Whenever a superstar footballer is involved in a transfer, the deal is usually a costly one. As football has developed, the market has too, meaning the more money in the game, the higher the value of a player.

Every summer, it seems to keep increasing, and ‘value’ is relative. Perspective is the most important factor when judging a big money move, because while it can appear a club has paid over the odds, with the pace in which the game moves, there is a fear of being left behind if they don’t act.

It is easy to fall into the trap of taking a player’s ability for granted and assuming they will succeed wherever they go, but they are human beings and nobody is perfect. Factors can take effect and sometimes the hype just isn’t matched on the pitch. Here are ten examples of players failing to justify their high-end fees.

1. Gianluigi Lentini – Torino to AC Milan for £13million, 1992.

At the height of their powers in the late 1980s and early 90s, Milan could do no wrong under Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Cappello. At the forefront of Italian football, the Rossoneri were defensively strong with frightening talent up front, and Lentini was fully expected to compliment the likes of Marco van Basten, while adding a wide option, aided by his phenomenal dribbling skills.

While he remained at the San Siro for four years and winning three Serie A titles and the Champions League under, Lentini never quite reached the heights promised by what at the time was a world record transfer fee. A car crash in 1993 overshadowed his career, and he couldn’t fully recover having fractured his skull and damaged his eye socket aged just 24.

2. Mario Gotze – Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich for £32million, 2013.

There are a lot of achievements in his career that Mario Gotze can rightfully be proud of. In 2014, at the age of 22, he scored the winner for Germany in the World Cup final against Argentina. It was a moment that, had it come a few years later, would probably have defined his career.

But people always expect more, and it is easy to forget Gotze’s age. Having shot to fame at Borussia Dortmund, he appeared to sever all ties with them when he joined Bayern, but three tough years, in which he struggled for regular action under Pep Guardiola, stifled his development.

Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival in place of Manchester City-bound Guardiola didn’t stop the prodigal son returning to the Signal Iduna Park with his tail firmly between his legs earlier this summer.

3. Andriy Shevchenko – AC Milan to Chelsea for £30million, 2006.

Still in it’s infancy, Roman Abramovich’s power and success driven reign at Chelsea reached new heights when the Blues lured perhaps the world’s best striker to Stamford Bridge in 2006, reportedly against the wishes of then boss Jose Mourinho.

Just three years earlier, the Ukrainian hitman had scored the winning penalty in the Champions League final for Milan against Juventus, before missing a similarly huge one at the same stage against Liverpool two years after that.

Overall, he netted 127 goals in 208 Serie A games during seven years at the San Siro, but could score just nine in 48 in two Premier League seasons before returning to the Rossoneri for a failed loan spell.

4. Fernando Torres – Liverpool to Chelsea for £50million, 2011.

In a similar story to Shevchenko, Chelsea swooped for Fernando Torres on deadline day in January 2011, after the Spaniard had lit up Anfield in three and a half years at Liverpool.

His record of 20 league goals in 110 games is not deserving of a £50million player, and he never really hit the form of his days as a Red, but Torres did have some great moments with Chelsea.

En route to winning the Champions League in his first full season, he scored the clinching goal in the semi final against Barcelona.

He’ll be fondly remembered in West London despite his struggles, but fans will be disappointed they never saw the best of him.

5. Radamel Falcao – Atletico Madrid to Monaco for £50million, 2013.

Nicknamed ‘El Tigre’ and probably the man who took Torres’ mantle as the hottest striker on the planet while with Atletico Madrid, Radamel Falcao had his pick of the world’s elite when he departed, having won back to back Europa League titles, first with FC Porto and then Los Rojiblancos, in 2011 and 2012.

But that summer, he surprised the world by choosing to sign for newly-rich Monaco. While his early goal record in the Principality was as prolific as ever, following a record of 52 goals in 68 La Liga games for Atleti, but a serious knee injury a few months later has haunted him since.

Loan moves to Manchester United and Chelsea promised much, but he was never the same player. Now 30, he is back at Monaco looking for anything close to his best form.

6. Denilson – Sao Paulo to Real Betis for £21.5million, 1998.

To break the world transfer record at the age of 18, talent must be unquestionable, and that was the case with former Brazil midfielder Denilson when he joined Real Betis in 1998.

What did raise doubts, however, were his temperament and desire to fulfil his otherworldly potential. Although he earned 60 caps for his country and stayed at Betis for seven years, a move to one of Europe’s truly elite clubs never came, and he ended his career in 2010 having jumped aimlessly from continent to continent.

7. Gaizka Mendieta – Valencia to Lazio for £30million, 2001.

Two successive Champions League final defeats at the beginning of the century had not taken anything away from Gaizka Mendieta, who was the most sought after player around in the summer of 2001.

At the time, Lazio were a huge draw, having won Serie A a year earlier, and they struck a deal to bring Mendieta to Rome. But after making 230 league appearances at the Mestalla, he only racked up 20 in three years at the Stadio Olympico, while also taking loan spells at Barcelona and Middlesbrough at that time.

8. Robinho – Real Madrid to Manchester City for £32.5million, 2008.

Throughout the summer of 2008, Robinho was a target for Chelsea and so desperately wanted to leave the Santiago Bernabeu and Real Madrid.

As is becoming more and more typical, the saga rolled on all summer but the Blues couldn’t clinch a deal. On the final day of the summer transfer window, Manchester City were taken over by Sheikh Mansour, and with money to burn stole in to sign the 24-year-old.

But Robinho himself didn’t know who he had signed for when asked for his thoughts on international duty, claiming he thought he’d joined Chelsea after all.

That really set the tone. Brilliant in places but only netting twice away from home in his debut season, he was shipped on loan to Santos after 18 months before being sold to AC Milan.

9. Juan Sebastian Veron – Lazio to Manchester United for £28million, 2001.

While the Red Devils have entered the market for established superstars more since Sir Alex Ferguson, the capture of Veron was arguably the last true showing of their financial muscle in comparison to others.

Another of the most wanted in the world, Veron arrived with a huge reputation as an Argentina international. Technique and composure on the ball were no problem but the pace and physicality of the English game was too much for him. He was sold to Chelsea in the early Abramovich days for £15million.

10. Kaka – AC Milan to Real Madrid for £58million, 2009.

Some players earn the right to break the world transfer record, and Kaka was certainly one of them. Still riding the wave from his Ballon d’Or win in 2007, having inspired Milan to the Champions League that year, he became a new Galactico in Madrid president Florentino Perez’s second spell at the helm.

He promised much, obviously, but injuries and a lack of the big personality desired to succeed in the Spanish capital, and he eventually returned to Milan before joining Orlando City in MLS via a loan spell at Sao Paulo.

About the author – Harry De Cosemo

Harry is a European football writer specialising in English, Spanish and Italian football. He has worked for a number of top publications including MARCA in English, uMAXit football, FourFourTwo, Squawka and the Press Association.

twitter: @harrydecosemo


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Amid all of the chaos that is the summer transfer window, spare a thought for Thomas Tuchel. The Borussia Dortmund manager took the reins at Signal Iduna Park last year and — after inheriting a side low on confidence, that had finished seventh in the previous Bundesliga campaign – rejuvenated BVB and transformed them back into title contenders.

And just as the former Mainz 05 coach would have been planning a summer holiday in which he could put his feet up and admire his 12 months of handy-work, the exodus began.

Captain Mats Hummels announced his desire to return to Bayern Munich, midfielder Ilkay Gündoğan joined Manchester City, and playmaker extraordinaire Henrikh Mkhitaryan forced a move to Manchester United.

Three of the players around which Tuchel had built his new-look Dortmund side, gone. A team which had finished runners-up in the title race to Pep Guardiola’s Bayern, with a points tally of 78 – which would have been enough to secure first place in all but four seasons in Bundesliga history – had been dismantled.

But rather than sit around and lick their wounds, Dortmund immediately set around rebuilding the pieces of their shattered side, by acquiring some of the brightest young talents on the continent, as well as a couple of experienced heads to steady the ship.

In has come Sebastian Rode from Bayern, and Marc Bartra from FC Barcelona. Rode is a workmanlike midfielder with plenty of Bundesliga experience. He will be unlikely to pull up trees with his performances, but he is tactically astute and won’t let Tuchel down.

Bartra, now 25, is a full international for Spain, and a product of Barça’s famed La Masia youth academy. Although undoubtedly a downgrade in overall quality when compared with Hummels, Bartra’s ability to bring the ball out of defence and pass forward accurately will mean that Dortmund can usher in the post-Hummels era with little need for a tactical rethink.

Another Spaniard, 20-year-old Mikel Merino, has been signed from Osasuna. Much like Julian Weigl, who moved to Dortmund last summer after captaining 1860 Munich in the Bundesliga 2 at the same age, Merino has been a regular for Osasuna in the Spanish Segunda División for the last two seasons. Tuchel will likely use the 6ft 2in midfielder sparingly next season, but he has been recruited because his skill-set and temperament will allow him to transition to top-flight football with ease

Left-back Raphaël Guerrero has already got BVB fans excited by the prospect of seeing him in the famous yellow shirt next season, thanks to his impressive displays for Portugal at Euro 2016. The 22-year-old has been signed from Lorient, where he was consistently excellent last season. Blessed with pace, skill and a wand of a left foot, the young Portuguese is regarded as one of the finest young full-backs in Europe, and will provide competition for long-time fan-favourite Marcel Schmelzer on the left side of Dortmund’s defence.

Emre Mor has been playing senior football for less than a year, but already the 18-year-old has appeared for Turkey at the European Championship and sealed a move to BVB.

Mor is a pacey, skilful winger who, despite his small stature, in unafraid to take a leading role in his team’s attacks. Signed from Danish side FC Nordsjælland, Mor is another player who is likely to be introduced gradually to first-team action, but the gifted youngster has all the attributes to succeed in the Bundesliga.

Dortmund’s most exciting summer recruit, and perhaps one of the coups of this transfer window, is Ousmane Dembélé, who has been signed from Rennes for a fee in the region of £12 million.

The 19-year-old Frenchman, like Mor, only made his professional debut last season. But that didn’t stop Dembélé from setting Ligue 1 alight with a series of dazzling displays. The Vernon-born youngster is genuinely two-footed, meaning his defence-shredding dribbles are completely unpredictable for opposing defenders, as he is able to move sharply in either direction.

With his 12 goals and five assists in the French top league last season, Dembélé caught the eye of scouts from all of Europe’s elite clubs. But Dortmund moved quickly to sign him, fending off interest from Bayern as well as from the Premier League.

Able to play on either flank or centrally as a number 10, Dembélé’s eye for a defence-splitting pass and ability to shoot powerfully and accurately with either foot, mark him out as one of the continent’s brightest talents. Former Manchester United defender turned Rennes presidential advisor, Mikaël Silvestre, has likened Dembélé to a young Cristiano Ronaldo, and tipped the teenager to be a future Ballon d’Or contender.

And the Yellow and Blacks haven’t closed their chequebook yet, with the confirmation today that former star Mario Götze has returned from an unsuccessful spell at Bayern and rumours of a move for André Schürrle gathering pace.

The options for how Tuchel will line his side up next season are almost endless, but a 4-3-3 starting Bürki – Piszczek, Sokratis, Bartra, Guerrero – Kagawa, Weigl, Castro – Dembélé, Aubamayang, Reus, would serve the 42-year-old German coach very well. A place for the likes of Mor, Merino and Rode can be found on a rotational basis, and Götze (and potentially Schürrle if signed), can easily slot into the front three.

Despite the loss of some key players, Dortmund fans can rest assured that Tuchel will be able to keep them nipping at Bayern’s heels in the title race.

And, having held on to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus, while adding some of the hottest young prospects in the game, there is plenty of reason for excitement at Signal Iduna Park next season.

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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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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Mahmoud Dahoud made his debut for Borussia Mönchengladbach on 28 August 2014, aged 18, in a 7-0 win against FK Sarajevo during a Europa League play-off fixture. However, his Bundesliga debut didn’t come until April 2015 when he came off the bench against Borussia Dortmund.

Dahoud had long been talked about as one of the next big things in German football even before he made his debut for Gladbach, but the Syrian-born German was virtually unknown by many until this season.

Affectionately known as “Mo” by his team-mates, he has gone from strength-to-strength since making his first league start against FC Köln on 19 September 2015 and has since become a regular.

Having a technically gifted box-to-box midfielder on Soccer Manager can help you win games!

The box-to-box midfielder has put in eye-catching displays against both Eintracht Frankfurt and league leaders Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, and he has also played with confidence against Juventus and Manchester City in the Champions League.

With 4 goals and 8 assists so far this season, on paper, his stats look very impressive, but they only paint part of the picture. Dahoud is technically brilliant and dictates play from deep in a similar style to that of Andrea Pirlo.

He plays with confidence, and he is always looking to receive possession. He possesses an amazing range of passing and can split open a defence with a killer pass. He’s an intelligent player that reads the game well, and he knows when to play short passes or play longer balls to set Gladbach up for a counter-attack.

His defensive work is also excellent as he is clinical in the tackle. He has a great positional sense and despite his slender frame, he manages to block multiple opponents.

Dahoud is quickly developing into the complete box-to-box midfielder and has been rumoured to replace İlkay Gündoğan at Borussia Dortmund. He has also caught the eye of Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola, who has identified him as his first Manchester City signing, but they also face competition from city rivals Manchester United and title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur.

Earlier in the year, Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl stated: “Dahoud is not for sale. We are a hungry club, and we need every good player.” However, a significant offer from England might persuade Eberl to change his mind, and if that happened then, the Premier League would be blessed with one of Europe’s best up-and-coming box-to-box midfielders next season.



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Reschedule everything you have planned for this weekend; it has some of the best matches of this season so far. Germany, Italy, England and Portugal, all of those countries are giving us the perfect reason to sit back on our couches and enjoy some titanic clashes amongst great footballing rivals. But which teams are we talking about exactly? To answer that, let me take you on a quick tour around Europe.

Let’s make our first stop at the Signal Iduna Park, in Dortmund. Well, when the league leaders go up against second place, it has all the makings of a match to remembered for a long time to come. When the clubs involved are Dortmund and Bayern Munich, all eyes will be on those decisive 90 minutes, where a top-form Borussia will clash against a solid leader in Bayern. The current champions are still trying to understand how they managed to lose at home in their last fixture against a much inferior 1. FSV Mainz 05. The two teams are separated by a very thin margin of 5 points, which can be decisive for Dortmund: if they win, the title is still in their grasp; if they lose, or even draw, they are practically giving the Bayern players their championship medals. The Signal Iduna Park will be full of supporters awaiting to see if Thomas Tuchel’s pupils can defeat the fierce and well-organized Die Roten. It’s truly the one rivalry that will ultimately decide everything.            

Next stop takes us to the Italian capital and former center of the world, Rome. Although it isn’t a match with the same level of decisiveness as Dortmund vs. Bayern, the AS Roma vs. Fiorentina may be the match that throws one of those teams off track from conquering the Scudetto. Although Roma are in third place, Fiorentina are hot in their pursuit, shadowing their every move – both teams have 53 points. The winner will almost guarantee their place on the podium along with a chance of keeping their title dreams alive and access to the Champions League playoffs. For the losing team, the Scudetto becomes almost impossible. You have my promise of a very intense game, in a word… Italian. What else?

On what should make our Saturday a lot more enjoyable, we now move on to what should be a thrilling North-London derby. In my opinion, the real clash will happen on the bench: two world-class managers, Mauricio Pochettino and Arsène Wenger, will be face to face in one of the most nerve-racking games of the season. Spurs are only 3 points ahead of The Gunners, and Wenger will surely encourage his team to play offensive and quick football, with the certainty that it will be different from the last fixture against Swansea, which ended up with a disappointing defeat. But with the match being played at White Hart Lane, Tottenham will have the advantage. A win is the one result that matters for both teams, and the hope that Watford surprise Leicester is the only thing both teams have in common. Two great and ambitious sides collide: who will be able to catch Leicester at the top of the league?

Last, but not least, there’s the oldest and most famous Portuguese derby of all time: Sporting Lisbon vs. SL Benfica. Being Portuguese myself, it’s easy to say that this will be the match that I’ll watch more closely, for a simple reason: this clash between the two eternal rivals is the one that will decide the 2015/2016 Portuguese champions. A single point divides the two teams, and Sporting will fight with all of their strength to increase that gap to 4 points. On the other side, we have a motivated SL Benfica, anxious to get their revenge for the 3 defeats they have suffered so far in derbies and jump ahead of their rivals at the top of the league. A tough match, for all teams (including the referees), and the answer is really in who will want it more.

Four of the most interesting derbies mark this weekend, and all of them are crucial. This weekend may determine champions and runner-ups, and we, as football lovers from all around the world, must be sure to not miss a bit of them. What a weekend it will be so let’s sit back and enjoy.

About the author – Luis Costa

Luis has a great passion for football and has been playing Soccer Manager for 5 years. He played semi-professional for 13 years and is currently a regional referee in Madeira’s football association.


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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 score of 6.71.

On November 9 the German Internet platform 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

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

twitter: @homosovieticus


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