tongue because he didn't want to cause even more chaos, but then why did he do it now? Is Tuchel acting differently behind closed doors than he is publicly and is the relationship between him and the front office really that bad?
Questions upon questions that will need to be answered in the coming days, not weeks. I'm afraid Watzke's comments will need to be addressed sooner rather than later, this topic is just too big to ignore until the season is over.
New revelations are sure to come in the next few weeks, they have already begun with several reports now claiming that the relationship between coach and team not being as peachy as we were led to believe.
Do I believe Tuchel will be Dortmund's coach next season?