The transfer window has officially closed, and with that, the Borussia Dortmund squad, as it is now, is the one tasked with navigating the first half of the Bundesliga season, the early rounds of the DFB Pokal, and the arguably most difficult group of the Champions League group stage.
Here’s a quick overview of all of our key moves:
Felix Nmecha - €30 million
Marcel Sabitzer - €19 million
Niclas Füllkrug - €13 million
Ramy Bensebaini - Free
Jude Bellingham - €103 million
Ansgar Knauff - €5 million
Raphael Guerreiro - Free
Mahmoud Dahoud - Free
Felix Passlack - Free
Of course, these official moves don’t tell the full story, and much of the story from this transfer window consists of the moves that *weren’t* made, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself. I assume my fellow writers will have much to say, so without further ado, here are our grades for the summer 2023 transfer window.
This is the worst BVB transfer window I can remember. Every move, aside from the Sabitzer signing, either made the team worse, was a total waste of money, or both. An F might seem hyperbolic but I genuinely struggle to imagine a way this window could have gone worse.
Signing Füllkrug at the expense of Kotchap was the final straw, but it was a horrible window well before that. Letting Dahoud AND Guerreiro leave for free was a result of terrible asset management, and ironically we could probably use both players now. Felix Nmecha is a mediocre player that cost a very hefty €30 million. Holes at center back, right back, and defensive midfield have gone unplugged.
I genuinely think that somebody needs to be fired. The only thing stopping me from saying who is that I really don’t know who is calling the shots anymore. It should be Sebastian Kehl, the sporting director, who is supposed to be signing off on transfer decisions, but every move that actually comes to fruition seems to be championed not by Kehl, but by Edin Terzic. I’d normally say that three games into a season is too early to sack a manager, and I’m not aware of any replacements who are readily available (and no, Nagelsmann ain’t happening), but Terzic’s bizarre insistence on signing an expensive backup striker could have horrible repercussions for the club, which could be enough to get him sacked on its own.
Then there’s the CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke. Ultimately, if he really wanted to, he could veto a transfer decision, and if he’s pushing a move, it will be very difficult for anybody, including Kehl, to say no. I don’t know to what extent any of the decisions this summer were his originally, but at the end of the day all of this has happened under his watch, and he is ultimately responsible for it.
Maybe it’s all three! Maybe Kehl is all too happy to listen to his manager, and maybe Watzke is willing to just throw his hands in the air and endorse whatever his underlings decide. Maybe the board of directors needs to completely clean house and start over. I don’t know. All I know is that the result against Heidenheim is the exact product that the front office deserves for their actions this window.
I searched every corner of my mind for any reason that this should not be an F, but as you’ve already seen, I did in fact end up with an F. There are so many reasons why this transfer window was a disaster. It has absolutely killed our momentum in terms of squad building. The foundation for the title challenging BVB was perfectly built with players like Kobel, Schlotterbeck, Süle, Adeyemi and Donyell Malen. We had a few good depth pieces at our disposal in both ends of the pitch — surely nothing could go wrong, right?
Wrong. We paid 10 million euros too much for a mostly unproven Nmecha. With no offense to Füllkrug, who’s a very decent player, he’s still a 30-year old striker we could definitely live without, and while I do like Bensebaini and the fact that he was free, you don’t expect him to change games for us at all. 90% of the transfer window was spent chasing Álvarez, Le Fee, Fresneda and Bella-Kotchap, who all have ended up signing deals with other clubs.
My baseline for a good BVB signing has always been this: “Can this player currently or in the near future be able to travel to the Allianz Arena and actually give Bayern a hard time?”. I don’t see any of our signings (except maybe Sabitzer) being able to do this. Nmecha might in the future, but that doesn’t change the fact that we paid more for him than we did for Schlotterbeck and Malen.
I have no issue with letting Dahoud and Guerreiro leave for free, but the replacements have been either non-existent or disappointing. And don’t even get me started on the fact that Thorgan Hazard is still on our payroll — I can better understand the Meunier incident because of the injury.
This is what mediocrity looks like. This is what it looks like when we stop buying young, ambitious players that might dare to dream of playing for bigger teams than Dortmund. This is what it looks like when we let a fan run our transfer business.
For years we’ve heard these complaints about BVB bringing in talented kids that just come to the club to play really well for a few years before moving on in exchange for astronomical sums of money. Truly, it is hard to believe that fans survived such hardship. Well, for those folks that were keen that we stop doing the good thing and only buy players that could never think to dream of playing for a bigger club than Dortmund because they’ve absolutely maximised their potential by joining us, here it is. I beg I don’t hear you complaining!
Beyond the sheer volume of mediocrity we have brought in this summer, the reports of a power struggle behind the scenes are equally concerning. We were linked to so many good players, that seemed like a great fit and a step in the right direction for a team looking to build on the progress they made last season. We signed none of those players. I think we can surmise that those players were the ones that Sebastien Kehl wanted, and instead, we’ve got the players that Edin Terzic (and Hans-Joachim Watzke) wanted.
I think we’re much worse off for it, and I think this is likely to cost Edin Terzic his job. It should probably cost Watzke his job too. Hand the keys back to Kehl. Let him build a squad for a top manager to turn into winners.
Well, well, well, here we are. I’m choosing to be a shade optimistic here, because the club did actually manage to shift Schulz off the wage bill, and Sabi is a player whom I could see a genuine title contender signing. I also have a pretty strong feeling that Füllkrug will come good; he’s a quality multifaceted forward who is probably better suited to the way we would like to play than the thus far incompetent Seb. We also did a good job of tying some key players down to extended contracts.
However, it’s all downhill from there. Jude leaving was pretty much a foregone conclusion, but the club deciding to reinvest a chunk of that money into a player who has no business playing for a Champions League-level club at the moment isn’t exactly the statement of intent one might expect from the team that only missed out on the title on goal difference last season. Rapha leaving made some sense, but our inexplicable desire to replace our wonderful Portuguese technician with a lumbering full-back who probably last correctly controlled a football in the year 1995 is particularly irksome; while Rapha’s defensive game contained several obvious (and gaping) holes, Bens offers almost bugger-all in terms of progression, and has thus far exhibited a strange reluctance to cover the left side of the defense for large stretches of play (I have, on occasion, wondered aloud about whether he remembers he’s being paid to play in that very position). Bens is still forgivable in a sense, as he does show flashes of the aggressive, hard-running player who patrolled Gladbach’s left, and there’s some hope that he will end up proving a good, solid (if not Champions League-level) fullback.
On to the absolutely abysmal business now. On the outbound side, letting Mo leave on a free might prove to be the worst piece of business we’ve done in the last couple of years (and, yes, that includes the Nmecha signing). Is he a quality player? Yes. Did he do well under Terzic? Very much so. Does he offer the one thing our system is currently crying out for? Absolutely. Is his wage unaffordable? He earns significantly less than Nmecha. Crucially, did he want to leave? NO. So, obviously, the move is to release him on a free. MAKE IT MAKE SENSE.
If you’re a fan of pain, stick around; that doesn't stop there. Dortmund have been, by my rough count, linked with at least seven players who would have been either great additions to the squad or more immediately to the XI. Here’s a run-down of what happened to them:
- Armel Bella-Kotchap is on loan to Dutch side PSV for the season.
- Enzo Le Fee joined Rennes (a side who don’t even play Champions League football)
- Morten Hjulmand moved to sunny Portugal, joining Sporting for around 15 million Euros
- Ivan Fresneda followed suit, joining Sporting for the absolutely unaffordable sum of nine million Euros
- Edson Alvarez joined West Ham, presumably drawn by the allure of English food and weather
- Ellyes Skhiri joined Frankfurt ON A FREE
- Marvin Ducksch chose to stay at Werder Bremen
If you thought this couldn’t get any worse, I haven’t gone into the ridiculously unbalanced depth chart, where we are seven or eight deep on the wings, but with only three centre-backs, full-backs, and centre-mids. That, however, must be saved for a later rant.
There’s so much murkiness surrounding Dortmund’s transfer situation, specifically about who it is that calls the shots regarding signings and sales, that I’m not sure whom to blame this catalogue of mediocrity on. It’s especially disappointing, considering last summer’s (and January’s) excellent business, plus our first serious title challenge in years and the subsequent injection of funds from the Bellingham transfer. Currently, the only thing this Dortmund side look likely to dent is the chance that I’ll have a fully-functional liver when I’m in my thirties. Things have to improve.
As you can see, we have some pretty strong feelings about this transfer window. What do you think? Are we all being reactionaries? How would you grade Dortmund’s summer window?