Nico Schulz will be allowed to leave Borussia Dortmund this summer if an offer comes in for the German veteran, according to Ruhr Nachrichten. This would bring an end to an extremely disappointing spell for the left sided player who has only played 37 matches in two seasons, starting just 23.
Nico #Schulz ist 2019 mit großen Ambitionen zum #BVB gewechselt. Die Euphorie ist lange verflogen. Der 28-Jährige ist bei Borussia #Dortmund komplett außen vor. Ein Millionen-Missverständnis (RN+): https://t.co/TyenWa1UUh (Foto: imago) pic.twitter.com/iXMevesjev— Ruhr Nachrichten BVB (@RNBVB) June 17, 2021
In the summer of 2019, Borussia Dortmund made three signings early in the transfer window snatching up established Bundesliga players to build on their impressive 2018-19 campaign which saw them take the title race until the final day. Having held a 9-point lead over Bayern Munich early in the hinrunde, and a 7-point lead heading into the ruckründe, Die Schwarzgelben were looking to add quality and experienced depth to take the club over the line. The captures of both Thorgan Hazard from Borussia Mönchengladbach and Julian Brandt from Bayer Leverkusen looked like excellent pieces of business, and later the addition of Nico Schulz seemed to a bit of icing on the cake. However, all three 2019 signings have had nightmare 2020-21 campaigns, but Schulz has failed to get going for two seasons now.
Not his fault
Having signed for Dortmund from Hoffenheim, Schulz played as a left-wingback under the watchful eye of future Leipzig and now Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann. Under Nagelsmann’s system, Schulz excelled at bombing down the left wing and providing cut-back passes into the box for the strikers. Playing as a wingback gave Schulz more freedom from his defensive duties, allowing him to use his energy and pace to wreak havoc on opposing defenders by running into open channels. In fact, Schulz played a big part in taking Hoffenheim into their first ever Champions League campaign, where he started 5 of the group stage matches for the Sinsheim outfit. Across two seasons for Hoffenheim, Schulz started 61 of his 71 appearances, scoring 4 goals and providing 9 assists which led him to becoming a regular in the national team setup for Die Mannschaft.
However, upon his arrival in Dortmund, Schulz was converted to a traditional full back under then Head Coach Lucien Favre, and unfortunately Schulz never looked comfortable despite being first choice from the off. To make matters worse for Schulz, Raphaël Guerreiro has played lights out at left back for the past few seasons, and Schulz has never really been given another run in the team since after he first joined. Even when Favre switched Dortmund to a 3-4-2-1 formation which would have favored Schulz, Guerreiro was simply unplayable and the German was limited to spot duty and stoppage time minutes.
Dortmund should have been able to see this coming, as Schulz had previously struggled as a traditional full back. While he did play as part of a back four earlier in his career at Hertha Berlin, they were mostly a struggling side on the bottom half of the table. Schulz then moved to Borussia Mönchengladbach and briefly played under Lucien Favre adding depth for Gladbach’s UCL campaign in 2015-16, but Favre left in September and Schulz failed to become a regular in each of his three seasons at the club. The switch to Hoffenheim and a switch of roles is what gave Schulz his best ever form and it should be no surprise to anyone that the left-footed speed wagon never really worked in Dortmund’s style. Without possessing the ability to combine with others, and progress the ball from the back line, Schulz became a liability on the pitch in Dortmund’s intricate play under Favre. Coupled with his slightly inferior defensive skills, Schulz was never going to shine for BVB the way Guerreiro seemingly does with ease.
The difficulty Dortmund will have in moving Schulz is his wage bill, which amounts to more than €100,000 a week, meaning smaller Bundesliga clubs will not be able to afford to pay his salary. One might think that a loan move with a friendly option to buy next season will be the most likely scenario in moving Schulz on given his weekly pay packet. Unless, of course, Schulz is willing to take a pay cut to become a starter again which one should not rule out given how tough his time at Dortmund has been. In fact, Hoffenheim may be a perfect destination given that Ryan Sessegnon is most likely to return to Tottenham Hotspur following his loan and the club will need to replace him. No matter where Schulz goes, hopefully he can find his form once again and finish his career on the pitch, instead of on the bench. He’s been a professional his entire time at Dortmund even if things haven’t worked out, and I for one am glad the club will let him move on and have a shot at playing regularly again.
Was Schulz always going to fall short in Dortmund given the system and playing style?