Schürrle for 30 million Euros? Surely you jest! Götze coming home? You götz to be kidding me!
On two potentially disastrous summer mistakes that Dortmund are about to make
Update: As of 7/21/16 it looks like Götze, Bayern and BVB have agreed on a 26 million Euro transfer fee per Kicker, who are also reporting a 30 million deal for Schürrle, which has been confirmed by most outlets.
Disclaimer: I have been a Dortmund fan since the mid 90s, witnessing the ups (the glory days of Lars Ricken, Jörg Heinrich, Stephane Chapuisat and legend Michael Zorc – yeah I want all the street cred!) and the downs (2002 and on until Kloppo showed up) of the Yellow and Black.
A little context and transfer history
After the disastrous early to mid 2000s, where Dortmund needed Bayern (sigh) to bail them out, the club has been on a slow climb back into financial stability and that has meant a cautious transfer policy. Aside from the faux pas of spending 15 million Euros on Evanilson, Dortmund has absolutely crushed the transfer market. The club has preferred to buy low on young and relatively little-known players: Lewandowski, Gündogan, Kagawa, Piszczek, Subotic, Hummels, Sven Bender and Kevin Großkreutz cost about 20 million (!!!) combined, while the big money signings – Aubameyang for 13 million, Reus for 17, Mkhitaryan for 27 – have all worked out and then some.
In addition, the club has also done a fantastic job of selling its players at the right time to bigger clubs: if we just take the transfers over 10 million, Sahin, Kagawa, Götze, Immobile, Kampl netted 75 million Euros, while just in the last few months, the Hummels, Miki, Gündo trio earned 107 million for BVB! This summer, the trend of reinvesting profits – to the tune of 58 million – into four highly regarded young players (Guerreiro, Merino, Mor, Dembele) and two reclamation projects (Bartra, Rode) looked set to continue.
Yet, if they are to sign Mario Götze for 30 million and add André Schürrle for the same amount, it would, in my opinion, be a clear indication of the club abandoning its successful approach. While the club has had a long an extensive history of buying back players (the boomerang transfer policy is detailed here by Kicker), but they generally did so at a discount – Kagawa, who came for free from Japan was sold for 16 million, then bought back for 8 from MU, while Real Madrid’s Nuri Sahin cost 70% of his 10 million, and Jörg Heinrich cost just 4 million, two years after being sold to Fiorentina for 12.6 million. Götze is reportedly in the 25-30 million range, a 20 percent discount of his 37 million bid that BVB accepted from Bayern three seasons ago. By the way, the Götze deal would also be well-below his preposterous 38 million transfer value, – have people on Transfermarkt watched him in the last two seasons? – , but more than double that of Schürrle’s 18 million. For a somber comparison, shelling out 60 million for Götze and Schürrle would be about the same as what BVB had spent between 2004 and 2012 on all the star players discussed in the previous paragraph!!!
Youngsters and opportunity cost
Up until today, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was the most expensive signing at 27.5 million, and Dortmund breaking that record twice in a matter of days on two players with at best dubious recent history seems irresponsible at best. That’s not even mentioning the opportunity cost of carving out playing time to their young players. Taking a look at the Dortmund depth chart, Merino, Rode, Julian Weigl and Moritz Leitner are probably battling for one CDM spot. Also, just in terms of attacking players, Christian Pulisic was a revelation last year and probably expects to compete for a starting job, while Ousmane Dembele is already showing his amazing quality in the friendlies. Emre Mor and Felix Passlack (the latest Dortmund academy star) would probably also like to play, and let’s not even mention reliable veterans like Gonzalo Castro, Shinji Kagawa and Marco Reus (if he stays healthy). In fact, the guys on the excellent Yellow Wall Podcast made the point that Reus’s injury history is arguably one of the main reasons for signing Götze, and especially Schürrle, who is probably best desployed in the same position on the left-wing as an inverted winger. On Bleacher Report, Lars Pollmann made an excellent argument questioning the necessity of signing both Götze and Schürrle while at the same time encouraging BVB to focus their efforts on Ömer Toprak, a very solid Bundesliga defender who has made it clear that he wants to join Dortmund from Leverkusen. Other responses to the idea of signing Schürrle and Götze were equally fiery: the Dortmund reddit forum has had more threads on it than the number of goals Götze scored for Bayern, with the words traitor (Götze) and average player (Schürrle) being thrown around a lot. Social media has also understandably gotten excited about these two big name players, with responses covering both extremes: “the golden boy’s coming home” and “we don’t need rejects and traitors”. Well then!
My personal take on these two signings – in case you have not been able to glean from the previous paragraphs – fluctuates between lukewarm excitement and genuine outrage. Let me explain: 1. I sort of understand the need to reinvest some of the money made from the sale of the big three and can talk myself into taking a shot at and taking part in the Götze redemption tour. André Schürrle burst onto the Bundesliga scene under Thomas Tuchel at Mainz, and we all saw how much the brilliant coach can get out of some similarly limited players (Gonzalo Castro, Kagawa), as well as what he can do for a career (yes, Mkhitaryan, you better send 25% of your MU checks to Mr. Tuchel every month!). So, if Reus is indeed out for a long time, which to be fair wouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone, Dortmund would get a decent facsimile with a lot of experience in Schürrle, while Götze, who let’s not forget has had multiple seasons of 9-10 goals and assists, could potentially replicate 75% of Mkhitaryan’s output. And it’s certainly not my money to spend….
On the other hand, it pains me to see that, Dortmund, the 11th largest club in terms of football revenue according to the Deloitte Football Money League, and the best in terms of average attendance north of 80,000 per match, can’t do better. Better in this case could mean taking a chance on massive young talent like Mateo Kovacic and Jese Rodriguez of Real Madrid, or disgruntled stars like Xherdan Shaqiri or even Arda Turan, who, as Constantin Eckner pointed out on the Yellow Wall Pod, at 29 might have a couple of decent seasons in him, especially when he gets the Tuchel makeover. All of these players have been linked to Dortmund, per Transfermarkt. While the former three players aged 22-24 could all be long-term solutions and would probably even cost less than Götze and Schürrle, selling them on the idea of regular Champions League football and pushing Bayern would appear to be difficult.
And therein lies my fundamental issue with the Götze and Schürrle signing: it is essentially a half-measure. With the firesale of the Hummels/Miki/Gündo trio, Dortmund have made it clear that they are neither able, nor willing to compete with Bayern. That is mostly fine with me, given that in my estimate, last season’s magical ride was probably unsustainable and an outlier. Taking into account the gulf of talent and wealth between Bayern, last year’s BVB and the rest of the league – Leverkusen needed a scorching finish to get within 18 points of Dortmund – taking one or two steps back and still qualifying to the Champions League would still seem like a reasonable proposition. That can probably be achieved with a young squad without spending 60 million on Götze and Schürrle. I would probably guess that such a plan would be harder to sell to the BVB faithful, but then again it’s arguably Europe’s most loyal fanbase, who at this point should be used to the process.
Moreover, if Dortmund picking up the Mario + Andre duo would definitely keep their talented young players from getting valuable playing time. I cringe at the thought of Schürrle starting over Dembelé or even Christian Pulisic, and would certainly not mind giving Emre Mor at least some minutes at the expense of Götze/Kagawa/Castro. Because, even with Götze and Schürrle, Dortmund are still miles away from competing with Bayern, and they may have just spent 60 million (plus the opportunity costs) to secure a spot that they already occupied.