The long wait for the Jadon Sancho’s move to Manchester United has now ended, for a reported fee of €85M Euros plus add-ons. One might have thought that given the amount of time the Premier League giants took to seal the transfer that Borussia Dortmund supporters would have prepared emotionally for this loss. Unfortunately, man fans around social media still seem upset at the sale.
In fact, Dortmund seemingly find themselves in a strange position, as they are looked upon as one of the members of the European elite, but also as a “selling club” who are willing to groom potential superstars only to sell them once they become good to richer clubs. It is this very policy that does not sit well with supporters, who yearn to take back the Meisterschale from Bayern Munich but believe that it cannot happen without being able to retain their top players. Nevertheless, while Dortmund supporters remain disappointed with the club regarding the consistent selling of high quality players, if one looks around Europe they may find a club with a similar policy that seems to be working.
Atletico Madrid - A Potential Model for Success?
Over the past decade Borussia Dortmund have sold Mario Götze, Shinji Kagawa, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ilkay Gündogan, Mats Hummels, Ousmane Dembele, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Christian Pulisic, and now Jadon Sancho, all for hefty transfer fees. Erling Haaland looks likely to depart next summer and for a smaller fee than Sancho, if a club activates his release clause. Of course, new stars will be brought in and groomed to start the cycle back over, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Dortmund do not have a chance of winning titles. In truth, BVB supporters could look at the working class side of Madrid and see Atletico managing to do just fine when it comes to winning trophies despite the fact that they seemingly continue to sell an important starter each season.
Kieran Trippier looks set to join Sancho in Manchester if reports are to be true, and it wouldn’t be a surprise. Atletico are very crafty themselves when it comes to transfer dealings and will look to make a tidy profit off the English full back. Just last year Atleti sold Thomas Partey to Arsenal for a nice chunk of change and before that Antoine Griezmann was sold to FC Barcelona for big money. Lucas Hernandez and Rodri were sold to Bayern and Manchester City respectively and if we roll the years back further one will see the likes of Diego Costa, Felipe Luis, Diogo Jota, Thibaut Courtois and Yannick Carrasco having all been sold off despite being starters for the club. Yet, with all of that turnover of star players Atleti have won two La Liga titles, two Europa League crowns, the Copa Del Rey, several Super Cups, and have been runners-up in two UCL finals.
While Los Rojiblancos have not dominated Spain and much less Europe, they have continued to operate at a very high level both on and off the pitch similar to that of Dortmund. Both organizations even have longstanding homegrown club captains in Marco Reus and Koke who bleed their clubs colors and seemingly cannot be tempted or swayed by money and fame elsewhere. There does seem to be one key difference that may be the reason for Atleti’s continued ability to get over the line more often than Dortmund, a position where perhaps the turnover is hurting BVB more than any other.
The Cornerstone: The Manager
While it is true that Atletico have invested heavily back into their squad after selling, the key difference maker for them may actually be their stability at Manager. Diego Simeone has been at the heart of the overhaul in Madrid for the past decade, and the squad seems to be mostly built with his style in mind. While it may not be the prettiest football on the eye, Simeone’s old school English 4-4-2 style is still extremely effective at winning football matches at the highest level.
Dortmund, on the other hand have had seven coaches during Simeone’s tenure. If Dortmund’s latest appointment, March Rose, is able to hit the ground running in his maiden year, it could be just what BVB need for continued success moving forward. While changing players every few years will be difficult, Rose’s high energy play coupled with some of Europe’s brightest talent may be able to overcome Bayern despite unfamiliarity. Looking at Atleti’s ability to not only remain near the top despite a limited budget, but also win several major trophies when competing against Real Madrid and Barcelona domestically should give Dortmund’s supporters hope that their club can do the same.
Simply put, BVB go again. Replacing Sancho like for like is probably not going to happen no matter how hard they may try, but Dortmund may be able to re-invent themselves. Rose spoke of a back three in his first press conference with the club, which should play to the squad’s strengths especially at wing back given that he has the likes of Raphael Guerreiro, Thorgan Hazard, and the much maligned Thomas Meunier. The new Dortmund boss also insisted that two strikers would be on the menu next season, which may point to Donyell Malen being brought in from PSV to play along Haaland this upcoming season. While it is frustrating that Sancho has moved on, there is a lot to be excited about next season already. Even though, it feels a bit like starting over, one can see that given the comparisons with Atletico Madrid, nothing is out of reach. If Atleti can continue to win major trophies despite losing some of their best talent, so can Dortmund.