Borussia Dortmund’s chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke spoke to local paper WAZ about this summer’s trip to China, the new signings and the club’s ambitions for next season.
Here’s a translation of the interview.
Mr. Watzke, how did you like China?
It was a very, very successful affair. A big compliment to the squad, they did a great job and, most notably, had fun with the experience. We knew we had a lot of fans in China, but this spectacular reception surprised us.
Why did you travel to China in the middle of pre-season?
We have to earn our money ourselves. At the moment China is probably the most interesting market, because the president has decreed a 50-point football plan. Billions are getting invested, China will build more than 100.000 football pitches, there’ll be a few hours of football for every school class every week soon. Shortly the television rights for the Bundesliga will be allocated. There’s going to be a big boost thanks to the presence of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund abroad.
Did you think you’d ever travel to China with the club when you came into office in 2005?
I feared at the time that we’d have to travel to Erkenschwick [a 4th division club] all the time. Now we’re already on our third trip to Asia. The Champions League final in 2013 was invaluable for our reputation in the region. We’re not as big as Manchester United are in China, but we’ve gotten much bigger.
Head coach Thomas Tuchel was moved by the Chinese fans.
I think it’s great that the coach sees the positives in such a trip. There are still coaches out there who think it’d be more comfortable to travel to Austria for a training camp. And then they wonder why their clubs don’t develop.
Can you quantify the revenue of the trip to China?
For now we’ve gained about €3 million. But that’s only one side of the picture. The TV money from the international marketing of the Bundesliga are supposed to rise next year, sponsoring will get a sustainable boost. I can’t say now whether we’ll earn €10, €20 or €50 million.
After the trip Andre Schürrle and Mario Götze will join the team. Is your attack even better than last year with the two world champions?
It’s good at any rate. I’ve a good feeling looking at the team we’ve got now. But on the other hand I know that we’ve made eight signings and lost three very valuable members of our team. That’s an upheaval and usually this takes some time.
Is there a threat of the wrath of the Dortmund fans hitting Götze upon his return?
If a few people feel the need to boo him, then they should do it. We live in a democracy. I don’t, however, take kindly to personal abuse. That doesn’t help anyone.
His transfer three years ago hurt many. The team was young, wild and felt destined to achieve great things. That’s why the transfer hit us so very hard. But Mario didn’t do anything wrong in 2013. He made use of his release clause and told us himself, not through his agent. He told it to our face. Schalke’s Leroy Sane does the same thing now and he gets celebrated by the fans.
How does the coach see the new signings?
If Thomas Tuchel had refused one of them, we wouldn’t have signed them. But it’s a part of Dortmund that the coach doesn’t write a wish list the management has to execute. We discuss the plans constructively. But we’d never sign a player if the coach says he’d got no use for him. I’ve the feeling that he’s very happy with the squad.
But was he disappointed that you didn’t sign his prefered candidates Karim Bellarabi and Ömer Toprak of Bayer Leverkusen?
Who says Toprak won’t come at some point? There will be transfer windows in the future. For this window we didn’t think Leverkusen’s demands were in conformity with the market. We don’t pay every price. As for Bellarabi: A good player, but some transfers simply don’t materialise.
There were lots of rumours during the trip. Will Mario Gomez come?
No, we said that already. It has nothing to do with his quality. But we’re stocked in his position. Mario Gomez surely doesn’t want to be in a competition with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
That means Aubameyang will stay?
You can very safely assume that.
Fan favourite Jakub Blaszczykowski is being linked with VfL Wolfsburg. Could you soon miss some identifying figures?
Kuba is a great person, a class player, who shaped a great era with us. In this respect he deserves our financial good will in a transfer that he wants. Kuba will always stay a part of the BVB family. But football at this level is a temporary thing. If a number of 20-year-old told us they’d rather go to VfL Bochum, I’d be pondering. But we can’t have every merited player stay with us until he’s 36.
You have a strong youth academy, great talents. How are they going to make the jump to the pros?
Quite frankly, the players have to answer those questions. If they want to play at the highest level with BVB, they’ve to reach that level. We can never overrule the performance principle, not for a 35-year-old and not for a 17-year-old.
You’re saying the quality in the squad is high. What do you want to achieve?
We want to qualify directly for the Champions League. And we want to survive the group stage.
Don’t the standards rise after signing two world champions?
The only thing that rises is the demanding attitude of the media. What the typical BVB fan wants is that the team does everything they can. What comes of it isn’t that important.
Don’t you long for a trophy?
There’s a bit more to life than trophies, otherwise most of the Bundesliga clubs could stop playing. But Borussia Dortmund has the trophy gene, has always won trophies and will do so again. The important thing is that that doesn’t turn into an obsession.
That’s why Schalke will be more dangerous under sporting director Christian Heidel. That desire had almost turned into an obsession lately. That can perhaps paralyze a club. If Bayern Munich at one point feel like they can take a break, we want to be right there. But I don’t have that feeling yet.