Borussia Dortmund resume their Bundesliga campaign on Sunday following the midweek internationals, and facing them will be relegation battlers Freiburg. It's been a difficult season for Christian Streich's side, who have had to cope with the burden of playing in an extra competition (the Europa League) and with the loss of nearly half their first team in the summer.
On an individual level, however, Matthias Ginter has been outstanding for SCF. And the center-back's progress has not gone unnoticed. Just weeks after his 20th birthday, Ginter was nominated to Joachim Low's Germany team for the first time for Wednesday's match against Chile.
Ginter's next challenge will be to handle one of Germany's strongest attacks in Borussia Dortmund. And it will be an especially important match for the youngster as he faces off against the club he supported in his youth.
Last April, Ginter admitted to Reinhard Sogl of Frankfurter Rundschau (in German) that he would at some point like to play for his childhood favorite team, Dortmund. But the player conceded that the time was not yet right for him to leave Freiburg. Following his nomination to Low's team and considering that Freiburg could be relegated, however, the time for Ginter to move on may be approaching.
Speaking to Bild (in German) in January, Ginter revealed that Bayern Munich had made initial contact over a possible transfer, and that he'd also held negotiations with Dortmund. The Daily Mail reported last week that Manchester United manager David Moyes personally visited Freiburg's match with Hertha to watch Ginter in action. Suffice to say, Ginter is in hot demand right now. But although they will not be able to match the wage offerings of bigger clubs, Dortmund may have an edge in negotiations with the coveted talent.
At this point in his career, Ginter would take a huge risk in moving to a club like Bayern or Real Madrid. He has yet to play in the Champions League and still has some distance to go in his development. This distance would not be made up playing sporadic first-division football interlaced with the occasional game for a reserve team in a semi- or nonprofessional league.
At Dortmund, however, Ginter could expect regular opportunities to play. BVB have been found woefully lacking in depth this season in the centers of both midfield and defense, positions wherein Ginter is very comfortable. Neven Subotic will be returning from a serious knee injury next season and could conceivably be for sale the following summer, should he not extend his contract past its expiration at the end of June, 2016. Mats Hummels has also had more than his share of injuries in the current and previous campaigns; there would be opportunities for Ginter in defense.
In midfield, Sebastian Kehl recently turned 34 and is nearing the end of his ability to play in Jurgen Klopp's high-intensity system. And Sven Bender's career has been blighted by injuries. Ginter could therefore expect plenty of opportunities to assert himself until he reaches the probable point of being reliable and of enough class to be considered a first-choice starter.
Ginter himself recently explained, via Sport1 (in German), that he is interested in leaving Freiburg under the right conditions, but stated specifically that his destination would "not have to be Bayern." This statement suggests he would be open to a move to BVB. But if Dortmund were to wait another year, Ginter might consider himself ready to make a bigger leap than to the Ruhr.
Missing out on Ginter would be a big loss for BVB, who have made a habit of recognizing and snapping up young, talented players on the cheap and developing them into world-class stars. The signing of Henrikh Mkhitaryan last summer was somewhat of a necessity: Dortmund needed a qualified player who was ready to fill Mario Gotze's boots. But the Armenia international came with less upside potential than Ginter, who has the talent to start for Germany and be a star of world football within the next few years. Having won the Fritz Walter Gold Medal (for best German talent) at under-18 and under-19 levels, he's the type of player Dortmund need if they are ever to contend with Bayern for supremacy in the Bundesliga.
Sunday marks a big day for Ginter as he plays in one of the biggest games of the season for Freiburg and takes on one of his potential suitors in Dortmund. It's an opportunity for him to show the class that made him a starter at Freiburg at just 18 years of age, and the potential he carries as he continues to develop.
Center-backs rarely reach their prime before age 25, and signing Ginter for a modest fee at 20 could therefore be later regarded as an incredible bargain. The risk is low and Ginter is well aware of Klopp's success in developing talents from lesser Bundesliga teams into superstars. It's a win-win scenario, but only if Dortmund are quick to act before the likes of Bayern and United deem him too tempting to pass on.