It has been a typically busy summer for Borussia Dortmund, with players seeming to arrive or depart in droves. However, it could be argued that for Hans-Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc, the hardest part of the transfer window remains. 5 players have come through the front door on a permanent basis this summer to replace the 6 that have departed the Westfalenstadion already, but the biggest question mark facing the club at the start of the transfer window remains: who will start at striker this season?
The club have spent €53 million on new arrivals this summer but have yet to sign any player with real experience leading the line. Abdou Diallo represents smart business for Dortmund in the wake of Sokratis Papastatopoulos’ departure while Thomas Delaney will bring an industrious presence to the centre of the park, but neither join position groups that were in dire need of reinforcement. In fact, the club even spent €5 million on Marius Wolf despite having more wide players in the team than could ever play regularly.
There is still time for Watzke and Zorc to get their man, and after selling nearly €50 million worth of players this summer, they still have the financial flexibility to pursue an opportunity should it arise. While the club is notoriously secretive about their transfer dealings, there have been rumours of multiple major moves that could still happen as the players prepare to take on Manchester City in Chicago this week.
A Typical Dortmund Steal
Long before the transfer window closes this summer, we already know who the biggest loser in Europe is. CP Sporting, one of Portugal’s traditional powerhouse clubs, have lost enough top-end talent this summer to field a competitive team at the Qatar 2022 World Cup, and it is all their fault. It has been well documented how the Sporting training ground was invaded by a violent group of fans this spring, perhaps at the encouragement of club president Bruno de Carvalho. The Portuguese giants have seen players cancelling their contracts at an alarming rate, leaving those players free to sign with any club they wish. One such player is talented 19-year-old striker Rafael Leao.
Leao has it all. Standing over 6 feet tall with excellent dribbling ability and a serious turn of pace, he is very much a part of the future of the Portuguese national team. In 15 matches last season between Sporting B and Sporting, Leao netted 7 times, bagging an assist in the process. He came on rapidly at the end of the season, earning his call-up to the senior team for the last 4 games of the season.
While he is clearly one for the future, few clubs have a better track record developing teenagers into world class players than die Schwarzgelben. “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough” goes the popular saying at the club, but with a more pragmatic, defensively minded manager this season in Lucien Favre, Leao will need to mature significantly to become a regular contributor in the Bundesliga. However, with his world class potential and for no more compensation than his contract terms, Leao would be quite the coup for Dortmund.
An Intriguing Swap?
If there is one position that the club probably don’t need to add to this summer, it is a wide midfielder. In spite of this, one of the biggest transfer headlines making the rounds over the last week is the rumour of a swap deal between Dortmund and the Premier League’s Crystal Palace for Wilfried Zaha.
Not a natural striker but able to play all across the front, Zaha would unquestionably add pace and trickery to the flanks in Dortmund. The 25-year-old had one of his best seasons to date for the London club, scoring 9 and assisting 3 in his 29 appearances while emerging as a vital player for Palace. With nearly 2 key passes and a mammoth 4 dribbles per 90, Zaha is undoubtedly a difference maker with the ball at his feet. His positional versatility and lethal counter attacking presence would be an excellent fit in Lucien Favre’s system, and the club appear serious about their interest.
In exchange for Zaha, who is valued at €30 million according to Transfermarkt, Dortmund appear willing to offer Andre Schurrle in exchange. Despite his vast experience with the German national team, the Premier League and the Bundesliga, Schurrle has seen his career plateau mightily in the last 3 seasons. He was signed only last summer for €25 million (already the third time in his career he has gone for a fee that large), but he never seemed to find his feet in the team throughout his first season in Dortmund.
In the end, it could be a mutually beneficial deal for both parties. Both players have struggled with expectations in their careers as Zaha spent much of the last 5 years bouncing between Crystal Palace and Manchester United while trying to carve out a spot, but only last season did he settle into a starring role with Palace. Schurrle could be looking for a change of scenery this summer after seeing Marco Reus return from injury, Max Philipp do more to secure his place in the side, and the signing of Wolf, all of which could leave him out in the cold once the season starts. Palace have already expressed interest in Schurrle, which could be beneficial to Dortmund as the try to get this deal over the line before the window slams shut.
A Crushing Blow Or Smart Business?
The drama surrounding former Napoli midfielder Jorginho this summer, where he ultimately snubbed Manchester City to sign with Chelsea, may have been cause for hilarity for those who don’t support the Manchester club and their limitless resources, but it could also lead to Dortmund losing one of their most popular young players. Reports are coming out of England that City manager Pep Guardiola has turned his sights toward 22-year-old Julian Weigl as an alternative to his failed pursuit of Jorginho.
Weigl exploded onto the scene in 15/16 as one of Thomas Tuchel’s most promising young players, but since then he has struggled to show the same elite potential he did under the prickly manager. Managerial and tactical changes have prevented Weigl from settling into his role and thriving as he did in his first season with the club. With Lucien Favre set to move the team towards a more defensive counter attacking style, he may not require the subtle possession play that Weigl brings to the base of the midfield.
For a player that has thrived as the foundational lynchpin in a midfield 3, the chance to assume that role under one of the best managers in modern times could be hard to ignore. Pep Guardiola would undoubtedly appreciate Weigl’s game, and he could rapidly ascend to an essential role within the team that won the Premier League last season running away. City do not possess a controlling midfielder with Weigl’s combination of skill and potential, and their intense pursuit of Jorginho shows that this is a role Guardiola values within his team.
Valued at €27 million, Weigl may not fetch the sort of top end fee that might have been imagined for him 2 years ago when he was considered one of the hottest midfield prospects in all of Europe, but it would still represent a tidy return on their initial €2 million investment to sign Weigl from 1860 Munich. With Favre moving away from the sort of football that Weigl thrives in playing, perhaps the time is right for both parties to move on while he is still young and full of potential.