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Borussia Dortmund Tracking Alexander Isak’s Progress

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Could a Return be in the Cards?

Real Sociedad v Deportivo Alaves - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Alexander Isak has recently emerged as a potential target for several top European clubs. The 21 year-old Swedish international and striker for Real Sociedad has 12 goals so far in La Liga, as La Real push to secure a top finish in the league. Isak has also added two assists in the league for 0.91 goal contributions per game. In a Summer in which many top clubs are expected to seek reinforcements at striker, Isak has been publicly linked with Barcelona, Manchester City and now a possible return to Borussia Dortmund.

During a media conference in advance of the game against Armenia Bielefeld last weekend, Michael Zorc acknowledged that the team has been tracking Isak’s progress:

Isak first signed with Borussia Dortmund from Swedish team AIK in January of 2017 for an undisclosed fee rumored at €9 million. The young Swede was highly sought after, with reported interest from Real Madrid at that time. Signed as a replacement for veteran striker Adrian Ramos, however, rumors quickly developed of a rift between Dortmund’s management and then coach Thomas Tuchel, who was only informed of the signing a week before it happened. Although Tuchel denied there was any disagreement, Isak did not figure in his plans that season aside from a five minute cameo in a cup game.

1. FC Magdeburg v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup
Isak had few opportunities to impress in Dortmund.
Photo by Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund via Getty Images

Following Tuchel’s departure, Isak totaled only 279 minutes for a struggling Dortmund team in 2017/18. He scored his only goal for the Black and Yellows in a Pokal match against Magdeburg in October 2017.

After failing to impress his fourth BVB coach and making no appearances for the club in the 18-19 Hinrunde, Isak was loaned to Dutch Eredivisie club Willem II where he scored 12 goals in his first 12 league games. Following that strong showing, Isak signed a 5 year contract with Real Sociedad, joining the La Liga side in July 2019.

Current reports site Isak as a cheaper option than Erling Haaland or Kylian Mbappe for La Blaugrana or Man City. Isak’s contract with La Real includes a release clause of €70 million as required by Spanish law. However, his transfer from Borussia Dortmund also included a buy-back option, reported as €30 million. Isak was asked about that clause during his first season in Spain and made clear that Dortmund was in his past:

Many BVB supporters have taken this statement as an unequivocal rejection of the possibility of a return to Dortmund. And why not? Isak never got a chance here, while he has succeeded everywhere else he has gone. Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but I read it a different way. To me, this is the phrasing that was prepared by a PR team to satisfy and please the supporters at Real Sociedad. How could he say anything else? But he left things open, as all athletes are taught to do, when he said he was only focused on Real Sociedad “at the moment.” Dortmund put that buy-back clause there for a reason. They must have had some expectation that they could use it in the future.

Certainly, BVB would have a lot of work to do to convince Isak to return here, and it would seem impossible so long as Erling Haaland remains. But Haaland’s departure is exactly the contingency that is being discussed on a near daily basis as the silly season approaches. Is Isak a realistic option in the future if/when Haaland leaves this Summer or next? Does he have what it takes to succeed here in a second act?