In this feature, two of our writers weigh the pros and cons of controversial issues on all things Borussia Dortmund. This time, we centre on team captain Mats Hummels.
The 27-year-old’s contract expires in 2017, meaning he’s likely either going to sign an extension or leaving the club in the summer. The 2014 FIFA World Cup winner has admitted to German TV that the decision he’s facing costs him 30 minutes of sleep every night. He seems torn, and so is our panel.
Yes, he’ll stay.
by Stefan Buczko
“Just look into Marcel Schmelzer’s big, sad eyes that say ‘Do you really want to leave me alone with all this?’” one wants to say to Mats Hummels. After that the decision should be an easy one, but of course it’s not that simple.
However, the strong bond and friendship within in the team is a soft-factor that is not to be underestimated, as Hummels himself often enough underlined how unique it is to enjoy such levels of friendship with his team-mates on a professional football team.
Schmelzer is one of those close friends and just did his part, penning a deal until 2021. Schmelzer and Hummels are also part of the players that swore to each other that they would stay together as long as possible. It happened around 2010 and it’s hard to say how valid this “pact” still is, but it still might hold some relevance, so we will add it to the list of pros.
But after all those years it’ll be self-interest versus looking at the bigger picture to some extent.
By now Hummels is playing a major role in Borussia Dortmund’s fate. He is carrying the responsibility of the captain’s armband because he completely identifies himself with the club and vice versa – that much is clear after eight years of loyal service.
The question is now whether the club captain is to carry on the legacy he has built so far and retire as a living club legend, as he is one of the faces that are associated with the club’s rise back to the top since 2008.
Going to a different club could tinker with Hummels’ aspiring legend, a move to Bayern definitely would.
But more so, the Germany international is very aware of the negative consequences his departure might bode for the club he helped building with his own blood, sweat and tears over nearly a decade.
Him leaving the club could have a knock-on effect and see, for example, Henrikh Mkhitaryan leaving, who is still hesitant with his signature on a new deal. Putting a dent in Dortmund’s development is definitely not in Hummels’ interest.
Hans-Joachim Watzke has said that Dortmund will be at least as strong as this season, if not stronger, but those words are hard to believe without Hummels in that equation. And although Watzke reportedly said that he is prepared to fight for Hummels like he never fought for a player before, Dortmund are lucky that their captain is not out there to make a buck.
Otherwise he would have left a long time ago, as there are many other places to earn more than at BVB.
However, putting soft-factors like friendship, legacy and playing in the most beautiful stadium aside there is a case to be made about BVB’s legitimate sporting ambitions in the years to come.
Hummels said himself in 2014 that in the end it’ll depend on what a player wants. “For some it’s important to play for a team that embodies a fitting playing style, but is also likeable in sporting and human sense.”
A cynic could say that this would rule out a team like Bayern, as they are a diving lot, all the while BVB are always among the leaders in the fair play rankings. On a more serious note, Dortmund’s current playing style under Tuchel can only be appealing to Mats Hummels.
A possession-based style will always suit a strong passer like Hummels, and while he could find that elsewhere as well, one should factor in motivation and satisfaction that lies within building something oneself.
While Hummels’ priorities have shifted over the years, one might not only look at the negative aftermaths of Hummels’ departure that he should carefully consider, but also the positive effects his stay may hold.
Yes, lifting the Champions League trophy has a higher likeliness elsewhere, but it’s not completely out of the picture doing that with Dortmund. BVB are on course of playing the best Bundesliga season in club history, which only shows that things are falling into place at the Westfalenstadion. Hummels knows that he can help pushing Borussia Dortmund closer to the illustrious circle of clubs he is considering a move to as we speak.
No club in Europe can guarantee a Champions League trophy, even Real Madrid had to wait over a decade for ‘La Decima’. With Hummels on board, Dortmund are going to be a force to be reckoned with under Thomas Tuchel, as they will only gain more consistency in their playing style, which has a lot of merit as this season shows.
Under Tuchel, Hummels has also found back to the top of his own game. There is little doubt that the already world-class centre-back won’t become even a better player under the current coach.
So there is a chance that Hummels can achieve his dreams with HIS club. Combined with all the other factors named that should be enough to edge him closer towards a contract extension.
No, he’ll leave.
by Lars Pollmann
Whether he’ll move to Bavaria to rejoin his boyhood club, or to Barcelona, or Manchester – I think Mats Hummels’ final game for the Black and Yellows will be the DFB-Pokal final against Bayern Munich on May 21.
The skipper finds himself at a crossroads at the moment. Should he extend his contract once again, chances are he will have spent his entire professional career at Dortmund once he hangs up his cleats, certainly the most significant part.
If he signs an extension until, say, 2021, like Marcel Schmelzer and Sven Bender have, he’d be 32 when it runs out. Of course, he could sign an extension and still leave before June 30 2021, but a move to one of the biggest clubs of the world doesn’t get more likely the older he gets.
If he doesn’t extend his contract in the coming weeks or months, it’ll be because he’s decided that, after eight-and-a-half years, it’s time to do something different with his career. I couldn’t blame him.
Hummels came to Dortmund in a time when the club were trapped in Thomas Doll’s nothingness. He was there when Jürgen Klopp took over and revitalised the sleeping Black and Yellow giant. He was one of the most important players during the incredibly successful years of 2011 to 2013. He celebrated big wins and suffered big losses with Dortmund. He became a World Champion as a Dortmund player. He was a part of the team that showed an era was over with a remarkably terrible 2014/15 season, in which he first wore the captain’s armband as the incumbent, not a deputy. He currently plays perhaps his best season yet in Thomas Tuchel’s first year in charge.
He’s done his duty at Dortmund. If he decides that now is a good time to move away from Dortmund, he has earned every right to do that.
So I won’t hold it against him when he’ll sit there in a press room, whenever that day will be, and explain how difficult it was for him to decide to leave Dortmund.
Hummels is one of the very best centre-backs in the game. Of the top of my head, he belongs in the top five easily. Top five players at their position don’t spend the entirety of their careers at clubs that do not belong in that select group. Fans may hate to hear it, but Dortmund are not a top five club in the world.
They’re playing a top five season, no doubt, which is why Hummels’ decision is so difficult. But the 27-year-old has publicly stated that his dream is to one day hoist the UEFA Champions League trophy. He came close with Dortmund, of course, in 2013. But no one knows whether they’ll come that close again anytime soon. There might not be any guarantees, but the odds of winning European football’s biggest prize are significantly higher at the perennial powerhouses.
I think if he was to extend his contract, he would have done so by now. Not least to lead team-mates by example. Hummels is the face of Borussia Dortmund’s team. He has been for years. He won’t be much longer, I’m afraid.
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