It’s November of 2021, FC Köln are down 2-1 against Hertha Berlin with minutes left to play. As 49,000 fans cheer on their team inside a sold out RheinEnergieStadion, in anticipation of a tense finale, FC Köln are awarded a corner kick. Players are getting tired and sluggish after 86 minutes of gruelling play, but nobody is willing to concede defeat. The corner kick is taken, and in the seconds that follow, Anthony Modeste charges through the box and heads the ball into the net, scoring his second goal of the night. His following celebration is unforgettable, as the Frenchman sprints to the sideline, hugs the FC Köln coaching staff and steals manager Steffan Baumgart’s hat, proceeding to dance with it on his head. The match finished 2-2.
I was not alone in my excitement when Sebastian Kehl announced the signing of Sebastian Haller from Ajax. Borussia Dortmund needed someone to make up for the loss of Erling Haaland. Though Dortmund secured many signings this summer, the veteran striker Sebastian Haller was perhaps the most exciting. Just weeks before the new season was to begin, Haller was diagnosed with a malignant testicular tumor. It was later confirmed to be cancerous. Like all BVB fans, I share in this heartbreak and I’m thankful Haller will receive the best possible care as he completes chemotherapy and related treatments. His outlook is good; Haller could return to training as soon as February. But the season has just begun, and the young backup, Youssoufa Moukoko, has done little to convince everyone of his starting quality. Dortmund needs a striker; someone who is willing sign a short-term deal. Enter Anthony Modeste.
The 34-year-old Frenchman has played for teams across France, England, Germany and China, but he’s most famous for his time in the Bundesliga. More specifically, with FC Köln. Most Bundesliga fans will recognize Modeste’s name since he’s been scoring goals in Germany, on and off, since 2013. Who can forget that 86th minute equalizer against Hertha Berlin last season? The guy loves to score and he’s entertaining to watch! In total, Modeste has amassed 70 goals across 145 games for Köln, and apart from a strange stint in the Chinese Super League (more on that later), Modeste has been quite consistent.
After spells at several clubs including Nice, Angers FC, Bordeaux, Blackburn Rovers and Bastia, Modeste came into the Bundesliga in 2013, joining Hoffenheim for two seasons. Then in 2015, he joined FC Köln, a club and city which he fell in love with, and where he settled with his family. He played two superb seasons and finished the 2016/17 season as 3rd in line to the Golden Boot, behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and a certain Polish striker whose name I will omit. Soon after, the Chinese Super League came calling and a club called Tianjin Quanjian offered a big-money contract.
The transfer to China was bizarre to begin with. Modeste’s story here seems to mirror that of several well-known European players like the Ivorian Didier Drogba, or Brazilian Hulk, who accepted huge salaries to play in China’s budding Super League. In Anthony Modeste and FC Köln’s case, it was a deal worth upwards of €35 million. Modeste left his family in Köln, took a substantial pay raise and moved to China… And like so many other transfers to China’s Super League, this turned into something of a dumpster fire. This is also where the inconsistencies of the reported story begin. Certain reports had suggested that the transfer to Tianjin Quanjian had fallen through the summer before, but a 2-year loan deal with the option to buy had been struck. Meanwhile other Chinese outlets were reporting that Modeste had signed a 3 ½ year contract with the club. There was much confusion, and dissecting Chinese sports media in search of the truth is not something within my skillset. An examination of the Chinese Super League could be its own dissertation.
What can be confirmed is that FC Köln were returned their prodigal son after just two seasons and 20 appearances for Tianjin Quanjian. Modeste was reported AWOL by the club, and by November of 2018, Modeste was back in Köln. However, Modeste’s Köln contract was held up by Fifa, who had ruled that Modeste had no reason to cancel his contract with his Chinese employers. Interestingly, Fifa also ruled that Tianjin Quanjian must pay Modeste several months of unpaid wages... The unpaid wages being the reason Modeste sought the termination of his contract to begin with. Thankfully this resolved soon after the ruling when Tianjin Quanjian owner Shu Yuhui, along with 17 of his staff, were arrested as part of a pharmaceutical scandal and illegal pyramid scheme. The club was formally dissolved in 2020.
A lot had happened in Köln during Modeste’s absence. The club he had called home had been relegated to the second division, and coach Peter Stöger had been sacked. Despite the differences, Modeste settled right back into the squad upon his return and led the team to first place in the second division, securing promotion back to the Bundesliga. Though he had a brief loan spell at French side St. Etienne in 2021, Anthony Modeste is still a household name in Köln. For that reason, it is forgivable for any Billy Goats fan to hold resentment toward Borussia Dortmund right now. BVB had already secured the signing of Köln midfielder Salih Özcan, and now their star striker too? Perhaps in Modeste’s absence, a certain Steffan Tigges will be given more opportunities.
Anthony Modeste is an exciting addition to Borussia Dortmund’s squad, especially with the timeline of Sebastian Haller’s return uncertain. While many possible replacements like Edison Cavani and Memphis Depay were churned through the rumor mill, I’m really pleased that Kehl and company settled on Modeste. He’s an aggressive player in the attack and his set-piece positioning is among the best. In the 2021/22 season, he netted twenty goals, nine of which were headers. That was more headed goals than any other player in Europe’s top 5 leagues!
I’ve always thought Modeste was a fun player to watch, and I’m excited to see him in Black and Yellow. He’s someone I never imagined would transfer to BVB, yet these unique circumstances have presented a new opportunity. It’s yet to be seen how vital a role Modeste will play this season. The veteran striker is 34 years old and he’s not used to the Champions League. I am concerned that he won’t have the stamina to play 90 minutes every 3-4 days when the “English weeks” begin (though he did manage to play a whopping 2,615 Bundesliga minutes last season). Perhaps the twilight of his career will be the best yet. He could even be a super sub who brings an intense energy to the pitch late in the game. And if Haller returns midseason, the pair of them could make for a deadly duo up top.
Sebastian Kehl admitted that this signing was in direct response to the long-term absence of Sebastian Haller. Anthony Modeste signed a contract that will keep him at Westfalenstadion until the end of the current season. The fee was an estimated €5-6 million. Could a strong performance in Black and Yellow lead to an extended stay for the Frenchman?
What do you think about Borussia Dortmund’s latest signing? Let’s get some predictions:
- Will Modeste return to FC Köln next summer?
- Will the Frenchman be Dortmund’s top scorer this year?
- Will Modeste make his debut this Friday against Freiburg?
- Which of Dortmund’s summer signing has you most excited?