While it seems likely at this juncture Borussia Dortmund will abstain from adding any players during the January transfer window, it’s clear the Black and Yellows’ squad isn’t put together perfectly for the long term.
There are a few positions of need we can identify quickly, and a few that will come to the fore once the dominoes fall on the transfer market — the never-ending Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang saga, for one.
Undoubtedly, the names that will make the rounds in the media circuits will be well-known among Dortmund fans, for example Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud should Aubameyang leave for China (for real this time!).
Given the developments on the global stage in the transfer market, Dortmund would do well to continue to tap into the Bundesliga market, which is something they’ve done more regularly than people realise.
In the last four-and-a-half years alone, since they lost the UEFA Champions League final to Bayern Munich, the Black and Yellows have signed 15 players from other clubs in Germany. That accounts for almost exactly half of their incoming transfers over that period of time.
It makes perfect sense to buy local: the players “know the league” (it’s debatable how big of a factor this really is) and, more importantly, they are affordable both in terms of acquisition and maintenance — transfer fees and wages, in other words.
Transfer fees haven’t exploded within the Bundesliga to this point, as is obvious when one looks at the record deals that were made between German clubs. Julian Draxler tops the list with a €43 million move from Schalke to Wolfsburg, who were flush with Kevin de Bruyne cash and desperate — always a bad combination. Mario Götze and Mats Hummels cost Bayern Munich €37 and €35 million, respectively.
The next one on the list is — sigh — Dortmund’s record signing Andre Schürrle, having joined the Ruhr side from Wolfsburg for €30 million. The two other inner-Bundesliga moves significantly north of €20 million came in 2009 and 2011, when Bayern signed Mario Gomez and Manuel Neuer for €30 million each.
This is all to say that buying within the Bundesliga is generally a good idea and it would behoove Dortmund to go that route when they construct their next team.
Who could they go for? Let’s take a look at some under-the-radar (largely, anyway, as we’ll admit straight away) names that could be of interest; you don’t need us to tell you the Julian Brandts and Leon Goretzkas (dream on) and Max Meyers of the Bundesliga would be very good signings. We’ll rank the players in their positions with our favourites topping the list.
Need Level: High
Former assistant coach Hendrie Krüzen recently told a Dutch paper he and his boss Peter Bosz wanted to sign not one but two central defenders in the winter, while links with Basel’s Manuel Akanji were persistent to a point where it’s unlikely Dortmund were not interested in the Switzerland defender. Given the contract status of 29-year-olds Neven Subotic (deal runs out this summer) and Sokratis Papastathopoulos (2019), it’s safe to say Dortmund will be on the lookout for new centre-backs.
Benjamin Pavard, 21, VfB Stuttgart
A highly versatile and technically sound defender, Pavard is a France international despite only making his Bundesliga debut this season with Hannes Wolf’s Stuttgart. The 21-year-old’s versatility speaks volumes about his football intelligence, as Pavard is comfortable playing across the back line and in defensive midfield.
Signing him would not be easy as clubs in all of Europe will have taken notice of his talents. Pavard signed a contract extension in December, tying him to Stuttgart until 2021 on paper, but it seems likely the new deal includes either a straight release clause or some other sort of arrangement that will facilitate a move to a bigger club while compensating Stuttgart properly for taking a chance on a largely unknown 20-year-old in 2016.
Pavard would give Dortmund a cornerstone player for the future with a solid defensive skillset and huge upside on the ball. If BVB ever splash the cash for a defender, this young man would be worth the investment.
Waldemar Anton, 21, Hannover
Anton would be a solid consolation prize if they can’t land Pavard. The Hannover defender has a somewhat similar profile in terms of versatility and on-the-ball qualities and would certainly improve Dortmund’s build-up play immediately. He probably doesn’t have as high a ceiling as the Frenchman, but that could also mean he’d stick around at the Westfalenstadion longer.
Like Pavard, the Germany under-21 international is under contract until 2021, with the club explicitly stating there is no release clause in his deal. Still, a club like Dortmund would be able to land this young defender without much difficulty financially, but there would certainly be competition from clubs like Bayer Leverkusen or RB Leipzig.
Salif Sane, 27, Hannover
Hannover’s brawns to Anton’s brains, Sane may well have been the most imposing defender in the first half of the current campaign. If Dortmund wanted to replace Sokratis with a similarly aggressive, pain-in-the-ass for every attacker kind of centre-back, the 27-year-old would be an ideal candidate.
The Senegalese has long been one of the best defenders outside of the Bundesliga’s spotlights and Hannover’s strong season to this point has finally brought him to the fore. Leading the league with absurd numbers in both normal and aerial duels and, as friend of the program Abel Meszaros notes for Bundesliga Fanatic ” just cleans up everything in sight.”
Sane could leave Hannover this month because of a release clause activating in the summer that would make him a bargain signing for any club at a reported value of €8 to €11 million. Dortmund could make a profit by selling Sokratis one year before his contract ends and adding Sane, who may well be a better player as well. Sounds like a plan to us.
Niklas Stark, 22, Hertha BSC
Stop if you’ve heard this before, but Stark is another defender who brings a certain level of positional versatility to the table while having qualities on the ball that make him an intriguing option for any club looking to add young centre-backs.
Turning 23 in April, Stark is probably the most polished of the young players we mention here, and it’s fair to say he might have the least upside. He has the edge in terms of experience, though, having played in 114 Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga matches for Hertha and Nürnberg, the capital club’s European campaign this season and last year’s UEFA Under-21 Euros. He is also said to be a natural leader, something BVB can always stand to add.
Stark is equally comfortable playing in central defence as he is as a defensive midfielder, potentially giving Dortmund two players for the price of one. With Hertha likely having peaked last season given the resurgence of Schalke, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Leverkusen, Stark might be available despite his contract running until 2022.
Abdou Diallo, 21, Mainz
This writer will be honest: He hasn’t seen much of Abdou Diallo. The Frenchman is listed here largely for one reason: RMC Sport say former BVB head scout Sven Mislintat has identified him as a target for Arsenal and it stands to reason Mislintat flagged the 21-year-old before joining the Gunners.
Diallo is left footed and captains an impressive France U21 side. Dortmund have done very well tapping into the French market. Maybe they’ll take the detour for Diallo, who’s under contract until 2022.
Need Level: High
Lukasz Piszczek is 32 and oft-injured. Jeremy Toljan might be a back-up for life at Dortmund’s level. Yes, they need a new right-back.
Mitchell Weiser, 23, Hertha BSC
We’ll admit that we’re very much stretching the definition of under-the-radar here, given Weiser’s been one of the players most often mentioned by many fans as potential transfer targets for BVB. And guess what? It still makes sense.
Leverkusen’s Benjamin Henrichs is probably rated higher thanks to his positional versatility and being three years younger than Weiser, which is why signing him would be much more difficult, leaving Weiser as perhaps the only viable option in the Bundesliga.
The former Bayern man has blossomed into a tidy player in the capital and offers a strong attacking skillset — he would be among Dortmund’s three or so best dribblers the moment he signed for the Ruhr side. The one snag here: He’s really more of a wing-back than a full-back.
Weiser’s fit with Dortmund depends largely on who will coach the team next season. Julian Nagelsmann would probably appreciate having this kind of player on his right side. A four-man defence fanatic such as Lucien Favre, not so much. Peter Stöger is kind of in the middle.
What we wrote about Stark also applies for Weiser: Hertha are probably stagnating, and the 23-year-old should be tempted to move to a bigger club despite his contract running until 2020.
Need Level: Medium
This probably is a year or two away from being a real need with Julian Weigl and Nuri Sahin manning the stations in defensive midfield for the moment. There’s Sebastian Rode, too, on paper. Central midfield is actually fairly crowded, but given the number of minutes a streaky player (patent pending) like Gonzalo Castro is receiving, Dortmund shouldn’t be averse to upgrading if they get the chance.
The problem in DM: Weigl is a singular talent in the Bundesliga (if we discount Bayern for obvious reasons). Hoffenheim’s Dennis Geiger might be the best option to do some of the things Weigl does for Dortmund, but he’s probably a year or two away from being on that level — do keep an eye on this if Nagelsmann joins BVB, though.
Dennis Zakaria, 21, Borussia Mönchengladbach
Dortmund don’t really need to add a CM as we stated above, but they should throw their hat in the ring for Zakaria regardless: Adding special talents trumps filling positional needs. Always.
Zakaria is such a special talent. With Naby Keita off to Liverpool, the Switzerland international will surely be on Leipzig’s radar. Having only joined Gladbach this season, he’s unlikely to leave even if they miss out on European football for the second straight season, but just in case, Dortmund should keep their tabs on his situation.
An incredibly dynamic do-it-all midfielder, the 21-year-old will be a superstar wherever he goes. He would cost a small fortune and would probably have ample opportunity to forego a stopover at Dortmund before joining one of Europe’s elite clubs. But one can dream.
Jean-Philippe Gbamin, 22, Mainz
Gbamin’s improvement from his first to his second season in the Bundesliga has been astounding. Having been sent off three (!!!) times last year, the Ivorian’s talent was hidden behind his recklessness and lack of game intelligence.
Fast forward to this campaign and you see a player that has tidied up those issues, while improving in virtually every important statistical category as Abel Meszaros details.
Gbamin has also showed a decent level of comfort playing in a three-man defence, as Dortmund fans were able to see in Stöger’s debut in December. The 22-year-old was arguably the most impressive player on the pitch until picking up a muscle injury. Before he had to leave the pitch, BVB had one scoring chance that deserved the name through 45 minutes.
Mainz recently tacked one year onto Gbamin’s contract, which is now running until 2022. It seems likely that his was done with a future fee in mind. Gbamin would add a level of physicality to Dortmund’s defensive midfield that has been missing since Sven Bender and Sebastian Kehl’s days without compromising too much in the build-up phase, as the Ivorian is fairly comfortable on the ball too.
You may wonder why we didn’t list any strikers, which will become the number one need whenever Aubameyang makes a move. There’s a simple reason: There aren’t any. If you have a Bundesliga striker in mind, tell us on Twitter @Yellowwallpod. And no, Timo Werner doesn’t count.