With a whopping 20-point gap separating them from Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund will have a lot to consider ahead of next season as they aim to put up more of a fight against the reigning European and world champions.
BVB will find it hard especially following the departure of Robert Lewandowski, who will be joining their Bavarian rivals and will need to be replaced.
The future of Ilkay Gundogan is still yet to be determined, while Jakub Blaszczykowski and Neven Subotic will be returning from cruciate ligament surgery. To further complicate matters, the World Cup in Brazil will shorten the summer break, leaving players fatigued and shortening their time in preseason training.
Although Dortmund are sure to invest substantially in the transfer market, they have been linked to few stars as of yet.
Ji Dong-Won's transfer has been confirmed and Bild's Heiko Niedderer reported that Nuri Sahin is on the verge of penning a long-term contract with the club following the expiration of his loan at the end of June.
Bild's Heiko Ostendorp also reported last month that BVB had agreed with Adrian Ramos to personal terms on a move to Dortmund.
Otherwise, there have been few rumors linking BVB to possible summer reinforcements—and fewer still have involved players that can be expected to make a big impact. One of these, however, has all the ability to be a hero at Dortmund: Kevin Volland.
The 21-year-old has a contract with Hoffenheim that expires in 2017, but Bild revealed in January that the player has a clause in his deal that would allow him to leave for €15 million this summer.
According to that same report, the Germany under-21 captain is a high priority for Jurgen Klopp this summer.
In every way, Volland is a great option for Dortmund. He's available, affordable and in his young age still has plenty of upside. He is almost sure to miss the World Cup, so he will have a full preseason camp to spend with Klopp as he looks to make a smooth transition.
Critically, Volland will provide an option in attack that, although at first glance may seem luxurious, is in fact critical.
Dortmund indeed have plenty of options in attack, but the departure of Lewandowski will raise a huge question mark as to how the club will replace his goalscoring productivity. That question can only be answered with experimentation.
Ji and Ramos—should he sign—are obvious candidates in the striker role, but so are Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Volland himself.
In the likely event that none of the possible centre-forwards are able to score as reliably as Lewandowski, Klopp will need to rely on more goals from midfield—perhaps more than Blaszczykowski and Henrikh Mkhitaryan can provide.
Trained as a striker, Volland is more of a direct threat on goal than "Kuba" and "Mkhi." And like Marco Reus, he is as adept as a provider as he is a scorer. To date, Volland has recorded eight goals and seven assists in the 2013-14 Bundesliga.
Volland's skill set would fit in perfectly at Dortmund. He's faster than Mkhitaryan and Blaszczykowski, more subtle than Aubameyang and has one-on-one ability that only Reus can match among current BVB players.
Reus has often struggled to bear the burden of expectation to create goals. A year ago, he split that burden with Mario Gotze. Now, it's easier for opponents to target one major threat rather than the previous duo, as Reus grew tired and anonymous during the fall campaign. He looked jaded and was directly involved in just one goal in the month of December.
With Reus expected to start for Germany at the World Cup, he will undoubtedly need the occasional break this fall. He certainly could have used one this season, and that came following a full summer break.
The good news is Volland can provide a similar type of threat as Reus either with or without the 24-year-old in the same team. He can play in any of the three attacking midfield positions or even as a striker.
He is extremely adaptable, making him perfect for a rotation.
The distribution of injuries—primarily to defensive players—has masked the fact that Dortmund are actually quite thin in attacking midfield.
As of now, Reus, Mkhitaryan, Blaszczykowski, Aubameyang and Kevin Grosskreutz are five established options in the three attacking midfield positions.
Jonas Hofmann is another player who can fill a role in attacking midfield, but the 21-year-old is inexperienced and has not started a single Bundesliga game this season. He isn't the type of player BVB can rely upon.
Grosskreutz and Blaszczykowski are great role players, but they are support men—not the star creators or finishers. Mkhitaryan's long-term quality still is rather uncertain. Although he's been prolific this season, Aubameyang is a striker-type player who needs service to be effective.
Only Reus has the class and range of skills to create goals from seemingly nowhere. Volland can add similar versatility unlike any other Dortmund player.
Attacking midfield may be the most important area of the pitch for any team with aspirations to win a league title. As usual, the onus is on title contenders to go out and win their points from lesser teams. They need goals, which are most readily created by players of Volland's type.
Five established attacking midfielders are not enough for Dortmund, especially if four have clear and distinct limitations that are less evident in the extremely versatile Volland.
Right player, right price—he's the player BVB need to target in the summer transfer window.
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