Borussia Dortmund had a very good reason to hang on to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, after Mats Hummels and Ilkay Gundogan’s departures to Bayern Munich and Manchester City respectively.
Losing two world class players was bad enough, but a third — in just one summer window — is a massive risk. The focus now has to quickly switch to how Dortmund move on and replace the Armenian. Mkhitaryan had a stellar 2015-16, scoring 11 and assisting 15 in 31 Bundesliga matches, but he has left as the club felt they needed to cash-in with the player’s contract due to expire in 2017. It’s unfortunate timing that Mkhitaryan, Gundogan and Hummels’ contracts were allowed to run down but conversely, the club’s reluctance to sell has led to inflated fees from clubs desperate to land Dortmund’s star talents.
Manchester United had to spend big for Dortmund to eventually cave in and sanction Mkhitaryan’s departure, which has swelled BVB’s accounts further but has led to unease among some sections of the fans. The club have received more than €100m from departures so far and despite reinvesting €60m in half a dozen players, nobody will truly be able to fill the void left by Gundogan and Mkhitaryan. Ousmane Dembele, Sebastian Rode, Raphael Guerreiro, Emre Mor, Marc Bartra and Mikel Merino have all moved to Dortmund but replacing Mkhitaryan and co. is a daunting task.
Dortmund Sporting director Michael Zorc has to be inventive to move on from a difficult summer of departures, although the club do have a quick-fix in the reliable Jakub Blaszczykowski.
The 30-year-old carried Poland to the quarterfinals at Euro 2016, only to miss the deciding penalty against Portugal in heartbreaking fashion. “Kuba” joined BVB in 2007 and has an endless amount of credit with the Dortmund fans, who are longing for a figure of identification and a leader on the field in times of change.
However, Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel might fancy another midfielder with similar qualities — Andre Schurrle. The left winger scored nine goals for Wolfsburg in the second half of the season in 2015-16, hinting at his talents, but he couldn’t fully justify the €30m fee Wolfsburg gave Chelsea in 2015.
Tuchel might be the one to get the best out of Schurrle, having mentored him from youth level to the Bundesliga, however the midfielder can hardly be described as a playmaker.
Going by several reports in the German media, Mario Gotze tops BVB’s list to replace Mkhitaryan. It would be a quirk of fate if Gotze turns out to be the replacement for his own replacement, but looking at the bigger picture it’s a transfer that would make sense for all parties involved.
Bayern have made it pretty clear they would rather cash in on Gotze this summer than lose him as a free agent in 2017, advising the 24-year-old to move elsewhere if he seeks regular playing time.
The Black and Yellows are in need of a player like Gotze, who has the creativity and technical quality to be the missing link in Tuchel’s midfield. Gotze could get the playing time he craves, while Bayern could remove one of their top-earners from the wage bill.
Gotze, once described as the “talent of the century” by Matthias Sammer, hasn’t quite developed into one of the world’s best as many in Germany had expected him to. In Dortmund he might find the opportunity to reach a world class level after all, although many BVB supporters will need some convincing as they still feel a sense of betrayal following his move to Bayern in 2013.
Gotze, meanwhile, says he wants to be ready for the first training session under Carlo Ancelotti and wants to take his chance under the new Bayern coach
Maybe Gotze’s friendship with Schurrle and Marco Reus could change his way of thinking.
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