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Why Hans-Joachim Watzke’s Latest Statement Has Me Worried

If Watzke’s interview with PrimeVideoDE is a reflection on how he views BVB, we’re in trouble.

Paris Saint-Germain v Borussia Dortmund: Group F - UEFA Champions League 2023/24 Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Yesterday, Hans-Joachim Watzke and Edin Terzic were both interviewed by PrimeVideoDE before the UCL clash against Paris Saint Germain. In this interview, Terzic spoke about his chosen starting line up, while Watzke commented on the current situation at Borussia Dortmund. While we all know how Terzic’s formation failed to create any meaningful chances against PSG, a statement from Watzke made me equally if not more concerned for the future of Borussia Dortmund.

Back in June, I commented on the exact reason why I think Watzke is a great CEO, and for the most part, I still think so. But this latest statement really made me doubt whether he’s the right CEO for the new Borussia Dortmund. I don’t know where Watzke got this statement from, but here’s why I think it’s very damaging for the club.

Where’s the Context?

Eight points from four games can sound like a little and a lot, depending on who you’ve played. If we had played Bayern, Leipzig, Leverkusen and Union Berlin, eight points would have been absolutely great, but guess what? Three out of the four teams we’ve played (Freiburg excluded), belong in the bottom third of the table. Two of the teams are clear relegation candidates. I especially don’t expect Heidenheim to stay up, even though Frank Schmidt is a brilliant manager. We even had the home advantage against Heidenheim in a game which we managed to bin by giving up a 2-0 lead.

Watzke’s statement is completely blind of any context. We only managed to get 2 points out of 6 in two of the most favorable matchups in the league. We’re not going to be able to replay these games. It should be obvious, but we don’t have an equal chance of winning every game, and as the CEO of the 2nd largest club in Germany, you should be able to acknowledge that.

... And then we are, where we always are

When Kehl picked up the torch from the departing Michael Zorc and Terzic was installed as manager, BVB had seemingly turned a corner. The focus shifted towards quality players who were likely to stay with the club for longer, and it finally seemed like BVB were actually serious about challenging for Die Meisterschale. Before the current transfer window, I think our squad was great. It was lacking decent fullbacks and some central ball-progressive players, but other than that, many of the pieces were good. In fact, I would say that they were so good, that we could reasonably expect more from this team.

Judging from Watzke’s statement, he clearly doesn’t think we can do better. I read between the lines that he would be happy with getting 68 points. I don’t even need to take a look at the Bundesliga table history to know, that 68 points will never win you the league. Watzke really needs to think about his wording, because in the end, he’s one of the main people responsible for creating and maintaining a winning culture within the club. With BVB’s position in the European footballing landscape, you simply need to foster you can always do better mentality. This statement sadly does the exact opposite.

Is Everyone Working Towards the Same?

When you as CEO claim that 68 points is a satisfactory return across 34 matches, you are essentially telling your head coach and sporting director that this is the goal to strive for. Sure, your sporting department will always try and win every game, but in the end, you can be sure that they won’t have the same workrate as soon as they’re close to reaching their goals. It’s human nature. If I know I have to get 8 hours of work done in a day, I don’t start out my day by expecting myself to get 10 hours of work done, and I will probably check out mentally if I manage to get my work done earlier than anticipated.

To me, it seems like there’s a bit of internal confusion about what BVB is and should be. I think Kehl’s summer wishlist painted a picture of a sporting director that was willing to take the extra step. Players like Edson Álvarez (no matter how good or bad he had turned out), Armel Bella-Kotchap, Iván Fresneda and even Xavi Simons all would have been a step forward in terms of quality and/or depth. To me, it seems like Edin Terzic and Watzke are working towards one goal, whereas Kehl has an agenda of his own. Although Kehl has some power within the walls of BVB, it’s simply impossible to change a culture that is curated by the most powerful man in the company and the person who’s closest to the players on a daily basis. I would be very curious to hear what Kehl and Terzic have to say about this statement. Reporters — bring it with you to the press conference before the Wolfsburg match!

I’m not saying that Watzke should go, but he’s on a very short leash with me now — even as one who will gladly acknowledge all the good he has done for BVB. I have held back on Watzke before, but a statement like this makes me think that his job here might be done.