Scout Report: Profiling Mahmoud Dahoud, Germany's Syrian-born midfielder
Borussia Dortmund's latest talent could become one of European football's best midfielders.
Borussia Dortmund stole a march over Liverpool, Manchester City and Juventus to convince German international, Mahmoud Dahoud to join the club this summer. The former Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder has captured the imagination in the Bundesliga after a number of world-class performances both domestically and in the Champions League.
Playing in a box-to-box midfield role - and sometimes more defensively than he may have preferred - Dahoud secured a €12 million move to Westfalenstadion in the hope of becoming one of European football's finest midfielders.
Players have often struggled to make the step up with the watching and expecting eyes of the footballing world placed upon them, with little room for error. In Germany, Dahoud will be provided with the opportunity to express his skill set and develop his overall game at a club that have a reputation for developing young starlets into world-class performers.
Evidently, it could take time for Dahoud to become a regular in the Dortmund side and settle into life in his new surroundings. In his two competitive games for Peter Bosz's team, he looked somewhat off the pace. He struggled to impose himself against Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup a fortnight ago, but looked more composed in possession against the lower-league side, FC Rielasingen in the DFB Pokal.
Dahoud was initially requested to play in a deeper-role - the role left open because of Julian Weigl's injury - but was exposed to the empowerment of Bayern Munich's dominating midfield. Nonetheless, he was recruited by Dortmund to fill the void left by Ilkay Gundogan who left to join Manchester City in 2016, and the 21-year-old can certainly replace his compatriot in the long-term.
Dahoud began his career in Germany at 2. Bundesliga club, Fortuna Dusseldorf before moving to Monchengladbach's reputed youth team aged 14. Under the guidance of Mark Bischoff, Dahoud eventually broke into the first-team in 2014 when Lucien Favre was impressed with his work-rate and technical ability during a time of development at the club.
After making his debut in the Europa League against Sarajevo, the youngster made just two Bundesliga appearances throughout the season. Ironically, his debut against Borussia Dortmund was a history-making one as he became the first Syrian-born player to ever play in Germany's top-flight.
A disastrous start to the 2015/2016 season saw Andre Schubert replace Favre in the managerial hot-seat and further allowed Dahoud to become the shining light in a side severely lacking in confidence. His midfield partnership with Granit Xhaka was responsible for the team going from rock bottom to the Champions League places for the second season running. Dahoud contributed with five goals and numerous Man of the Match awards during Schubert's debut season.
The 2016/2017 season witnessed fewer influential performances, but it still didn't refute interest in clubs wanting to obtain his services. In August, the 21-year-old rejected a contract extension amidst talk he would move elsewhere with clubs in the queue for his signature. Schubert's dismissal resulted in Dahoud signing a five-year deal with Dortmund for €12million at the end of the season.
As mentioned earlier, the void left by Gundogan was difficult for Borussia Dortmund to fill last season with Thomas Tuchel's side struggling to recapture Champions League football. Dahoud, meanwhile, has drawn comparisons with the former Dortmund midfielder due to his energy, ball playing skills, and ability to control the pace of the match in play.
Dahoud has the intelligence and passing-range to become a significant part of Bosz's Dortmund side that will aim to compete both domestically, and continentally, for the first time in five years.
The midfielder has regularly shown maturity beyond his years. English football fans witnessed one of his finest displays against Manchester City in the Champions League as he controlled the game last September before his team-mates were swept away by City's brilliance.
Dahoud has gained a reputation for struggling to contain dominant midfielders as shown recently against Bayern Munich. Arturo Vidal often outplayed the 21-year-old who was clearly struggling to cope with the demands of his new club.
His physique and youthful naivety regularly result in more experienced, stronger, and explosive players teaching the talented midfielder a valuable lesson. Dahoud often struggles to shake off opponents who seek to press him quickly and for the entire game, but his intelligence will only develop with more game time.
What comes next?
For Dahoud, he must force his way into the Dortmund side alongside Julian Weigl in a midfield three. In a World Cup year, the player has the potential to make Germany's final World Cup squad.
With time on his side, and considered by many as Germany's best young midfielder, the player could force a move to one of the continent's major sides if he continues to develop in front of the Yellow Wall at the same rate that he did at Monchengladbach.
Dahoud has probably made the correct decision by rejecting the riches and glamour of the Premier League to opt for a move to Dortmund. Recently, the club have sought young, talented players and turned their raw potential into the final product. Ousmane Dembele and Weigl are two players who have developed into sensational talents following their moves to the club. If Dahoud can follow suit, his legacy in German football could be longstanding.