Borussia Dortmund: An Ideal Summer Transfer Window
The summer of 2014 is set to be a critical one in Borussia Dortmund's history. Robert Lewandowski's move to Bayern Munich and the possible departure of Ilkay Gundogan, per the Daily Mirror's David McDonnell, mean that BVB will have to splash cash in the transfer market if they are to retain their status as one of Europe's best and most exciting clubs.
Sporting director Michael Zorc underlined the importance of this summer in a recent interview with WAZ (h/t to Goal.com): "We need to change everything. We need to evolve again and again, the departure of one or the other offers the chance to do so."
Speaking to Sport-Bild (h/t to Goal.com), CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke pledged to invest substantially in the summer: "It's no secret: we will invest a lot of money in the transfer market in the summer."
However, he added: "The amount we're going to spend won't be revealed, though."
Dortmund can, theoretically, invest much more than last summer's €50 million: Although they may take in less revenue from player sales and Champions League performance, other aspects of revenue will increase. Since the end of last season, a new TV deal has lifted Bundesliga clubs' revenue by 52 percent.
BVB reported a 14.4 percent increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2013-14, relative to their turnover the previous year.
The club is without debt as of August, so there is less need for BVB to make profits as they have in recent years (last season's figure was €53.3 million). Thus, investment of €50 million or even €75 million may be possible for the Ruhr club.
Of course, there is more to transfers than just the money spent. BVB have gained a reputation for being masters of spending wisely and spotting undervalued gems.
They will need to bring in a mixture of rising talent and established players if they are to remain a top team. The good news is: Success is within reach. Click "Begin Slideshow" for a run-down of the signings that would not only make up for the loss of Lewandowski, but they could make BVB competitive in Germany and Europe once more.
Depth at Center-Back
Since the departures of Dede and Patrick Owomoyela, Dortmund have had little depth in the full-back positions. But injuries to starters Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer have given Kevin Grosskreutz and Erik Durm time to adapt to playing in defense. And now both are reliable at least as backup.
Dortmund still are short of proven, quality center-backs, however. A blight of injuries has proven that Mats Hummels, Neven Subotic and Sokratis Papastathopoulos are not enough. Teenagers Marian Sarr and Koray Gunter are still raw and in need of playing time at a lower level, so a fourth senior center-back would be a big help.
Gazzetta dello Sport recently reported that Andrea Ranocchia is sought by BVB (via Eurosport), but Matthias Ginter would be an inspired acquisition.
Having just celebrated his 20th birthday, Ginter still has plenty of untapped potential. Yet he already is an experienced Bundesliga player, with two full years of experience as a starter under his belt. And, critically, he can solve two problems for Dortmund, providing depth in not only defense but central midfield.
Normally it would be irresponsible for a club to sign a young prospect to warm the bench. But given Dortmund's history of injuries in central midfield and defense, Ginter would likely start more often than not.
Ginter has a contract with Freiburg that runs until 2017 but an offer in the region of €10 million might be enough to convince the club to release him from his contract.
Central Midfield: Sign Sahin Permanently and Extend Gundogan's Contract
Although Dortmund are now nowhere near being in the Bundesliga title race, Nuri Sahin was instrumental in keeping BVB's hopes alive for most of the fall term.
The holding midfielder has been excellent during his spell on loan from Real Madrid. And it's all but certain that Dortmund will exercise their option this summer to make his move permanent for a fee of just €6 million.
Sahin will be relatively easy to convince to stay, but Ilkay Gundogan may be much less so. The 23-year-old is one of the hottest commodities on the transfer market, with Real Madrid, per Marca, Barcelona and Manchester United all reportedly keen to sign him as he heads into what would be the final year of his contract at the Signal-Iduna Park (via Simon Perrin of the Daily Express).
CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke ruled out allowing another situation similar to that of Lewandowski in an interview with German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, so BVB will either extend Gundogan's stay or sell the player this summer. Dortmund must do everything possible to extend the contract of Gundogan, whose presence has been sorely missed this season.
Sebastian Kehl is expected to extend his contract, per German outlet Bild, for another year, but the captain turns 34 next month and will need not be enough midfield backup in the role behind the oft-injured Sven Bender. This role can more than adequately be filled by Matthias Ginter, should he sign.
Attacking Midfield: #FreeShinji and One Goal-Scoring All-Rounder
With Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jonas Hofmann competing for three starting spots in Jurgen Klopp's 4-2-3-1 formation, it may seem that Dortmund are sufficiently stocked with options in attacking midfield. That is not exactly true.
Attacking midfield is a critical area on the pitch, and as unlucky as Dortmund were to have sustained so many injuries in defense last fall, they were fortunate that their attackers had relatively few ailments. Even so, BVB were found lacking in depth: Reus especially looked exhausted in the final weeks of the fall campaign.
Dortmund will also need to have at least a couple of reliable goal-scoring options in midfield to ease the burden from the shoulders of Lewandowski's successor. It usually takes some time for a player to settle at a new club, so having reliable scorers behind him will be greatly beneficial.
Few attacking midfielders have been linked with Dortmund in recent weeks, but one qualified option is Kevin Volland, whom Bild reported in December is top of the club's wish list.
The 21-year-old has been one of Bundesliga's best players this season; in fact, according to German football magazine Kicker, he has been on average the league's best forward.
Volland can play anywhere in the front four positions and still has untapped potential. He's experienced in the Bundesliga and is a hard worker, while his proficiency on the counterattack would fit perfectly into Klopp's system.
He does, however, have a contract with Hoffenheim that runs until 2017 and would command a considerable transfer fee. A sum in the region of €17-20 million might be sufficient.
In addition to Volland, Dortmund would be wise to bring back Shinji Kagawa, provided the terms are right. Mkhitaryan is much more a scorer than a provider, and, accordingly, BVB at times last fall looked short of creativity in the final third.
Kagawa is a bit more adept at playmaking and would fit perfectly into a Dortmund team that has hardly changed in terms of its style since he left the club in 2012.
Kagawa has rarely been used in his natural, central position at Manchester United; in fact, he's rarely been used in any position. According to various reports, (the Daily Mail's Chris Wheeler claims £200 million, the Daily Star's Paul Hetherington reports £150 million) David Moyes is set to receive a massive war chest to use to rebuild the Red Devils. And if the manager invests heavily in new squad players, Kagawa will likely leave the club.
If Dortmund can work out a deal for the Japanese international similar to that which they struck with Real Madrid for Nuri Sahin (an 18-month loan with a rather low, €6 million buy-out clause), it would be extremely shrewd business.
And after Sahin, Kagawa would be another example of a player failing to assert himself after leaving BVB only to later come back to the club that made him a star. A moral victory for Dortmund and a new opportunity for Kagawa.
One More Striker
Dortmund confirmed the signing of Ji Dong-Won last week, but the South Korean striker is unlikely to be Robert Lewandowski's replacement. The 22-year-old can instead expect to begin his career at BVB as a substitute.
Dortmund have many other possibilities to fill Lewanowski's role, but as is so often the case with strikers, they are expensive and prices will only be driven up by competition from other clubs.
Interest from England means that Dortmund would have to offer a wage competitive with that offered by the Premier League giants. Odds of BVB landing the Brazil native would therefore appear to be slim. The same can be said of Jackson Martinez.
Other options include Christian Benteke and Edin Dzeko. The latter was the Bundesliga's top scorer in 2009-10, but he is a very different player from Lewandowski, and his slower pace and less-than-relentless work rate make him an imperfect fit in a counter-attacking team like BVB. He also would have to accept a wage below his €8.2 million annual salary.
Dortmund were linked with Dzeko a year ago, per John Edwards of the Daily Mail, but they never made a concrete move for the player, instead opting to let Lewandowski go on a free transfer this summer. He should remain an option in 2014 but not necessarily be BVB's No. 1 target.
Benteke, on the other hand, is a better fit stylistically. But an injury-plagued season has seen the Aston Villa man struggle to find the target. He's just started to find his scoring touch once more; whether Dortmund make a move for him largely depends on how he fares between now and the end of the season.
He's taken a large step in his career while at Everton, and admitted to BBC Sport that staying at Chelsea would not have been the best move in his career. Should Jose Mourinho make a move for another top striker this summer, Lukaku may want to leave.
Lukaku admitted BVB was a good option a year ago to The Sun (via Sky Sports), even if they sign another striker, they'll need a backup.
Mourinho denied Kevin de Bruyne a move to Dortmund after the player had, according to Bild, (h/t to The Guardian) agreed to a five-year contract with BVB. And he only sold the player to Wolfsburg for a vastly-inflated €22 million after the player warmed the bench for six months. Lukaku would likely be expensive. But if the player fights hard enough, he might be able to force a move to Dortmund.