International breaks can produce strange effects. In today's hectic news cycle, the absence of actual games at club level allows other stories to come to the forefront.
For Borussia Dortmund, the news of track and field superstar Usain Bolt potentially joining up with the Black and Yellows for training sessions seemed like a joke at first.
Decca Aitkenhead of the Guardian reported that the Jamaican is serious about his aspirations to become a footballer, despite already being 30 years old: "He has been in touch with Borussia Dortmund’s coach, will soon train with the team in Germany for a couple of days 'and see what happens'."
The Ruhr side has since confirmed that the fastest man in history will indeed try his luck on the football field:
Of course, this is a marketing stunt, as Bolt is sponsored by Puma, which is not only Dortmund's kit manufacturer but also a minority shareholder of the club, per its official website.
"Of course he won't visit us in an important week with [UEFA] Champions League matches, but maybe in the preseason," chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke told German tabloid Sport Bild (h/t ESPN FC). "We are delighted and take this as an honour."
Seeing the fastest attack in football with Bolt and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang joining forces for Dortmund remains a pipe dream for fans and FIFA players.
It seems much more realistic that the Gabonese striker will welcome a midfielder as a new team-mate in the winter transfer window, with Bild (link in German) reporting that the Black and Yellows are offering €15 million plus Nuri Sahin for Borussia Monchengladbach's Mahmoud Dahoud.
Now, the proportion of reported player-plus-cash deals between clubs and those that come to fruition when the transfer window opens is slight, but whether this specific report is true or not, Dortmund should be interested in signing Dahoud in January.
Dahoud burst on the scene last season, emerging as one of the most talented central midfielders in the Bundesliga during his first full senior campaign at Borussia Park, scoring five and assisting nine goals in 32 matches in the German top flight, per Transfermarkt.
He has, however, not endured the greatest of starts to the current campaign, having played in only 10 of the club's 18 games across all competitions with just four starts in the Bundesliga.
"Apparently, Andre Schubert wants to slow down the hype train," sportswriter Constantin Eckner told Bleacher Report when asked about Dahoud's lack of playing time. "Gladbach's head coach has said several times that the 20-year-old is still in an early developmental phase in his career."
Gladbach fan and podcaster Younis Sultan, meanwhile, assumed it was down to "Dahoud's being young and inexperienced at a time when Gladbach are in a rut and desperately need results," noting also that "Granit Xhaka's departure meant that he has been mixed and matched with different partners, but none quite click yet."
Whatever Schubert's reasoning is, it seems an odd strategy given the midfielder played so well last season and the distinct void in Schubert's midfield following the sale of Xhaka to Arsenal. Dahoud gave one of his best performances in perhaps the biggest game of his young career, a Champions League meeting with Barcelona in late September.
The Syria-born youngster proved his qualities as an all-round midfielder with a complete performance, showing excellent technical abilities paired with the necessary aggression to win the ball against the Blaugrana's incredible talent in the middle of the park.
He was instrumental in Gladbach's goal, first winning the ball against Sergio Busquets before playing a perfect assist to Thorgan Hazard, as shown in the video below (from the 2:20 mark):
"Dahoud is at his best when he is supposed to connect the two major parts of his team," Eckner explained. "This central midfielder/trequartista hybrid role suits him very well. He possesses a wide range of passing variations and setups for his dribbles."
The 20-year-old is a creative playmaker but also has the required engine to make runs between the boxes. "Carrying the ball forward and being inventive is where his best skills are," Sultan summarised.
"He can smoothly switch between his left and right foot," Eckner said. "He can dynamically penetrate the Zone 14"—that is the hole behind a striker—and "he is able to come at a defence from so many angles."
Perhaps most importantly, Eckner pointed out Dahoud "has the ability to make his team-mates look good. Does this remind you of a certain former Dortmund playmaker?"
With that, he meant Ilkay Gundogan, of course. This writer argued that the Black and Yellows have failed to replace the Germany international in the summer and suffer from it, so signing Dahoud in the January transfer window would make a lot of sense.
Even though it is debatable whether the 20-year-old could be entrusted with all the strategic responsibilities Gundogan carried during his time at the Westfalenstadion, Dahoud would give the club a supremely talented central midfielder to pair with Julian Weigl for years to come.
Eckner described the Gladbach man's potential: "Depending on who you ask, his ceiling is somewhere between Nuri Sahin and Paul Pogba. What happens in the next few years will be very important. Does he become more tactically sound without losing his creativity? Does he get the exposure on the pitch he needs to develop? If that’s the case, the sky is the limit."
Dortmund were always going to struggle finding a replacement on Gundogan's level. The 26-year-old is a world-class midfielder who was only held back by injuries; his flying start for Pep Guardiola's Manchester City proves as much. Players of that calibre are not only rare but also virtually unattainable for a club of Dortmund's size and financial standing.
Dahoud would give the Black and Yellows perhaps the best chance to develop the next world-class midfielder themselves. Crucially, the Germany under-21 international knows both the language and the league, which should make for a swift integration into the squad.
Signing him in January would be shrewd, even though he is cup-tied in the Champions League and can reportedly leave Gladbach in the summer with a release clause valued at a mere €10 million, per Sport Bild (link in German).
Sultan told B/R he does "not think they are preparing for life without him, but I do think they are resigned to losing him. It has been Gladbach's model to buy or develop young players and turn over transfer value. Mo Dahoud is not the first and will not be the last."
International competition, be it Liverpool, Spurs or other clubs, could be taken aback by Dahoud's lack of playing time this season so far and hold off from an attempt to sign the 20-year-old in January, giving Dortmund a leg up on them.
The Ruhr side, meanwhile, would welcome another huge talent in their team. The creative midfielder would give head coach Thomas Tuchel more tactical options, as the 43-year-old has so far struggled filling the Gundogan void with the personnel at his disposal.
Even if that only applies to the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal Cup, Dahoud would be a worthy investment in January. There is no discernible drawback in attempting to make the transfer happen six months early.
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.