Borussia Dortmund have featured very heavily in the latest major transfer movements of the summer, moving several of Bundesliga’s biggest names in and out of Germany. Despite scoring a superb total of 138 goals in their 49 matches last season, they conceded 50 in return despite keeping 20 clean sheets and losing only 6 matches in all competitions. However, those proved pivotal in the direction of their season. After finishing 2nd Bundesliga and falling to bitter rivals Bayern Munich in the DFB-Pokal final, Thomas Tuchel has refreshed the squad left over by Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp. After imploding in dramatic style to their former manager in the UEFA Europa League quarterfinals, it became clear that improvements were needed if they were to challenge in Europe.
Painful goodbyes to star players
However, their summer business started in disastrous fashion. World Cup winner, captain and hero Mats Hummels sensationally decided to quit the club and join arch-rivals Bayern Munich. The news was announced just days prior the two sides clashed in the DFB-Pokal final - predictably, they wound up losing the match, and their captain to the enemy. The final few games of a hard-fought Bundesliga season were filled with confusing noises emanating from the Signal Iduna Park’s world-renown Yellow Wall as the fans grappled with the controversial news. After their defence had been breached 50 times in the season, the last news they needed was that their stalwart was going back to the club that moved him on as a youth player.
As if that wasn’t enough, more bad news was to come, and once again it was the Bayern Munich connection giving them trouble. Influential central midfielder Ilkay Gundogan decided to leave the Dortmund club, joining none other than outgoing Bayern Munich and ex-Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola in his long-awaited Manchester City project. For a midfield that had failed to stamp its authority on the toughest games, this was a major blow. His splendid passing and tireless running had formed a huge part of Dortmund’s ability to play their explosive counter-attacking style against any team they met. Suddenly, they were losing a major player in the Dortmund identity as he left for the Bundesliga.
Still, things got worse, as the Premier League’s big guns flexed their financial muscle once more. This time, it was the other side of Manchester that came hunting in their grounds. Jose Mourinho, the fallen Chelsea champion, was back. This time, he was at major rivals Manchester United, hell-bent on building a brand new squad to avenge his brutal sacking. After discussions with super-agent Mino Raiola, he was after none other than 5-time Armenian player of the year Henrik Mkhitaryan, who had just had his very best season ever. With 23 goals and 32 assists last season, he was one of the planet’s most devastating attackers from the midfield position - which is more impressive still! After protracted discussions, he was officially signed for £26.3million.
In one fell swoop, three of Borussia Dortmund’s finest players had left the club, just moments after Thomas Tuchel’s team had come so close to a double. 2 of them had formed a core of the side’s German identity, while the other was the standout Armenian player of the decade. Where to go from here?
Youthful arrivals replace proven stars
Despite the sadness at the high-profile departures, Tuchel and his board had precious little time to waste. In impressive style, they showed the world exactly why they’re Germany’s second-best club, and why they’re a constant thorn in the Bavarian champions’ side. 20-yr old Mikel Merino was snapped up from Spanish side Osasuna; his growing stock as one of La Liga’s future midfield generals growing with each match. They did not stop there. 18yr-old Turkish starlet Emre Mor beamed a sunny smile as he made the move from Danish side Nordsjaelland. The right-winger cost roughly £6m but at that age and already a full international for Turkey (he was selected for their Euro 2016 squad), he comes with a bulging reputation.
Barcelona’s Puyol comes to the rescue
If fans were a little bit underwhelmed with the nature of the replacements (young and in the final third), they would have been confused to see former Barcelona captain Carles Puyol walking out of the Westfalenstadion. It turned out to be more than just a small visit however, as the former Champions League & World Cup winner came bearing gifts. Despite his clear talent, Marc Bartra had failed to displace the Mascherano-Pique duo. Puyol however, took care of his own, and eventually brokered a deal to bring the Spanish international to the Borussia Dortmund backline for only £6.80m - a serious bargain for a CL, La Liga, Copa Del Rey and UEFA Supercup champion.
As their business picked up, central midfielder Sebastian Rode took the opposite path that Hummels, Lewandowski and a certain Mario Gotze had taken, signing for £10million from Bayern Munich, before 22yr-old Euro 2016 winning left-back Raphael Guerreiro joined from Lorient. The real pick of their signings however, was their unexpected plucking of highly-rated French attacker Ousmane Dembele. The 19yr-old ex-Fulham and Rennes winger has been the object of attention from many big clubs, but he bid his time until Tuchel convinced him it was the right place for him. For only £10million, they managed to take a man that Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona and Real Madrid had been coveting. What had seemed like Tuchel picking up the pieces now seemed more like a concerted effort to build a team that could challenge at the very top. Could it be enough? Surely not. But were Borussia Dortmund done? Absolutely not!
Familiar faces from the FIFA 2014 World Cup Winning Goal
As always, Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rumenigge was the one who confirmed one of the craziest rumours people tend to dismiss as media noise.
"He's been here for three years and it's not worked out...It's not surprising that he has had a change of heart”, said the chairman of the Bavarian club.
Who could he be referring to?
"I wouldn't say a deal has been struck, but I can confirm that there have been talks with Borussia Dortmund as well as with his agent”.
Like an invisible hammer to the pride of many Dortmund fans, the same man who had signed their captain had just dropped a bombshell. 24yr old Mario Gotze, who had left in such acrimonious circumstances (just days before their 2012/2013 Champions League final loss to - who else? - Bayern) was coming back. The placards, protests and outrage over the interest were plain to see, but Tuchel’s thinking was undeniable. The boy who’d left all those years ago had become a 3-time champions, a World Cup hero with Germany and grown man. Every top club on the planet coveted his signature, and Carlo Ancelotti had not shown interest in keeping him. Would they let him go? It was not possible.
On the 21st of July, what seemed incredible just 3 years ago came true, to show football’s unpredictability. Former Dortmund youth player-turned-hero-turned traitor Mario Gotze’s incredible transfer from Bayern Munich back to the club that nurtured him became official, at a cost of £22million - for a £9million profit. The man himself had this to say, "When I return to my home, I want to try to convince all the people with my performances - especially those who will not receive me with open arms. My aim is to again play my best football. For all of us, the club and the BVB fans. ”
If it seemed like an incredible roller-coaster summer for the Borussia Dortmund fans (after their captain’s switch in the other direction), the club knew emotion had to fall in the face of serious business. If Mario Gotze was the scorer of one of the best & biggest goals in German history, they had to sign the man who made it all possible. Ex-Chelsea winger Andre Schurrle had been sold by Jose Mourinho after a difficult start to the 2014/2015 season as injuries marred his next few months, but he is still one of Germany’s premium talents - as Loew always acknowledges. Days later, he signed on for £25million to become the 8th major signing Thomas Tuchel has made this summer.
On balance, how have Borussia Dortmund fared?
The Signal Iduna Park lost 3 of its best players right in their primes, which will have been a gutting blow to their 2016/2017 ambitions. However, they wasted no time in filling the squad with their immediate and long-term replacements. What seemed like a desperate moment for the club (after Hummels announced his controversial departure) has been incredibly used as one of the best chances to rebuild the squad. With 8 new players, Dortmund have completely reshaped their forward line and their bench. Marco Reus has been made captain, boosting the German prodigy’s responsibility at the club and rewarding his loyalty in the face of so many suitors.
With the Champions League to play for this season, a tasty pre-season and another DFB Supercup tie against Bayern Munich to entice them, Borussia Dortmund will be the team to watch in Germany this season. Can they live up to that difficult tag to wrest from giants Bayern Munich? With the prodigal son and his partner-in-crime joining Reus and Aubameyang in attack, it will surely be another crazy ride for the Yellow Wall!