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Why Do Borussia Dortmund Have Trouble Holding Onto Key Players?

The Boot Room

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Borussia Dortmund’s resurgence this season has been a positive for German football. It’s not all good news for the Ruhr valley club though.

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Bayern Munich still clinched a fourth consecutive title with one game to play but were kept on their toes by Dortmund. As was the case after Dortmund’s back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2010/11 and 2011/12, Bayern has responded to the challenge by looking to weaken their title rivals.

The Guardian reported at the end of April that club captain, Mats Hummels, was interested in joining Bayern. The elegant central defender would be returning to his hometown and his previous club. Those are certainly logical reasons to want to leave Dortmund, in addition to Bayern’s status as perennial Champions League contenders. Hummels would become the next star to follow the not so recent trend of leaving the Ruhr for supposedly greener pastures if he joins the club. His former teammates, Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski, played a major role in Dortmund’s previous successes then left the club weakened upon joining Bayern.

The theme has continued with other stars such as Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus, Pierre Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan being linked to clubs across Europe, and Bayern, at various times in recent seasons. While none have shown similar intent as Hummels, the nature of today’s transfer market means anything is possible. According to the Daily Mail, Gundogan’s recent injury has put a potential move to Manchester City on hold.

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All that transfer talk leads to one question. Why does Borussia Dortmund continue to lose players? Or even more ominously, why do players consider leaving Dortmund?

Bayern’s rule in the Bundesliga has long been documented but Dortmund has been the one club to really challenge that dominance in recent seasons. Jurgen Klopp’s arrival in 2008 saw the club ascend to the status of challengers, then winners and even Champions League finalists. The disappointing 2014/15 campaign aside, Dortmund is the club that the current iteration of Bayern fears the most domestically. A stumble in this season’s Europa League campaign, at the hands of a Klopp-led Liverpool side no less, was another disappointment but the chance for silverware remains with the German Cup final against Bayern.

Dortmund has always been a side with talented players. The likes of Jan Koller, Tomas Rosicky, Lars Ricken, Andreas Moller, Jens Lehmann, Dede, Christoph Metzelder and numerous others worn the yellow and black. There is a history of winning too, with a Champions League title in 1996/97 and eight Bundesliga titles overall. A side with this history is not a stop-gap for players seeking big moves.

Thomas Tuchel has built a flexible, cohesive side with a mixture of youth and experience that can challenge regularly if given the chance. The increased financial lure of the Premier League poses one problem. The call of Bayern, Barcelona and Real Madrid present another. One can’t put all the blame on the players though.

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Lewandowski was somehow allowed to join Bayern without a transfer fee, and it took two season for Dortmund to replace him. Gotze was closer to the end of his contract than was beneficial and may have warranted a bigger transfer fee had his release clause been adjusted or removed altogether. Hummels could leave on a free transfer next season but it appears Dortmund will be looking to avoid that as ESPN FC reports that he may sign new deal.

That would be good news for Dortmund, and German football. Bayern fly the flag regularly on the European stage but the continued rise of Tuchel’s side will improve the nation’s chance on that front. The Bundesliga has long been called a one-club league and Dortmund can, again, prove that is not the case.

Claiming a title within the next few seasons would prove as much and Dortmund can’t do that if they continue to lose their best players.

There are certainly situations where the pros or cons of a transfer can be weighed. A monumental transfer fee for a star that can allow for strengthening the entire squad is one such instance. Hummels’ potential transfer doesn’t fall under that category. There are few world-class defenders in their prime, and certainly few with similar skills as the German. Losing Hummels would be a bigger blow than losing Gundogan.

Dortmund are on the rise again, and certainly have the talent in the squad to replicate the successes of the mid 90’s and 2010 onwards. The managers and board need to tie up key talents to avoid potentially damaging losses and the players themselves must assess whether the grass really is greener. Gotze provides a decent example that the answer isn’t always yes.

Ending the season with a trophy would cap a generally successful first season for Tuchel. He will be hoping that he will little to worry about in the transfer market beyond strengthening his squad.


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Borussia Dortmund

A move to Borussia Dortmund would be ideal for exiled Simon Mignolet

The Belgian goalkeeper has fallen behind Lorius Karius in the Anfield pecking order.

Max Cohen

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Without a league appearance for Liverpool since New Year’s Day, Simon Mignolet has been completely frozen out at Anfield after inconsistent performances.

Recent reports in The Sun have linked the Belgian goalkeeper with a transfer to Borussia Dortmund, a move that would perfectly suit the 30-year-old in a bid to rejuvenate his career.

The former Liverpool number one has split time with Lorius Karius after the German joined the Reds in the summer of 2016, but seems to have been finally supplanted as the first choice goalkeeper this winter.

The tipping point perhaps came in Liverpool’s 3-3 draw with Arsenal in late December. Mignolet made a number of high-profile errors at the Emirates, most notably failing to deal with Granit Xhaka’s speculative long-range strike.

During his horror show against Arsenal, the Belgian earned an abysmal WhoScored rating of 4.88. He made just two Premier League appearances after that match before Karius took over between the sticks.

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It now seems clear that the Belgian’s time at Anfield has come to an end after five years at the club.

With the Reds constantly linked with the continent’s top goalkeepers such as Alisson Becker, as reported earlier by the Mirror, Mignolet will find himself well down the pecking order at Liverpool.

A move to the Westfalenstadion would be a tremendous opportunity for Mignolet to ply his trade at one of the biggest clubs in Europe, with Champions League football and an adulating fan base on offer.

The 30-year-old still has many productive years left in his career, and can still provide some moments of world-class quality in goal.

A transfer to Borussia Dortmund would grant Mignolet first-team football and a chance to impress at the highest level of European football.

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Three talking points as Tottenham secured top spot with a Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund

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Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham ensured that they progressed to the Champions League knock-out stages as Group H winners after coming from behind to see off Borussia Dortmund in Germany on Tuesday night.

Dortmund – who were reliant on Real Madrid dropping points at Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia in the evening’s other fixture to stand any chance of progressing to the last 16 – took the early advantage when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished smartly from Andriy Yarmolenko’s clever flick.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side nearly crafted an equaliser before the break, only for both Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier to be denied in the space of a few minutes after superb work by ‘keeper Roman Burki.

But it didn’t take long for the visitors to draw level in the second-half, with Harry Kane afforded too much space on the edge of the box as he arrowed an effort into the corner with his first real chance.

Son Heung-min’s effort 15 minutes from time, a fine curling finish after tenacious work from Dele Alli, then sealed the turnaround and condemned the hosts to a shock early Champions League exit.

Tottenham bounce back after derby disappointment

After Saturday’s harrowing and disappointing defeat to old foes Arsenal, manager Mauricio Pochettino summed up Tuesday’s performance perfectly by labelling it as the ‘perfect reaction’.

It is hard to disagree with the Argentinian either, with his side displaying far more grit, determination and character at the Westfalenstadion to forget about their Premier League defeat and come from behind to beat a strong Borussia Dortmund outfit, securing their surprise status as Group H winners.

It seemed like they were suffering a North London derby hangover of sorts when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired the hosts in front on the half-hour mark, but Spurs dug deep and showed that they are aiming to do more than just make up the numbers in the Champions League this campaign.

All of a sudden they burst into life after the break, with Harry Kane and Dele Alli – who were both anonymous at the Gunners – getting involved more and causing problems for a tiring home defence.

It was the former who levelled things up when Kane’s neat low drive found the back of the net, signalling his sixth Champions League goal in five appearances this season, whilst Alli was influential in assisting both goals, seeing off two Dortmund defenders before laying off to Son Heung-min for his winner.

It wasn’t a match that needed to be won, considering Tottenham had already secured their safe passage into the knock-out stages, but the manner of victory will no doubt send out a message across Europe.

Dortmund’s decline ends in Champions League exit

Yet, whilst Tottenham will be buoyant and nervously await the draw for the last 16 next month, Borussia Dortmund will be reflecting on where things went wrong after a dismal European outing this season.

Despite having a number of world-class individuals in their ranks – Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa, the young Christian Pulisic, Mario Gotze and the injured Marco Reus are all part of the squad at the disposal of manager Peter Bosz – it’s been a stuttering season both in Europe and domestically too.

Their inability to beat Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia across two matches all-but put an end to any aspirations of knock-out football, and it seems that the Europa League will now be their next destination.

Add this to their woeful Bundesliga form of late, losing four of their last five matches and drawing the other one to leave them nine points adrift of the top of the table, and warning signs are now flashing.

It’s all a stark contrast to 2013, the year that the German side fell narrowly short in the Champions League final, and it’s clear for all to see that something is fundamentally not right just four years on.

The fact that Aubameyang – who was left out of the Dortmund squad for their Bundesliga defeat at Stuttgart last week after being sanctioned by Bosz – barely celebrated a sublime goal tells its own story of the club’s affairs, and it seems that the head coach could be walking on a very fine tightrope.

Pochettino’s conundrum after Aurier impresses

One thing that was clear from Pochettino’s team selection on Tuesday, other than the clear fact that he was looking for a quick response to the Arsenal defeat by selecting a strong side, was that summer signing Serge Aurier seems to be the preferred right-back option for the Champions League this season.

The £24 million man may have garnered a reputation for being a bit erratic but, contrary to some of his rash moments this season, he played with an element of maturity and care on Tuesday evening.

He certainly warranted his selection at Dortmund, always offering an outlet on the right-wing and constantly finding himself with a wealth of space to run into behind their captain Marcel Schmelzer.

Aurier’s delivery was generally accurate too, forcing the Dortmund defence into last-ditch blocks inside their own area with Kane lurking, whilst he kept things compact alongside Davinson Sanchez at the back.

It would no doubt have hurt the Ivorian to have been omitted from the side for the mightily impressive win over Real Madrid after playing in Tottenham’s opening three European matches, but on Tuesday’s showing he’s laid down a marker for rival Kieran Trippier ahead of the knock-out stages.

Considering the question marks hanging over the head of boss Pochettino about whether Kyle Walker could be replaced it’s certainly not a bad dilemma to have, and a bit of healthy competition between two viable wide options could prove key for Tottenham as the season goes on.

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Analysing Tottenham striker Harry Kane’s two-goal heroics against Borussia Dortmund

Rob Meech

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Harry Kane

Much had been written about Harry Kane’s barren August, in which he failed to score. However, the drought is well and truly over now September has arrived. Since finding the net for England during the international break, the 24-year-old has rediscovered his scoring boots in spectacular fashion.

His brace against Borussia Dortmund in Tottenham Hotspur‘s opening Champions League Group H clash was as impressive as it was timely, providing his side with the perfect start to their European adventure and banishing the Wembley Stadium hoodoo.

It’s no secret that Tottenham are heavily reliant on Kane (perhaps overly so) to be their chief attacking threat, but he rarely lets them down. Manager Mauricio Pochettino will be relieved that his star man is back to his best.

The England striker had a hand in all three of their goals against Dortmund, setting up Son Heung-min for the first before netting either side of half-time to ensure Spurs sent home their supporters happy.

Both goals underlined Kane’s natural ability as a finisher, which has earned him the Premier League’s Golden Boot trophy in the previous two seasons. His first was a carbon copy of Son’s, cutting in from the left and unleashing a rasping drive that beat Roman Burki at his near post.

Perhaps the Dortmund keeper’s positioning was questionable, but such was the power and pinpoint accuracy of Kane’s strike that it would have taken some stopping wherever he had been stationed.

Although Dortmund looked vulnerable at the back, their attacking prowess had caused Spurs problems all night and a 2-1 lead seemed precarious. So Kane’s second of the night was mightily important because it effectively killed off the game.

After being put through by Cristian Eriksen, Kane still had work to do to create enough space to get his shot away. Once again, the accuracy was such that it left Burki with little chance of preventing it from nestling in the back of the net.

Kane could have completed his hat-trick before he was substituted to a rapturous reception from the Wembley faithful, but the damage had been done. Everyone knows Kane likes to shoot from all areas of the pitch, but opponents seem powerless to stop him.

His two goals from four efforts – as well as an assist – represented an excellent night’s work for a man who has grown in stature to become one of the most prolific strikers in Europe. Kane will remain fundamental to Spurs’ hopes of honours this season, both domestically and in Europe.

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