An eventful transfer window for Borussia Dortmund has finally closed its doors and it’s time to evaluate the business they’ve done.
A window in which most people expected Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to leave the club and all other key players to stay put was turned on its head when it was clear the Gabonese striker was staying put and Ousmane Dembélé striked his way to Barcelona.
But let’s take a step back and take a look at all the ins and outs.
In: Dominik Reimann (20, BVB II, free)
Out: Hendrik Bonmann (23, TSV 1860 München, free)
Not much can be said about the goalkeeper position besides the fact BVB are losing a player who gave the best interview in recent memory. Among other things he admits to wearing a Dortmund shirt beneath his Schalke jersey when he played for their youth academy.
As long as Roman Bürki and Roman Weidenfeller are fit, Reimann will be in goal for Dortmund’s second team. His performances in pre-season were encouraging and especially on the ball he’s shown great promise.
Not much happened because not much needed to happen.
In: Jeremy Toljan (23, TSG Hoffenheim, €5m)
Out: Pascal Stenzel (21, SC Freiburg, €4m), Felix Passlack (19, TSG Hoffenheim, two-year loan)
Good young full-backs are rare. Good young full-backs who speak the language, know the league and are cheap are unicorns. All the more impressive Michael Zorc got Toljan to sign even though he had more lucrative offers from the likes of Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur.
Adding to the Toljan deal, Passlack is joining Hoffenheim for two years on loan. He is undoubtedly talented but stagnated in the past few months at Dortmund. So which coach would be better to develop him further than Julian Nagelsmann? The young Hoffenheim coach has shown his abilities over the past year and it seems likely Passlack will return to Dortmund a better player.
Getting €4 million for Stenzel is also a good piece of business. A decent player but Toljan is a big upgrade and only cost €1 million more.
Lukasz Piszczek is getting up there in age and can’t play close to 40 games again. Raphael Guerreiro still has to prove he can be a reliable left-back in a back four. Erik Durm unfortunately has major injury problems, so a back-up for both defensives sides was needed. Toljan can be that and a very good one, too. He also has the potential to eventually be the heir to Piszczek’s right-back throne.
In: Ömer Toprak (27, Bayer Leverkusen, €12m), Dan-Axel Zagadou (18, Paris Saint-Germain B, free)
Out: Matthias Ginter (23, Borussia Mönchengladbach, €17m), Sven Bender (28, Bayer Leverkusen, €12,5m)
For some time Toprak was the best central defender of the Bundesliga outside of Bayern and Mats Hummels. While he admittedly had a tough last season, his pre-season and 50 minutes against Hertha looked very good. For €12 million he looks like a steal in this window.
The same can be said about Zagadou joining on a free. The 6’5“ centre-back even managed to have two excellent games at left-back in the Bundesliga. One can only imagine how good he might become as a centre-back. He embodies a rare mix of technical prowess and all around great physical attributes.
As for the outs, Ginter is certainly a talented player but it just never seemed like he and Dortmund were a good fit. To make a profit on him compared to the older but also much better Toprak is good business.
And for Bender: a sad but understandable transfer. “Manni“ is widely considered as one of the best guys to have played for this club and it’s sad to see him leave. For a long time there were murmurs in Germany that the Bender twins wanted to play together again. Most expected it to be at Dortmund but it came the other way around. In Leverkusen, Manni will hopefully stay healthy and be the regular starter he wants to be.
After Sokratis had to be subbed off due to illness against Hertha there was no doubt in my mind we’d be fine with Toprak on the pitch. Last season wasn’t quite the same. Adding a great talent like Zagadou and making a big profit: good business for the centre-back position.
Out: Mikel Merino (21, Newcastle United, loan with option to buy), Dzenis Burnic (19, VfB Stuttgart, loan)
Nuri Sahin could be listed in this category, as he feels like a new signing type of player, and Mahmoud Dahoud might be able to fill this role but no actual specialist was signed for this position.
On the other side Don Mikel left the club for a loan fee of €3 million and an obligatory buy clause of about €7 million should he feature in a “small amount of games.“ The first weeks for Merino in Newcastle have shown that BVB might regret giving him away for good. It’s always a shame to see such a talented player leave permanently after just one year at the club.
As for Burnic, a loan seems like the right move. He is in need of game time and experience at a high level. Hopefully he’ll get both of that in Stuttgart.
Giving away Merino for relatively cheep seems like a bad deal already and going into the season with an injured Julian Weigl and an injury-prone Sahin seems like an unnecessary risk. This grade would be even worse if it wasn’t for the likes of Dahoud who could fill in if need be.
In: Mahmoud Dahoud (21, Borussia Mönchengladbach, €12m)
Many felt like a great number 8 was what’s missing after Ilkay Gündogan left the club. Finally a guy who can become just that was brought in. Dahoud was wanted by many top clubs around Europe but decided to come to Dortmund. His €12 million release clause makes him one of the steals of the transfer window.
The only valid criticism about this transfer would be that it’s a year late but that shouldn’t be relevant for this transfer window. BVB finally have a player who can link up the midfield and attacking players on a consistent level and once he fully settles in BVB fans should be in for a treat.
In: Andrij Yarmolenko (27, Dynamo Kyiv, €25m), Maximilian Philipp (23, SC Freiburg, €20m), Jadon Sancho (17, Manchester City U18, €7m)
Out: Ousmane Dembélé (20, FC Barcelona, €105m plus add-ons), Emre Mor (20, Celta Vigo, €13m)
Here comes the big one. Some say selling Dembélé for €105m after him striking is a masterpiece, others say he shouldn’t have been sold for any money in the world. Usually the truth is somewhere in the middle. The transfer is certainly a great deal made by Zorc (and Watzke) but weakening the sporting ability of a football club can hardly be considered a masterpiece.
Giving away a great talent like Mor for cheap after one season is, like the Merino transfer, debatable. Even with the rumored problems off the pitch and lack of progress on it, BVB might come to regret the transfer in a couple of years.
As for the incoming players, Yarmolenko is a solid but not an exciting signing. On paper he should fit Peter Bosz’s football but he’s also already 27-years-old and it remains to be seen whether he can adapt to the Bundesliga and the level of football.
Philipp might be what Thomas Tuchel saw in André Schürrle, to paraphrase Yellowwallpod writer Lars Pollmann: a solid winger who makes the right decisions at the right time, is a goal threat and doesn’t play too flashy but helps the team function offensively and defensively.
Sancho is the most risky and most exciting transfer at the same time. It’s impossible to tell whether he’ll turn out like Mor and be sold after just one season, or he will take the Bundesliga by surprise like Dembélé or Pulisic, or something in the middle. Anyone who’s seen him play at the U17 Euros knows how talented he is and we wish the first Englishman at Dortmund all the best.
A great profit on the best offensive player in the squad, some good but not inspiring signings and another punt on a wonderkid. In the end Dortmund has a bit more money in the bank but, at least in this position, a worse squad.
In: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang stayed at the club
Out: Adrian Ramos, kind of (31, Chongqing Dangdai Lifan, €12m)
The first few games of the season already showed how important it was to keep Aubameyang the club and he’s handling the situation perfectly. He’s rarely without a smile on his lips and keeps on scoring, even after his wish for a transfer didn’t materialize.
Because there weren’t really any transfers this window, this can’t be graded but the striker position should still go down as a win for BVB.
Overall grade: B
Borussia Dortmund had a good window but not a great window. Weaknesses like full-backs, although a bit late in the window, centre-backs and central midfielders were targeted and improved. The Dembélé transfer is disappointing sporting wise, although it was hard to avoid after his strike. The seemingly rushed transfers of Mor and Merino are the big downside this window. Especially after signing big talents and improving them was declared as a strategy without alternatives last summer by CEO Watzke.