Players Dortmund Must Sign This Summer to Compete with Bayern Munich

Clark WhitneyFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2013

Players Dortmund Must Sign This Summer to Compete with Bayern Munich

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    Dortmund have had a very successful run in the Champions league this season, but stand little chance of claiming a third consecutive Bundesliga title with 10 rounds left to play in the 2012-13 campaign.

    This season, Bayern Munich have thrown down the gauntlet. Approximately €70 million spent on net transfers last summer has left the club with two or more qualified options in every position, and maturation and renewed self-confidence from many key players has left the Bavarians 17 points ahead of BVB in the race for the Bundesliga title.

    As Michael Zorc told the print-only edition of Kicker, "Bayern have by far the best financial situation [in Germany]." According to the Dortmund sporting director, it was only a matter of time before Bayern would catch up to the Ruhr club. And catch up they have: Bayern rather comfortably ousted BVB from the DFB-Pokal last week with a very one-sided 1-0 victory in Munich.

    Dortmund are not yet ready to give up and fall in line with the rest of the Bundesliga, however. Last week, the club announced record revenue (€124.1 million), profit (€17.5 million) and net profit (€14.2 million) for the second half of 2012. And come this summer, BVB are set to splash cash in the transfer market.

    On Sport1 program "Doppelpass," CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke pledged: "We will have cash in our hands and a lot will happen." 

    He added: "We will invest considerably in the summer, in terms of strength as well as depth."

    Watzke declined to specify any targets, comment on any transfer rumors or even identify positions of interest in improving. The club's areas of need are no secrets, though, and there are are several players—some previously linked with BVB, others not—who could serve Dortmund's needs at relatively little cost. Click "Begin Slideshow" for a look at the positions and players BVB should be considering this summer.

Left-Back: Konstantin Rausch

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    Dortmund are currently woefully lacking in depth in the fullback positions. On the right flank, Oliver Kirch has proven no suitable backup for Lukasz Piszczek since his transfer from Kaiserslautern last summer, and wingers Jakub Blaszczykowski and Kevin Grosskreutz have instead been used as cover for the Poland international.

    On the left of defense, Chris Loewe was found insufficient as a replacement for starter Marcel Schmelzer, and was sold to Kaiserslautern in January. Again, only Blaszczykowski and Grosskreutz are possible options as makeshift defenders.

    If Dortmund are serious about adding depth, Konstantin Rausch is the best option at left-back. The 22-year-old has been pushed out of his natural defensive position at Hannover since the winter break and could be ready for a move, especially if H96 fail to qualify for the Europa League.

    BVB have thus far not been linked with Rausch in the German press as Schalke and Gladbach have. However, the hard-working, gifted defender would be a perfect fit in Juergen Klopp's system at Dortmund. And with his contract set to expire in June, Rausch will be free to choose whichever offer he prefers.

Right-Back: Sebastian Jung

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    Apart from Sebastian Rode, Sebastian Jung is arguably Frankfurt's most coveted player in the transfer market. After a couple years of stagnation, the 22-year-old has taken the next step in his career since achieving promotion to the Bundesliga last May.

    So impressive has Jung been that the Germany U21 international right-back was called up to Joachim Loew's senior national team in November. He has very good technical skills but also is an aggressive defender. If Klopp turned Lukasz Piszczek into a world-class right-back, he may be able to do the same with Jung.

    Frankfurt currently have Jung under contract until 2014 and will not exactly be eager to sell him, especially if Rode leaves as well. However, if Armin Veh's side fail to finish in a Europa League spot—or perhaps even in the top four—it may be financially necessary for them to let their stars go.

    If not, they risk letting Jung (and Rode) leave for free in just over a year. Given how little time Jung has left on his contract, as well as his lack of international experience, he would most likely be available for a modest transfer fee. 

    The other obstacle Dortmund face in trying to sign Jung is competition from other clubs. The print-only edition of Kicker reported in January that Schalke are keen to sign the defender, and separately that Bayern have interest as well. Abroad, Arsenal have been linked with Jung, as have Inter.

    If Jung moves elsewhere or stays at Frankfurt, Sochaux right-back Sebastien Corchia is a qualified alternative for BVB.

Central Midfielder: Sebastian Rode

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    Dortmund's area of greatest depth and strength is midfield, but the Ruhr side still are still in need of other options in the center of the pitch.

    Currently, Nuri Sahin acts as cover for Ilkay Gundogan while Sven Bender and Sebastian Kehl rotate in the other defensive midfield position. The captain Kehl is 33 and running out of time; his contract expires in June and it's uncertain he will even be with the club next season.

    Bender, meanwhile, has been blighted by injuries that have allowed him to play in only 38 of a possible 58 Bundesliga matches over the last two seasons. And although holding pair of Gundogan and Sahin may be a viable option in the Bundesliga, is certainly is not balanced enough for the Champions League.

    Sebastian Rode is a perfect option as Kehl's long-term successor; he offers more quality on the ball than Bender and is just as capable in defense. He was linked with Dortmund in the fall, but Jurgen Klopp confirmed in January that although Rode is "a really interesting guy and would certainly fit in well [at Dortmund]," the player is currently unavailable, saying: "Frankfurt have made it clear that they will not let him go."

    At the time, Frankfurt were well on their way to a spot in the Champions League playoff. They have since had their fortunes reverse, however, and have now gone scoreless with two losses in their last four games.

    Freiburg, Schalke and Hannover could all surpass the Hessian side next week, and it's entirely possible that Frankfurt will not qualify for the Europa League. In such a case, it would be very difficult for the club to keep hold of Rode, whose contract expires in June of 2014.

    If BVB reignite interest in Rode, they will have to fend off interest from Arsenal and Bayern, and in all likelihood shell out a transfer fee in the region of €9 million.

Striker: Nicklas Bendtner, Mame Biram Diouf or Moa Abdellaoue

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    The striker position is perhaps the most critical and most uncertain spot for Dortmund at present. Following Michael Zorc's announcement last week that Robert Lewandowski will not extend his contract, it's abundantly clear that BVB will need a new main center forward either this summer or the next, depending on when the player leaves.

    Any consideration of possible Dortmund striker signings must take into account Lewandowski's situation. Given that Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has pledged that Bayern "are not planning to hold negotiations with Dortmund over the transfer of Lewandowski" (perhaps meaning the Bavarians intend to sign him on a Bosman transfer next summer) and Sir Alex Ferguson has labeled rumors of Lewandowski to Manchester United as "absolute nonsense," it's entirely possible that there will be no offer for the player's services this summer. 

    Even if there is an offer, Hans-Joachim Watzke's stance is that Dortmund "Would rather take no transfer fee for him in 2014 than too little [this summer]."

    Also playing into the Lewandowski narrative is the situation of Edin Dzeko, who has been linked with Dortmund and last week stated that he "will return to the Bundesliga," one day.

    Dortmund have no need for both Lewandowski and Dzeko at the same time, so they could either sign the latter and sell the former this summer or let the Pole leave for free next year and bring in the Bosnian (who will be one year from the end of his contract next summer) for a cut-rate price.

    What's clear is that Dzeko is the best replacement for Lewandowski when the latter leaves BVB, be it this summer or the next. Either way, Dortmund need to sign a suitable backup this summer. Julian Schieber simply has not offered enough quality since his move from Stuttgart last summer.

    Rumors have long circulated as to which striker Dortmund might sign, and on Monday, Bild shortlisted Dzeko, Mame Biram Diouf and Mohammed Abdellaoue as possibilities.

    Of the three, Dzeko is the only player proven to be capable of scoring 30 or more goals in a season. Diouf and Abdellaoue would both be good secondary options, and with each under contract until 2014 at Hannover, it's entirely possible that H96 would be willing to sell one or the other.

    Raised in the physical Premier League culture at Manchester United, Diouf would fit in well at Dortmund as a target man capable of holding up the ball and finishing. Abdellaoue is a little less quick, but offers a large frame and some clever skill on the ball.

    Either would be a good signing as backup for the main striker, and could rotate or come in as a secondary option in the center if Klopp needs a goal and uses a two-striker system. Given the time left on their respective contracts, bids in the €6-8 million region may be enough to secure either, with the Senegalese perhaps valued a at the higher end of that range.

    Another option is Nicklas Bendtner, who was linked with BVB as recently as last summer. The Arsenal-contracted striker has had a dreadful run in recent years, with loan spells at Sunderland and Juventus hardly doing him any good. And his recent drink-driving caution suggests he may be damaged goods.

    Bendtner is still 25, though, and has proven to be an excellent striker when used in the right system. He was brilliant for Denmark especially against Portugal during Euro 2012.

    Once upon a time, Arsene Wenger rated his talent highly. And although it seems the Frenchman has given up on the Dane, perhaps Jurgen Klopp can make the best use of his qualities.

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