Let’s take a look back at the end of the 18/19 season. Borussia Dortmund had fallen just short of Bayern Munich, who managed to lift Die Meisterschale with an accumulated 78 points - just two more than BVB. The Bundesliga title had not been this close to returning to the Ruhr District in many years, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. Despite the fact that this was an obvious blow to the team and the board at the time, a cautious optimism began to sprout in the BVB camp - could Dortmund finally overthrow the mighty Bayern Munich?
At the end of the 17/18 season, Zorc and co. had tweaked their transfer strategy a bit, bringing in experienced players such as Axel Witsel and Thomas Delaney in an attempt to gear up for a fight for the title. Both of them did very well in their maiden season, and they were a big reason why Dortmund finished the season with an impressive 76 points.
These stellar displays from the experienced players mixed with the fiery youth led many to believe that the strategy of bringing in a higher number of experienced players was the right to follow.
Following the Strategy - The Big Spending Spree
In the transfer window between the 18/19 and the 19/20 season, Dortmund spent a whopping €143 million on new acquisitions. A new era had begun for Borussia Dortmund. Never had the club spent so much money on new players, and almost all of the transfers were players who already had proven quality and experience in the Bundesliga.
- Mats Hummels (€30.5 million)
- Nico Schulz (€25.5 million - yikes)
- Thorgan Hazard (€25.5 million)
- Julian Brandt (€25 million)
- Emre Can (loan)
Mats Hummels, Erling Haaland and Julian Brandt were probably considered the most instrumental transfers of the five, but the remaining three certainly had numbers to back them up as well. Nico Schulz had cemented himself as one of the Bundesliga’s best fullbacks the year prior, and Emre Can had been playing for elite clubs such as Liverpool and Juventus before joining Borussia Dortmund.
Thorgan Hazard had been on Dortmund’s radar for quite some time, and many BVB fans were excited to see the Belgian in black and yellow. Hazard had arguably been Borussia Mönchengladbach’s most valuable player for two years in a row, and in the 18/19 season, he notched 13 goals and 12 assists across 35 matches - a very impressive addition to his already impressive statistics at the time.
Thorgan Hazard: The Journey Begins
On paper, Thorgan Hazard was a good transfer. He was a versatile, enduring player with an eye for goal, and he could play multiple positions. He had proven his skill in the Bundesliga for multiple years, and he was just entering his prime in terms of age. Some did argue, that €25.5 million was a big price tag, but it didn’t cause a massive uproar.
In his debut season for BVB, Hazard played an average of 72 minutes across 43 matches in the Bundesliga, DfB Pokal and Champions League. His output was 7 goals and 14 assists, which amounts to a goal contribution every 147th minute. He was a bit overshadowed by Marco Reus and Jadon Sancho (who was literally blowing up at the time), and the later addition of Erling Haaland meant that everyone had to take on more of a supporting role in supplying the big Norwegian.
The Injury Strikes Back
You could say that the 20/21 season was a bit of a nightmare for Hazard. He only played 1,351 minutes across all competitions due to a torn muscle fibre. He did return for around six games in the second half of the season, but his injury appeared to be lingering. Julian Brandt and Giovanni Reyna were both used on the wing, while Jadon Sancho was running his own show, managing a goal contribution basically every 90 minutes. Edin Terzic, (who was interim manager at the time), clearly had little confidence in Hazard, even when he was available.
The Fall From Grace
With the appointment of Marco Rose for the 21/22 season, every player had a shot at breaking into the first squad, and no one really knew what to expect - maybe this was a fresh start for Thorgan Hazard? The 21/22 season wasn’t as bad for Hazard, injury-wise, but despite being deployed numerous times, he had little to no impact on the pitch. He managed 7 goal contributions across 1,656 minutes, and you don’t need to be a world class mathematician to figure out that those numbers are very disappointing for a player of Hazard’s caliber.
The misery continued for Hazard, as he was dropped from the matchday squad for a trip to face Union Berlin in spring 2022. This was seemingly not because of an injury, but because of a “bad attitude” that he had shown in recent training sessions.
Back to the Present
We’re fast approaching the World Cup break, and Borussia Dortmund are currently sitting 6th in the table, 6 points behind the league leaders from Munich. A very tight schedule has meant that Terzic has been forced to rotate the squad a lot, and despite this, Hazard has only accumulated 694 minutes so far this season, only playing one full game.
To make everything easier, I have compiled a small Hazard Overview for you all to see.
I could have made this into a line graph, but that would have been quite depressing. It’s obvious that Hazard’s productivity has dropped during his tenure at Borussia Dortmund, and from the looks of it, Terzic only plays Hazard when he absolutely needs to. If you take a look at these stats from FB Ref, you might find an answer as to why our coach has been hesitant to deploy Hazard (viewer discretion advised).
I can only think of one word: Yikes.
If I have to put it nicely, this is absolutely atrocious. These stats could barely get any worse. The above chart shows how Hazard’s offensive contributions over the 1,600 minutes he has played in the last year compare with other attacking midfielders/wingers across Europe’s top five leagues. Hazard has played as a full back a few times this season, so the chart obviously is not 100% accurate, but I don’t think there’s any statistical tweaks that could sway this to look even a little bit decent. And yes - we do have to measure Hazard on his offensive output, because he was brought for exactly that. I know that he has a good work rate, and he has had decent showings at left-back, but the rekindling of the Bensebaini rumors is clearly a signal to Hazard that the board aren’t exactly planning to use him in that role on the regular.
So, Hazard’s contract runs until June 2024, which makes this conclusion relatively easy for me. Hazard should be sold in the summer. His current market value is around €10 million, which seems likely a pretty reasonable price to demand for him, and in my opinion, we’re too tightly scheduled to allow a winter departure.
None of Lucien Favre, Marco Rose or Edin Terzic have been able to get Hazard to produce, and his commitment doesn’t seem as strong as it once was. I only base this on his body language when he plays, and the fact that we’ve been hearing multiple rumors about his no-good-behavior in training. To be clear - I don’t dislike Hazard. Actually I don’t dislike any of our players. But his current salary is way too big for him to be sitting around gathering dust in Dortmund, and I personally feel we’ve seen the best from him in a black and yellow jersey. I think a departure to a team like Frankfurt or BMG would be a great solution.
I’m Eager to Hear Your Thoughts!
- What would you do, if you were the board?
- What are your takes on Hazard’s time at BVB?