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The Mystery of Mahmoud Dahoud

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After a promising start to the season, the German international found himself back in the reserves on matchday 15. Where does he go from here?

Hertha BSC v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

When Mahmoud Dahoud made the move to BVB in the summer of 2017, he was fresh off a white-hot run of form for Borussia Monchengladbach. Dortmund struck a deal of $13.2 million for the promising young midfielder, who had the potential to form a formidable young German midfield duo with his compatriot Julian Weigl. Surely by 2021 the two youngsters would have nailed down starting places, formed perfect chemistry and orchestrated the destruction of every opposition they faced, right?

Apparently not. Four years on, Weigl has sought pastures anew while Dahoud has still yet to find his feet. Per Transfermarkt, his market value sits below what Dortmund paid for him three years ago, not something we have become accustomed to seeing from a youngster in the black-and-yellow jersey. Now 25, the “youngster” nametag has certainly expired. The signing of Emre Can spelled major trouble for Dahoud in January 2020, and Jude Bellingham’s debut on matchday 1 was nearly the nail in the coffin. Dahoud has played 2,629 minutes in the league since his arrival, but when considering that the 18 year-old Gio Reyna has already played more than half that since his promotion from the youth team a year ago, it makes grim reading for our mustached midfielder. Suspect decision making, erratic positioning, and some of the WORST long shots to scream into the Sudtribune ensured Dahoud’s place on the bench stayed warm until a surprise cameo in the DFL Supercup this season.

Some quality passes and high energy play earned Dahoud a return place against Hoffenheim, then a set of back-to-back performances against Schalke and Zenit, two wins where he boasted 94% and 95% pass accuracy as well as decent dribble and duel success. He even snagged his first senior call up to Die Manneschaft. Though his xA/90 remained the same as last season, there seemed to be a newfound sense of composure and incisiveness to Dahoud’s play. Could the time finally have come? Could the slick haired, training ground goofball finally make good on his potentially from all those years ago?

FBL-GER-BUNDESLIGA-HERTHA BERLIN-DORTMUND Photo by ANNEGRET HILSE/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

We did not get to find out. An injury to Haaland, the team’s performances turning sour, and a bad outing against Frankfurt were enough to send Dahoud back to his bench role. With the promotion of Terzic, that is where he has stayed. Against Leipzig, the situation became even more damning; Dahoud did not travel with the team despite being healthy, with Terzic opting to bring only Emre Can as a bench option for the central/defensive midfield position.

So, where does our #8 go from here? Dahoud’s role in the Dortmund midfield is an interesting one; he brings a dynamism and freeness on the ball that one might be able to liken to Axel Witsel when he first arrived at BVB, even if Dahoud is more adventurous. His willingness to carry the ball from deep in the Dortmund half into an attacking position can surprise opposition midfields, and his ability on the ball paired with a decent turn of pace can make his movement difficult to handle. We have seen a similar style of play from Dahoud’s main competition, Jude Bellingham. Another technically adept player, Bellingham’s advantage may be that he brings a bit more grit on the defensive side of the ball, and more consistent if not also more conservative decision making. Dahoud can, when he performs well, turn a game on its head. We have seen it against Bayern in the past, and we began to see it this season again.

Given Terzic’s reluctance so far to bring Dahoud back into the team, the future looks bleak. With 1 year left on his contract this summer, Dortmund would be expected to be on the hunt for suitors, and Dahoud, despite reaffirming his desire to fight for a place at the beginning of the season, may be ready to listen. Dahoud has rarely if ever complained publicly about his playing time, but an individual of his quality needs minutes, and it can be as frustrating to see him on the bench for Dortmund as it is to see him fire one over the bar from 1,000 yards away. He is a funny guy, and it has been a joy to see the different hairstyles he has brought into each season, but unless he can convince Terzic he has something to give that his competition cannot provide, it may be time to seek an opportunity to rekindle the form that made Dahoud such a hot commodity four years ago.