With no European club football on the calendar at the moment, our attention turns to the transfer window (or the MLS and U-21 Euros, if you’re weird like me). So, here is a somewhat in-depth look at all things Dortmund, largely courtesy of Messrs. Romano and Plettenberg.
This is a massive window for Borussia Dortmund, as Sebastian Kehl and Co. look to build on a very promising 22/23 Bundesliga season. In a move that surprised nobody but perhaps Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham left for pastures new, trading the black-and-yellow of Dortmund for the (boring) white of Real Madrid. Our wonderboy wasn’t the only first-team regular to leave, however, as we also lost two cult heroes: long-serving Portuguese assist king Rapha Guerreiro joined Bayern on a free, while row Z menace Mo Dahoud departed for the South coast of England, to join the highly impressive Brighton project. Misfits Passlack and Modeste (though one might argue the latter could be considered a cult hero after cementing his name in Dortmund folklore with that goal against Bayern) also left at the conclusion of their respective contracts. The other departures of note are young left back Tom Rothe leaving for Kiel on a season-long loan and talented French center back Soumaila Coulibaly joining Burnley on a 15 million Euro loan-to-buy deal. It also looks like we will not be seeing Belgian duo Thomas Meunier and Thorgan Hazard in a black-and-yellow shirt again, with neither appearing to be in Terzic’s plans for next season.
A lot of outbound movement has occurred, and, with die Schwarzgelben fighting on all three fronts again next season, one might expect a not-insignificant number of inbound transfers. It’s clear that the centre of midfield is sorely lacking in depth, as we’ve lost three players who could play in that position, leaving us with only three recognised senior central midfielders in the squad (counting Brandt, who is more of a #10 anyway). It goes without saying that this nowhere near enough for a team that generally plays either a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 (two formations that require three central players at all times). We’ve also lost two of our most creative players last season in Jude and Rapha, who ranked second and third for chances created for us in the league last season, behind Julian Brandt.
In terms of incomings, the window has been curiously quiet, with only two signings made so far: left-back Ramy Bensebaini (free from Gladbach) and Felix Nmecha (30 million Euros from Wolfsburg). In his article last week (go give it a read!), Patrick pointed out the massive downgrade from Jude that Nmecha represents, and I’d go so far as to say that, in both our dealings so far, we have signed players who aren’t at the level of a team that regularly expects to play Champions League football.
Bensebaini has been hailed as an important defensive upgrade over Rapha, but he actually completed fewer defensive actions (tackles + interceptions) despite playing more minutes, a surprising result given that he is highly involved in the Foals’ pressing game. Needless to say, he also puts up significantly worse creative numbers than the diminutive Portuguese; in fact, he only outshines Rapha is the aerial duels department (unsurprising, given that he’s six inches taller). Given that he’s only about a year younger than Rapha, I wonder whether this transfer makes a lot of sense, unless Terzic intends to experiment with a back three that would see him deployed as a wide centre-back.
In a similar vein, Nmecha is a player who has a different statistical profile to the one he’s ostensibly been signed to replace. An adept and powerful ball-carrying center-mid from the Man City academy, he became an important player for Wolfsburg last season with three goals and five assists, earning his first Germany cap in the recent friendly defeat to Belgium. Having watched several Wolfsburg games (I watched a random sample of twelve halves that he played in when the news broke that he was linked), he looks a good player who currently wouldn’t be out of place in a Europa League-level team and definitely could be an elite-level central midfielder at some point in the near future, and, while his poor creative passing stats might be a result of Wolfsburg's goal-shy season and lack of a goalscoring forward, there is still a lot of growing that needs to be done. I do think, however, that there is reason to be optimistic here; Nmecha is only 22, and he’s got all the tools to be a top centre-mid, given some time (though he’s obviously nowhere near Jude’s level of overall refinement). He looks like he’d fit well with Edin Terzic’s tactical ideas, as well, as he could play as a progressive 8 in a double-pivot or a more defensive 6/8 in a midfield three. For a more comprehensive analysis, Paddy does a great job of comparing his stats to Jude’s in his article from last week.
The fee does seem rather steep, though.
Reus and Hummels were handed well deserved one-year extensions towards the end of last season. Hummels in particular was outstanding during the final few weeks. Julian Brandt also committed his future to the club, signing an extension through the summer of 2026. Marius Wolf and Emre Can (both of whom have contracts expiring in 2024) are going to be offered extensions. Both have grown immensely over the course of the season; moreover, we lack depth both at right-back and in central midfield. Looking forward to the Wolf being unleashed again! Alex Meyer has also agreed a new deal that will see him remain our second-choice ‘keeper until 2025.
Here’s a quick rundown on the statuses of several of the players with whom we’ve been linked in recent times:
- Our pursuit of Fresneda is off, unfortunately.
- The Alvarez transfer remains in limbo.
- Feyenoord’s midfield maestro Orkun Kökcü (whom I have hoped to see in a black and yellow shirt for a while now) put an end to speculation surrounding his future by signing with Benfica for a surprisingly small fee.
- Promising City Academy midfielder Shea Charles appears to be close to signing for Southampton.
- Enzo Le Fee looked set to reject us to sign with Rennes, but that transfer is looking in increasing danger of falling through. One to keep an eye on; he could be a great fit.
- Dortmund are apparently considering a surprise bid for Manu Kone (who is on Liverpool’s radar).
- Our Kamada chase has been dead for a while now; AC Milan will be picking him up soon.
- Ellyes Skhiri has joined Eintracht Frankfurt on a free.
- Boyhood Dortmund fan Marvin Ducksch has renewed his contract with Werder.
- Other linked players: Anton Stach, Maxence Caqueret, Connor Gallagher, Morten Hjulmand.
Current Squad- Concluding Thoughts
At the moment, It does seem as though the squad has taken a step back, as we’ve lost key players that haven’t been replaced by players of similar quality. Given the players who’ve left, I think this window could be the difference between us finishing in fifth or sixth, and us potentially challenging for the title.
It’s no surprise we’ve been linked with practically every central midfielder under the sun, as we need at least one more post the Nmecha signing. We need another full-back (preferably a left-back) as well, as it doesn’t look as though Prince Aning is about to be promoted to the seniors, leaving us with only three full-backs (excluding Meunier).
Of the players linked, I think Stach, Caqueret, Hjulmand and Kone would all be fantastic additions (though Kone wouldn’t come cheap). Hjulmand is the most defensive of the four and could see Edin Terzic move Emre Can into a more progressive midfield role, while Caqueret is a smooth and technically-refined central midfielder who could occupy that role, keeping Can in his current #6 position. Stach is a quality box-to-box midfielder who has shone for Mainz ever since signing from Furth and might be available at a fairly reduced price. Of all the players we’ve been linked with, however, Kone would easily be the best Jude replacement; he possesses an uncannily-similar statistical profile, has had lots of experience at senior level, and, at 21, still has time to grow and improve. If the finances allow (and Liverpool don’t blow us out the water), this would be a phenomenal signing for us, as he’s the closest to Jude we could feasibly get.
In terms of the rest of the squad, there are minor issues that Kehl should look to solve once the big moves are out of the way. We are strangely overstocked on the wings, as the squad currently contains seven wide forwards (five, excluding Reus and Brandt). With the emergence of the raw but frighteningly talented Duranville, combined with Malen and Adeyemi turning in electric performances during the Rückrunde, one wonders what will become of JBG and/or Reyna. A recent transfer rumour has the American Dream linked with a move away from the Westfalenstadion in this window (though it was only Bild). Reyna’s development seems to have stalled a bit with the new wingers’ emergence, while JBG has shown that, despite his precocious talent, he still has a ton of growing to do before he becomes a genuine force at Dortmund’s level and his progress has been hampered by his bad luck with injuries. While I doubt either will move away during the window, it might be in the club’s best interest to sort out a loan move for at least one, so that regular playing time can be achieved. There is also a slight lack of depth at striker; despite Haller’s return, we could definitely use a third-choice striker, and the only one we’ve been linked with so far just signed a new deal with Werder Bremen. Julian Rijkhoff from the U19 squad might be one to keep an eye on; he scored 15 in 14 for them last season and looks a pretty good prospect; there’s a couple of bright youngsters in our academy at the moment; keep your eyes peeled for my article about them later this month!
There are definitely some positives, as well. We’ve still got the majority of the squad that pushed Bayern all the way last season, several of whom are on long-term contracts. The younger players in the squad have gained a season’s worth of experience, and Malen and Adeyemi especially will be looking to build on the momentum they gained towards the end of the season. We also have a potentially incredible talent on our hands in Julien Duranville, plus a healthy chunk of money to spend during the window (of which a long time is left). Kehl’s transfers proved to be largely good business last season, and, while this is not the most promising of starts, there’s both the time and the money to turn it around.
Whom would you like us to have signed by the end of the window? Which of our transfers has been the best so far? How are you dealing with the present lack of Dortmund?