With the likelihood of Borussia Dortmund securing the services of Moroccan right back Noussair Mazraoui seemingly fading by the minute, the club must look elsewhere to strengthen the squad ahead of the 2022/23 season.
Despite the enticing prospect of near-guaranteed first-team football in a team globally appraised for the development of international talents, reports suggest the 24 year-old will head to the Nou Camp in the summer, replacing 38 year-old Dani Alves at the back as Xavi looks to rebuild the Catalonian club.
Borussia Dortmund have struggled to replace Achraf Hakimi after his loan deal expired in the summer of 2020. Since moving to the Westfalenstadion in 2018, Hakimi made a total of 73 appearances in all competitions, scoring a total of 12 goals. The versatility of the Moroccan quickly made him a fan-favourite, having played further forward as a right midfielder, as well as frequent appearances over on the left side of defence.
With the summer transfer window beckoning, who could Marco Rose look to in order to strengthen the squad?
Jeremiah St. Juste
A player closely monitored by Borussia Dortmund, Jeremiah St. Juste may be the ideal candidate. The player has been rumored to be looking to the future, and may be leaving his current employers, Mainz, in the summer.
Having signed a four-year deal back in 2019, St. Juste will soon be entering the last year of his contract. Mainz may look to cash in now, rather than risk losing the player next year for free. This could prove useful to Borussia Dortmund, as Mainz weigh up the importance of the player ahead of next season. It is unlikely Jeremiah will look to extend his stay at the MEWA Arena beyond 2023, should he stay at the club this summer.
The signing does pose an element of risk for Borussia Dortmund - this season, the Dutch defender has only featured in nine matches, having missed 14 games through an injury to his shoulder. Back in 2021, he had surgery on his right shoulder to resolve a recurring issue. His latest injury setback has prompted the player to have the same surgery on his left shoulder, in order to assist in his return to full fitness. He missed little under three months of competitive action after his first surgery - with this as a guide, it is expected he may make his return around late-April/early-May, and could possibly feature in Mainz’s home fixture against Bayern Munich.
The name Jeremie Frimpong has been making the rounds lately on social media. The player, currently under contract at Bayer Leverkusen, could cost Dortmund well over $30 million, with Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich also reportedly interested. Any potential deal may be pushed back to January 2023, however. Just minutes before I was originally set to publish this article, Leverkusen announced that the player is set to miss the remainder of the season due to a syndesmosis ligament tear in his right ankle. While it looks likely he will return to full fitness before the start of the new campaign, a team like Dortmund, world renowned for their financial rigidity, would be unlikely to invest in a potentially club record-breaking deal for a player lacking match fitness.
The right back is only in his first full season at the club, having made his move from Scottish side Celtic back in January last year. The 21 year-old has featured 25 times in the Bundesliga this season, complete with 7 goal involvements. Unlike St. Juste, Frimpong brings European experience, having featured 7 times this season in the Europa League, UEFA’s secondary club competition. Back at Celtic, Jeremie was briefly involved in their Champions League Qualifier second-leg against Ferencvarosi. He replaced Hatem Abd Elhamed with 12 minutes left, yet could do little to overturn Celtic’s two-goal deficit.
He is under-contract until June 2025, which means Leverkusen could demand a high transfer fee. There is a risk that, should Dortmund be unable to move on the likes of Axel Witsel, Nico Schultz and Emre Can, the deal may be difficult to complete. With the bulk of the club’s transfer funds committed to a striker, the club could find themselves ‘priced-out’ against the might of Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid, who are all reportedly showing an interest.
A product of the Maniz Youth Academy, Ridle Baku made the move to Bundesliga rivals Wolfsburg in October 2020 for just $9 million, having made 54 appearances for Die Nullfünfer. The 23 year-old has also made four appearances for the German international side, as well as 37 appearances at youth level.
Perhaps the closest in terms of play style to Achraf Hakimi, Baku possesses pace in abundance, as well as composure on the ball, frequently utilised higher up the pitch. Baku was brought in by Wolfsburg as a right midfielder, with Paul-Georges Ntep, John Yeboah, Felix Klaus and Ismail Azzoui all leaving the club that year. With Kevin Mbabu and William struggling for fitness and form, Baku was drafted in as a right back, where he truly came into his own. Over the course of last season, Baku featured 38 times, with six goals and nine assists to his name. While he returned to a more attacking position towards the end of the campaign, he was able to slot back in defence when needed, in order to provide additional cover.
While his current deal expires in 2025, now may be the perfect time for Borussia Dortmund to strike. Wolfsburg currently sit 12th in the Bundesliga, 13 points behind Hoffenheim who sit in the final European Qualification spot. The lure of Champions League football may appeal to Baku, who featured in all six of Wolfsburg’s Group Stage matches this season, scoring three minutes into their 2-1 win at home to RB Salzburg.
While there have been no concrete links to Sergi Roberto, the move could make sense for the player, as well as both clubs involved. Barcelona look set to beat Dortmund to the signing of Noussair Mazraoui, which could push Sergi further down the pecking order. While he has been trialed in central midfield, the form of Gavi, Pedri, and the ever-present Sergio Busquets may keep Sergi firmly out of the starting XI.
The 30 year-old is out of contract in the summer, with Barcelona looking increasingly unlikely to come to an agreement with the Spanish international. Borussia Dortmund are free to enter pre-contract negotiations, which would see Sergi join the club at the start of the new season. Dortmund have already shown they are no stranger to a pre-contract agreement, having signed Niklas Sule last month from rivals Bayern Munich.
Having picked up an injury to his thigh last November, Sergi underwent surgery which has ruled him out for around four months. As we fast approach April, Roberto is expected to return to competitive action, and will likely resume his place in the team ahead of Dani Alves. The injury concern may be the sole reason for the drawn out contract negotiations, as the club looks to assess the level he returns to. Dortmund may need to risk entering negotiations now if they have a serious interest in securing the player’s services.
Who should Borussia Dortmund go for? Or have Thomas Meunier's performances this season convinced you he deserves his place at right-back? It's worth keeping in mind Mateu Morey is expected to return for next season as well... it'll be interesting to see what happens over the next few months!