As the Bundesliga resumes for the 2016-17 campaign, talk has inevitably turned to the battle for supremacy between champions Bayern Munich and their nearest challengers, Borussia Dortmund.

Moreover, great intrigue surrounds the transfer business the two clubs have done with one another this summer. Bayern have snatched Dortmund’s captain and star defender Mats Hummels, while BVB have manufactured a Signal Iduna Park return for Mario Götze, who controversially left the club to join the Bavarians in 2013.

Dortmund have also signed reliable 25-year-old central midfielder Sebastian Rode from Bayern for around £10 million.

But aside from these headline grabbing deals, there has been some fantastic work done throughout the Bundesliga this transfer window, and here are the five new signings to keep an eye on as the new season commences.

Kevin Volland – Bayer Leverkusen

After four impressive seasons with Hoffenheim – in which he twice broke double figures for goals scored in a season for Die Kraichgauer – 24-year-old striker Kevin Volland has joined Bayer Leverkusen for €18 million.

The hefty fee has set a new club record for Leverkusen, so what are they getting for their money?

Volland is a strong and powerful striker with a tireless work ethic and a calm finesse in front of goal.

That work ethic will be key to fitting in at the BayArena, as manager Roger Schmidt demands that his team press their opposition relentlessly throughout 90 minutes.

A full international with six caps for Germany, Volland is yet to register a goal for Die Mannschaft. But the former 1860 Munich player’s pedigree was evident at under-21 level, where he netted 11 times in 22 games. He also demonstrated his leadership skills when captaining the German side at the 2015 Under-21 European Championship, where he finished as the second highest scorer and was named in the team of the tournament.

With his industry and creativity, Leverkusen fans will be hoping Volland turns out to be the perfect partner for Javier “Chicharito” Hernández.

Ousmane Dembélé – Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund have been extremely busy in the transfer market this summer; the loss of Hummels, Ilkay Gündoğan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been offset by the arrivals of Götze from Bayern, record signing André Schürrle from Wolfsburg and Marc Bartra from Barcelona.

In addition to the more experienced, ready-made incomings, BVB have also signed a raft of young players with huge future potential. The most exciting of which is French winger Ousmane Dembélé, who has been brought in from Rennes for £12.75 million.

Dembélé only made his senior debut for Rennes in November last year, but the teenager immediately became a key player for the Ligue 1 club, as he went on to net 12 goals and register five assists.

The 19-year-old is genuinely two-footed, and able to play on either wing or centrally as a number 10. With his blistering pace and bamboozling dribbling ability, Dembélé is widely regarded as one of the future stars of the world game. Dortmund’s capture of the youngster represents a real coup and, despite his tender years, he is capable of helping BVB close the gap on Bayern this season.

Breel Embolo – Schalke

Swiss forward Breel Embolo was linked strongly with moves to Manchester United and Bundesliga newcomers RB Leipzig earlier this summer. But, with a bid of €20 million plus add-ons, it was Schalke who secured the signature of the exciting Basel player.

Embolo featured heavily for Switzerland at Euro 2016, playing on the right-wing and demonstrating his pace, directness and impressive physicality. The 19-year-old is equally comfortable playing centrally as a striker, and possesses strong finishing skills and the eye for a pass of a much more experienced player.

Though still in his teens, Embolo has already racked up over 80 senior appearances for Basel, and has scored 30 goals for the Swiss club.

Embolo’s versatility will prove a useful asset for Schalke this season, where he will be expected to play on the right-wing following the loss of Leroy Sané to Manchester City, while also offering an alternative to Dutch veteran Klaas-Jan Huntelaar up front.

Renato Sanches – Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich have not made many moves this summer, with only two new players coming through the door at the Allianz Arena. The first, Mats Hummels, is very much one for the here and now, who will be expected to come straight in to the starting line-up and improve the team.

The other is one for the future, but whose impressive maturity could see him having a big impact much sooner than anticipated.

Renato Sanches has been signed from Benfica for €35 million plus a string off add-ons that could see the eventual cost sky-rocketing beyond the €60 million mark.

But the monumental fee could come to represent a bargain for Bayern if Sanches delivers on his immense early promise. Much like Dembélé, Sanches has less than one full season of senior football under his belt, but he has already played a key role in Benfica’s Portuguese title triumph, as well as his country’s first ever major trophy at Euro 2016.

Sanches, a central midfielder, is blessed with explosive pace over short distances, a rocket of a left foot, and is so positionally aware that it is hard to believe that he has only just turned 19. Although at his best in a box-to-box role, Sanches is also able to fill in out wide or as a dedicated defensive midfielder.

Sanches is set to develop into one of the best midfield players on the planet over the next few years, and at Bayern, under Carlo Ancelotti, there is no better place for him to grow.

Mario Gomez – Wolfsburg

Mario Gomez’s Bundesliga record is outstanding: 63 goals in 121 appearances over six seasons with Stuttgart – including a title win in 2007 – and 75 in 115 for Bayern Munich, with two league titles and a Champions League in four years.

But the veteran poacher struggled to find his best form upon joining Fiorentina for €20 million in 2013, scoring only seven Serie A goals in two seasons.

A loan spell in Turkey last season proved to be the tonic for restoring Gomez to his former glories, however, as he helped Besiktas to Super Lig success, becoming the league’s top scorer with 26 goals in the process.

Now, the man who was once the most expensive player in Bundesliga history after joining Bayern for €35 million in 2009, has moved back to Germany to join Wolfsburg in a deal worth around £6 million.

At 31, Gomez still has plenty of gas in the tank. And although he’ll never be the quickest or most dynamic striker around, the 68-cap Germany international still knows where the net is.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications.

Twitter:  @RyanBaldiEFB


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World Champions, a team in the semi-finals of the Champions League for the seventh consecutive season, and some of the best young players in Europe. It is pretty hard to argue that German football is anything other than beautifully healthy right now. However, the news today is that Mats Hummels will join Bayern for €32M at the end of the season. Some will argue that this casts a dark shadow over German football as Bayern continue to sign the best talent from their domestic rivals.

Hummels, particularly after his comments about former team-mate Mario Götze, has upset a lot of people by moving to Bayern. Borussia Dortmund are the closest they have been to Bayern since the last time they won the title – in 2011/12. The lynchpin of their defence has been linked with a transfer away from Dortmund for years, but the Dortmund fans, understandably, expected that move to be to Barcelona or another non-German club. The confirmation that Mats Hummels will follow former team-mates Robert Lewandowski and Mario Götze to the Allianz Arena is concerning for German football.

Whenever Dortmund begin to look like they could really threaten Bayern the 2013 Champions League winners nab one of their best players. It is like when a father allows his son to feel like he’ll win and then finally pips him to defeat the very end. Its cruel, it’s the hope that makes it so much harder for Dortmund fans. This time its worse than before, too. Hummels is the club captain and had been seen as a player that would not cross that footballing divide, but he now looks set to make the leap from yellow to red.

Three Bundesliga titles in a row is not just a reflection of how good Bayern are, it shows the weaknesses within the Bundesliga, too. Simply look at the performances of Bayer Leverkusen or Schalke in Europe and you can understand why some think the Bundesliga is one dimensional and why Bayern have a walk in the park. It is not beneficial to Bayern to dominate the league so heavily, nor is it good for German football as a whole.

Rivals will look to poach one another’s players in any league or country, but the regularity with which it is happening in Germany is a huge concern. The once in a blue moon transfer between Barcelona and Real Madrid is shocking, not the status quo, and that helps the football to continue to be so competitive at the top. The desire to take the best players off of your rivals is understandable, but what does it say for the Bundesliga? Why can’t the second best team in the country keep the interests of their players from the best side? It is not as if the players that are pushing for the move from Dortmund to Munich can say they want to win a Bundesliga, there is nothing to say that Borussia Dortmund can’t win it next year. Perhaps it is about potential European success. Whatever it is, it is imperative that something happens in Germany to address the balance and avoid Bayern dominance.

Although it is closer this season, Bayern won the Bundesliga by 10 points in 2014/15 and 19 points in 2013/14. Those sort of landslide victories do not make for a healthy competition, nor do they keep people interested in German domestic football. The health of the national team is not in question, but the more that the league slides towards one-team dominance, the weaker the national team will become. Mats Hummels’ transfer to Bayern Munich – should it go through – could be the start of a worrying period for the Bundesliga.

Modern day football is a business as much as it is entertainment. Businesses need competition and sport needs there to be a sense of unpredictability to keep the fans intrigued. Bayern Munich’s tactic of picking the best from their rivals, albeit sensible, is at risk of decimating the interest around the league. If Bayern continue to waltz to league title after league title the fans will quickly look elsewhere. It could even be as simple as finding a way for the other clubs to become more attractive. It is hard to understand, other than the reputation of Bayern, why a move from Dortmund to Munich makes a huge amount of sense from a footballing perspective right now. Although Ancelotti is a magnificent manager, the change coming at Bayern brings with it question marks around their 2016/17 campaign whilst Dortmund look set to compete at the pinnacle of European football once more.

About the author- Sam Cox

Sam is a writer who is a regular with Football FanCast and has featured on uMAXit, Collossus bets and Late Tackle.

twitter: @10InTheHole



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Having taken Ligue 1 by storm since making his professional debut in November, Ousmane Dembélé has been catching the eye of scouts from a host of Europe’s top clubs.

Considered the latest — and perhaps most naturally gifted – attacking player to emerge from the French production line, the 18-year-old Stade Rennais prodigy has already been lined up for a summer move to Borussia Dortmund, if German newspaper Bild is to be believed.

Dembélé’s agent moved quickly to deny the rumours of a Bundesliga switch, but it’s easy to see why BVB — or any top club for that matter — would want to snatch this young star away from the Stade de la Route-de-Lorient.

Since making his first-team debut against Bordeaux on 22 November last year – a game in which he also scored – Dembélé has amassed an impressive tally of 12 goals and five assists from 23 Ligue 1 appearances. In doing so, Dembélé has become the youngest player in the history of the French top division to reach double figures in terms of goals scored.

What sets Dembélé apart is his incredible pace and dribbling ability; dribbling skills that are further augmented by the fact that, although nominally right-footed, the France under-21 international is extremely comfortable using his weaker foot. This ambidextrousness allows Dembélé to change direction quickly and comfortably, making him an unpredictable proposition for opposing defenders.

Dembélé’s ability to effectively use either foot has also made him a versatile attacking weapon for Rennes. Indeed, in his 19 Ligue 1 starts he has played on the left of the attack five times, eight times on the right and six times as a central number 10-type attacking playmaker.

Despite a willingness to operate anywhere across the forward line, Dembélé certainly appears to prefer a central role. This notion is evidenced by his productivity in the position: seven of his eight goals have come while playing as a central attacking midfielder, along with averaging a WhoScored.com rating of 8.5 when playing through the middle.

To add to his positional versatility, Dembélé also possesses a diverse skill-set. The aforementioned dribbling skills are complimented by an assuredness in front of goal when presented with a chance. A sound striker of the ball from distance with either foot with an acute eye for a killer pass – all goes toward justifying the hype that has surrounded the young man.

In March, Dembélé registered his first professional hat-trick in a 4-1 victory over Nantes. His broad tool-box of attributes was again on full display. His first goal was a toe-poked shot from 18-yards out after a poorly cleared free-kick; a long distance free-kick which bounced in off the post gave Dembélé his second; and the treble was completed by a dribble from the half-way line, before cutting inside to beat his marker and finish neatly past the goalkeeper.

Were it not for the fact that France already boast an enviable array of attacking talent in his position – the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Anthony Martial, Dimitri Payet, Kingsley Coman and Hatem Ben Arfa – Dembélé would likely have already made his senior international debut, and be a strong contender to be included in his country’s squad for EURO 2016. As it stands, the youngster remains one for the future for France boss Didier Deschamps, but it surely won’t be long before we see Dembélé tearing apart defences for Les Bleus.

Read all about another Les Bleus star, Kinglsey Coman.

Whether or not Dembélé is set for a summer switch away from Ligue 1 remains to be seen. But purely from a style perspective, the Dortmund link makes perfect sense.

Thomas Tuchel’s men are a team who, though comfortable in possession, thrive on rapid transitions from defence to attack. The pace and ball-carrying ability of Dembélé makes him a perfect match for the Black and Yellows.

A parallel could also be drawn between Dembélé and another former Ligue 1 stand-out, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. When Aubameyang joined Dortmund from Saint Etienne in 2013, he was utilised primarily as a right-winger by then BVB boss Jürgen Klopp. But when Robert Lewandowski joined rivals Bayern Munich on a Bosman in 2014, Klopp gave Aubameyang the opportunity to replace the departing Polish international as Dortmund’s primary central striker. Aubameyang has since gone on to become one of the hottest goal-scorers on the continent, terrorising defences with his blistering pace and ever-improving finishing.

Whether at Dortmund or elsewhere, it is not too difficult to imagine Dembélé’s career taking a similar trajectory. Already a more skilled dribbler than Aubameyang, and with pace to burn, the Rennes player’s confidence in front of goal could see him leading the line at some stage.

Meanwhile, Dembélé will continue to learn his trade as a position-shifting attacker, sharpening his tools before honing in on one set position. And if he does indeed end up joining Dortmund – much will depend on whether rumours of a €100m move away from Signal Iduna Park for Aubameyang are true – his versatility will mean he is able to slot in comfortably in several positions.

Wherever Dembélé plays next season, hopefully he will be given the time to iron out the deficiencies in his game, without being under too much pressure to perform every week. The areas in which the 18-year-old’s game is lacking – understanding of defensive responsibility and decision making – are common in most players of his age. Given the time to mature, the young Frenchman promises to have a bright future

“I saw Cristiano Ronaldo come to Manchester United at the same age, and Ousmane has some of the characteristics that remind me of a young Ronaldo,” Said Rennes presidential advisor and former Manchester United defender Mikael Silvestre, when speaking to France Football. “I’m going to go out on a limb, but he could win the Ballon d’Or.”

High praise for and high expectations for Dembélé, but the young player has all the skills to back it up.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications. Ryan’s musings on European football can be found here. 

twitter: @RyanBaldiEFB



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It is testament to how good a season Borussia Dortmund are having that they sit just five points behind Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga table, despite the Bavarians having won 11 of their opening 12 matches.

Bayern have been devastatingly brilliant so far, but there is a strong argument to be made that it is Dortmund who are currently Europe’s most entertaining team.

Sunday’s 3-2 victory over Schalke in the Revierderby took their top-flight goal haul for the campaign to 35, with a further 27 netted in eight Europa League encounters and nine in two DFB-Pokal clashes. They have scored in every single game they have played this term, with an average of 2.92 strikes per game in the Bundesliga and 3.23 in all competitions.

Clean sheets have been hard to come by of late – Dortmund have recorded just one shut-out since the 3-0 triumph over Bayer Leverkusen in mid-September – but that simply adds to the sense of fun. BVB’s intention is to outscore opponents, with defending a secondary concern.

Thomas Tuchel, hired as Jurgen Klopp’s replacement in the summer, has had a terrific start to his tenure at Signal Iduna Park. The objective before the season got under way was simply to return the club to the Champions League, something that Dortmund look well on course to do.

The victory over rivals Schalke at the weekend showcased exactly what the Black and Yellows are about.

Dortmund were excellent and really should have won by a greater margin, with Schalke’s two goals – both converted by Klaas Jan-Huntelaar on the counter-attack after mistakes from Mats Hummels and Sokratis Papastathopoulos – coming in isolation from the general pattern of the game.

Although Tuchel’s charges were forced to hang on for the final 10 minutes, they dominated for the vast majority of the match. Hummels, Papastathopoulos and midfielder Julian Weigl, who dropped in between the two centre-halves to help start attacks, were frequently the only outfielders kept back by Dortmund; full-backs Matthias Ginter and Marcel Schmelzer took up high and wide positions, allowing Shinji Kagawa and Gonzalo Castro to drift infield and combine with Ilkay Gundogan, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and lone striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who has found the back of the net a rather remarkable 22 times in 20 outings.

Schalke just could not live with the sheer numbers BVB committed to their forays forward. There was good variation to the home side’s play, too: Dortmund switched between long spells of possession and short, sharp bursts forward throughout the 90 minutes.

Victory in the Revierderby is always worth more than just three points to fans of both clubs, but Tuchel will simply be happy that his team picked up their ninth league win of the season. Were Pep Guardiola’s Bayern not so exceptional, Dortmund would probably be top of the Bundesliga, while there is plenty of credence to the contention that they would be leading the way in most other European major division.

Bayern remain overwhelming favourites to secure another Bundesliga crown this year, but Dortmund’s start will give them hope that they can challenge once again.

For now, though, such talk can wait: after an excellent first three months that have seen BVB play some of the most entertaining football on the continent, fans of the Black and Yellows are simply enjoying the ride.

About the Author – Greg Lea

Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.

Twitter @GregLeaFootball


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Adnan Januzaj’s loan move from Manchester United to Borussia Dortmund during the summer transfer window was one of the biggest surprises on the transfer market. Manchester United fans in particular felt that Januzaj was ready to contribute to Manchester United’s first team, but United’s manager, the Dutchman Louis van Gaal believed that Januzaj would benefit from gaining valuable first team experience first in the German Bundesliga.

In April 2014 the Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport named Januzaj the best youngster in Europe, and Dortmund’s Neven Suboti? stated that he was surprised that Dortmund was able to land him. Furthermore, after their first game together—a friendly against St. Pauli—Suboti? stated to Germany’s Kicker Magazine that he had never seen a player with a better shot.

Januzaj, despite high expectations and praise from teammates, has failed to gain a position in Borussia Dortmund’s starting line-up. Januzaj has so far only managed 219 minutes in the Europa League, 144 minutes in the Bundesliga, and 28 minutes in the German Cup, overall he managed only two assists—one in the Bundesliga against Darmstadt, and one in the Europa League against Azerbaijan’s Qäbälä—which has led to a mediocre average whoscored.com score of 6.71.

On November 9 the German Internet platform transfermarkt.de reported that Januzaj’s lack of playing time at Dortmund has caused concern at Manchester United’s front office, and that Louis van Gaal may bring the winger back to England during the winter transfer market. Van Gaal has stated several times in the past that he wanted more speed on the wings, and that Januzaj could be a solution to that problem.

Also Januzaj appears to be unhappy with the amount of game time he has received from Dortmund’s manager Thomas Tuchel, likely due to the fact that the winger is also trying to make the Belgium squad for next summer’s European Championship in France.

Dortmund’s sporting director Michael Zorc, however, has since refuted all rumours that Januzaj could leave Dortmund in the winter. Zorc told the Kicker Magazine on Thursday that, “there is no debate on this at the moment”, and according to Zorc, Januzaj has been the victim of the fact that “the other offensive players are doing a fantastic job at the moment.”

The other offensive players would be Pierre-Emerik Aubameyang, Marco Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Shinji Kagawa, and recently Gonzalo Castro. The quintet has been largely responsible for Dortmund’s offensive power in the Bundesliga in which the club has scored 35 goals in 12 matches, resulting in 29 points in the league five points behind league leaders Bayern Munich—Dortmund’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke recently suggested that with this production rate Borussia would be the league leader in any of the other top divisions in Europe.

Januzaj has, however, also struggled at Dortmund’s training, as reports from Dortmund suggested that he arrived in Dortmund with fitness levels far below those required by the average Bundesliga player. Januzaj had to get used to the intensive training, and the up-tempo pressing game of the Bundesliga, but Zorc stated on Thursday that Januzaj’s fitness level has made progress.

Still it is remarkable that a player of Januzaj’s calibre would arrive at Dortmund without the necessary fitness to compete at the highest level, despite the fact that he had fully participated at Manchester United’s pre-season preparations. Furthermore, this is the second time that Dortmund has had to deal with a player arriving from Manchester without the necessary fitness to compete in the Bundesliga, as Shinji Kagawa only managed 60 minutes in his first Bundesliga game back from United in the summer of 2014, and had to be substituted after showing signs of exhaustion.

It took Kagawa a full season to compete at the Bundesliga level, but unlike Kagawa, Januzaj is only supposed to stay at Dortmund for the remainder of the season before returning to Manchester. Hence, the Belgium winger will have to put in extra hours both on the pitch and in the gym to compete in a league known for its up-tempo, high pressing style.

About the author – Manuel Veth

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and Editor in Chief @FutbolgradLive and writes about the economics and politics of Soviet and post-Soviet football. You can find his work at Futbolgrad.com.

twitter: @homosovieticus


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Jurgen Klopp’s infectious enthusiasm and energy make him the Heart, but it is Željko Buva? who is definitely the Brains. Together they make the perfect combination.

It’s an exciting time to be a Liverpool fan. The arrival of Jurgen Klopp has caused quite a stir and restored the faith at Anfield. The German manager is a brand, and his appointment has been seen as a clear message by the Liverpool board – Reds are aiming for the top.

Behind all the excitement there stood a problem. Liverpool wanted to keep Brendan Rodgers’ first-team staff and Sean O’Driscoll, Gary McAllister, Glen Driscool and Chris Davies were all seen as the stumbling block during the negotiations with Klopp who insisted on brining his own men. Do not attribute it to his stubbornness, it is quite simple – Klopp can not function without his people.

Best known member of Klopp’s backroom staff is definitely Željko Buva?.

Bosnian Serb born in Prijedor is not the man of many words. “I talk only when I have something to say”, Buva? said in what has perhaps been his only public statement so far. Perhaps it is a secret to his successful cooperation with his long-time friend, chatty and more verbal Jurgen Klopp. The pair played together in Mainz in the ’90s when they became inseparable friends and confidants, two ‘telepathically’ connected individuals.

“Željko is the epiphany of football reason. I learn from him every day. He is a football genius, a master of every practice drill”, Klopp used to say about his assistant.

Buva? has been working alongside Klopp for the past 14 years. Liverpool manager ended his career at 33 as the Mainz player, immediately taking reins of the only club he ever played for in his career. Klopp was anxious and scared to jump from the pitch straight on to the bench so he called his best friend to join him, and honoured the agreement the two had made – the first one to land a managerial job would bring the other to work with him. Three years of playing together with Buva? were more than enough for the pair to form an unbreakable bond.

Klopp is not ashamed to confess his every decision has to be approved by Buva?. Jurgen himself calls Željko ‘the brain’ and it was the Serb who has been credited for developing that recognizable high-speed attacking football at Borussia Dortmund which propelled Jurgen Klopp to stardom. Influence and significance of his faithful assistant have never been hidden from the public.

In fact, former BVB player Miloš Jovi? who was brought from Partizan in 2014 explained that Klopp’s first words to him were about Željko Buva?.

“He is the brain, I am the stomach. Those were the first words Klopp told me upon arrival to Dortmund. Jurgen is the one who does the talking, but Željko is the engine. They form a formidable duo”, said the Serbian midfielder.

During Klopp’s touchline suspension in 2013 when former Borussia Dortmund manager was sent of against Napoli for berating the fourth official Nuri Sahin described the pair as ‘twins’, claiming there was no difference between them in practice when Buva? took over all of the responsibilities.

“Both of them see football the same way”, he said in a testimony to pair’s vision and philosophy that has yielded some remarkable results.

Klopp and Buva? won the total of six trophies during their time in Dortmund. Back-to-back Bundesliga titles were obtained in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, along with the DFB Pokal title in the same year. Klopp’s Dortmund also won three DFL Supercups in 2008, 2013 and 2014. Most regretted results has perhaps been the defeat in Champions League final to Bayern Munich in 2012-13, but Klopp and Buva?’s tenure at Dortmund had been nothing short of amazing.

The story of two friends is filled with Shakespearean romance and will most certainly be a good addition to all the hype and atmosphere created around the Liverpool’s charismatic manager. As a club whose stature was build upon the values that are hard to find in contemporary football, Liverpool are the perfect place for Buva? and Klopp, modern-day football’s Robin Hood and Little John.

About the author – Miloš Markovic

Sports journalist from Serbia, Editor in Cheif at Sportske.net and contributor to FutbolgradLive. Worked with Inforstrada and FIFA covering Serbia’s international games during the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.

twitter: @milosemarkovicu


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Sunday’s German Klassiker—or German Clasico if you want to follow the silly trend of the German media to use the Spanish term—between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund has dominated the football media in Germany this week. In fact, you could almost forget that both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund had other important European games this weekend.

Bayern Munich played Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday in what would be the continuation of Robert Lewandowski’s goal scoring show as he scored three goals in Munich’s 5-0 win over the Croatians—Lewandowski has now scored ten goals in 8 days (five against Wolfsburg, two against FSV Mainz, and three against Zagreb).

Lewandowski has been instrumental for Bayern’s recent run of good form, and the importance of the Polish striker was especially evident against VfL Wolfsburg and Mainz. Bayern’s first half against Wolfsburg was especially disappointing, and Wolfsburg could have easily been up by two points going into the break, Bayern coach Pep Guardiola added Lewandowski at half time after which Bayern quickly dismantled the Volkswagen club. Bayern’s first half against Mainz appeared equally lethargic, and it was not until Lewandowski’s goal in the 51st minute that Bayern woke up, and quickly tallied up another two goals for a final score 3-0.

Meanwhile in Dortmund the recent euphoria has been dampened as Borussia dropped points against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and Darmstadt 98 in the last two games. Borussia’s results in fact have meant that many journalists in Germany already fear that Bayern could once again dominate the league, and easily win the title. Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung for example already declared Sunday’s encounter as the final for the German championship as a Bayern victory would see the Bavarians seven points ahead of Borussia.

It seems premature to declare the eighth round of the Bundesliga as the decisive round in the race for the German championship, and with 26 games remaining after this Sunday’s Klassiker, a Bayern victory would indeed not herald the traditional championship parade to Munich’s city hall.

Despite their first two slipups since Thomas Tuchel took over as a coach, Borussia will provide a strong challenge for Bayern at the Allianz Arena on Sunday—Tuchel now holds the starting record of any coach in Borussia history with five wins and two ties in the first seven matches. Furthermore, Dortmund easily dominated both games against Hoffenheim and Darmstadt, and under normal circumstances should have won either match easily.

Also Borussia Dortmund have their own goal scoring sensation in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Before the season kicked off Aubameyang promised that he would score 20 goals this season, he currently sits second in the goal scoring chart behind Lewandowski (ten goals) with nine goals in eight matches—his current pace means that he will easily surpass his promise of 20 goals.

Despite Aubameyang’s goal scoring progress, and Thomas Tuchel’s start record, the mood appeared sober in Dortmund. Hummels openly criticized the fact that Dortmund’s play was not clever enough to defeat Darmstadt on Sunday. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote that while both Dortmund and Bayern appear on the same level, Bayern still has that cleverness ahead of Borussia. Had Bayern been in the same situation as Dortmund they would have played on to add a third goal and put the game to rest—the Sueddeutsche Zeitung argued.

Indeed the Sueddeutsche Zeitung has a point. Last season for example Bayern had a perfect record against teams from the lower end of the table. In fact it was that perfect record that secured the Bavarians the championship as Bayern had a poor record against the top four in the Bundesliga. In the six games against Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen, and Borussia Mönchengladbach last season Bayern only managed two wins, one tie, and lost three with a goal differential of 4:9—making them last in that mini-table, in what is a wonderful argument against Premier League fans who believe that the Bundesliga is not competitive. Furthermore, Bayern also lost last year’s DFB-Pokal (German Cup) semi-final to Borussia Dortmund.

With Bayern’s recent fantastic form, and Borussia Dortmund appearing once again as the closest challenger to Bayern’s hegemony Sunday’s Klassiker should be one of the best, and is certainly a must watch for football fans around the world.

About the author – Manuel Veth

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and Editor in Chief @FutbolgradLive and writes about the economics and politics of Soviet and post-Soviet football. You can find his work at Futbolgrad.com.

twitter: @homosovieticus


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After four games with four victories and twelve points, Borussia Dortmund are on top of the Bundesliga table—on even points with the current champion Bayern Munich. Dortmund, under new coach Thomas Tuchel, now look to be the closest competitor to Bayern Munich, which is aiming to win an unprecedented fourth Bundesliga title in a row.

When speaking to the German magazine Kicker after Dortmund’s 4-2 victory against Hannover 96, Borussia captain Mats Hummel pointed out that the gap to Bayern has become “a lot, lot, smaller. Now the top is once again tight.” The reasons for Dortmund’s resurgence are manifold. Players like the Armenian attacking midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan, the Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa, and the German defender Matthias Ginter have experienced a genuine renaissance under Thomas Tuchel. Kagawa returned from Manchester United last season, but took a full season to develop the necessary fitness to readapt to the high power football of the Bundesliga.

Mkhitaryan was brought in from Shakhtar Donetsk as a replacement for Mario Götze in 2013, and although the Armenian provided glimpses of his potential in the last two seasons, he failed to truly replace Götze. This is especially manifested by several statistics: Last season his pass completion rate fell to 73.5%, which was far below what is expected of a player of his calibre. Götze, for example, playing in his last season at Dortmund in 2013-14, had a pass completion rate of 83.4%. But perhaps even worse than his passing was Mkhitaryan’s inability to score goals last season at Dortmund—he only managed 3 goals in 28 appearances, a far cry from the 25 goals he scored two years ago for Shakhtar Donetsk.

Then in March, Germany’s Die Welt newspaper added Mkhitaryan to a list of players who exemplified Dortmund’s poor transfer policy, and stated “at no point has the player justified the high transfer sum that the club paid for him in June 2013.”

Mkhitaryan’s poor form was accompanied by rumours that he was unhappy at the club. One source close to the player told me that Mkhitaryan was displeased that Borussia coach Jürgen Klopp had moved him away from the centre midfield position to the wings were he felt that he was not as well integrated in the game. The same source also suggested that Mkhitaryan has had a hard time being accepted in the Borussia Dortmund dressing room, and that at times he felt that players intentionally ignored him on the pitch. This story was further supported by an interview that Mkhitaryan’s agent Mino Raiola gave in February in which he said: “Henrikh wants to leave Dortmund at the end of the season” and added that he was dissatisfied with his life in Germany.

All of this, however, seems to have been forgotten, as, under new coach Tuchel, Mkhitaryan’s career seems to be back on track: In the first four Bundesliga games this season, Mkhitaryan scored three goals in four Bundesliga games, including a wonderful goal against Hannover this weekend, and also managed to score five goals in Dortmund’s four Europa League qualifying matches. Furthermore, Mkhitaryan’s pass completion rate has also improved to 79.9%, despite the fact that Tuchel has used him mostly as a left-winger, or as a left forward in a 4-3-3 formation.

What is most striking about Mkhitaryan’s return to form is the fact that Tuchel did not move him back to his favourite position in centre midfield, and that, in his new position, Mkhitaryan has been able to integrate himself well to Borussia’s new playing style.

Another player who has regained his form under Tuchel is the 21 year old defender Matthias Ginter. Ginter was part of Germany’s squad that won the World Cup last summer, but after his transfer from SC Freiburg to Dortmund last summer, failed to find his place in Dortmund’s squad under Jürgen Klopp. There were rumours that Ginter could leave Dortmund this summer and move to Borussia Mönchengladbach. Ginter, like Mkhitaryan, remained in Dortmund, however, and Tuchel has since redeveloped the player as a right defender, where Ginter is expected to play much more offensively. Ginter has reacted marvellously to his conversion to offensive right defender and has said “I never played this far forward my entire career.” For Ginter, his transformation to right defender could also lead to a return to the national team, as Germany is notoriously short staffed on right defenders.

The man primarily responsible for Dortmund’s resurgence is Thomas Tuchel; since he inheriting Dortmund from Jürgen Klopp, he has only made small adjustments to the squad but has re-invented the play of several key players. Dortmund now looks poised to once again challenge Bayern for the league title.

About the author – Manuel Veth

Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and Editor in Chief @FutbolgradLive and writes about the economics and politics of Soviet and post-Soviet football. You can find his work at Futbolgrad.com.

twitter: @homosovieticus


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