Of all the summer Bundesliga transfers concluded thus far, the one that stands out head and shoulders above the rest in terms of surprise is surely Mats Hummels’ return to Borussia Dortmund. The centre back has traded the champions for the title chasers. Who has got the best deal on this transfer- Bayern or BVB? Will it pay off? What are the pros and cons of the move? BundesligaFanatic takes a look……
The whispers that Borussia Dortmund were planning on bringing defender Mats Hummels back to the Signal Iduna Park began last week, quickly became murmurs and then turned into shouts. The Schwarzgelben have now concluded a €31.5 million deal which could rise to €38 million with bonusses added in.
Hans-Joachim Watzke after splashing the cash to bring in attacking talents like Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard as well as attacking full-back Nico Schulz has turned to 30-year-old Hummels to hopefully be the final piece of the puzzle, which will see Dortmund going one better next season and lifting the Meisterschale.
The missing piece
Borussia Dortmund missed out on the Bundesliga title last season by a mere two points. The fact that they missed out on ending Bayern’s league dominance by such a slim margin had less to do with their attacking prowess, but more to do with defensive and mental frailties. The acquisition of Mats Hummels is a clear move to rectify both these issues.
Without analysing every single dropped point from BVB last season, it is fairly easy to pinpoint a few games where they clearly let themselves down defensively and failed to show the psychological strength needed to become champions of Germany. 3-0 up against Hoffenheim on matchday 21, BVB endured a second half collapse which saw Julian Nagelsmann’s side claw themselves back to 3-3.
The 5-0 debacle at the Allianz Arena showed that the gulf between the two sides was much bigger than the Hinrunde had perhaps suggested and Bayern showed in clinical style that they were the top dogs. Hummels tellingly showed his class in the match scoring Bayern’s first goal and oozing quality playing out from the back and pushing Robert Lewandowski close for the Man of the Match award.
Three games later a 4-2 home loss to bitter rivals Schalke put the final nail in the BVB title-winning coffin with holes at the back costing Lucien Favre’s side dearly. Favre should be commended highly for his first season in Dortmund, but for all their attacking flair, the lack of a leader in defence proved costly.
The season began well with 22-year-olds Manuel Akanji and Abdou Diallo the first-choice centre-back pairing. 19-year-old Dan Axel Zagadou came in after injury to Diallo, but later in the season Favre was forced to play Julian Weigl as a makeshift central defender. BVB’s average age for their back four last season was 23.
Had Dortmund had a player of Hummel’s quality and experience to turn to- would that two-point gap have been there at the end of the season?
Still the best?
Bundestrainer Joachim Löw may have decided that Hummels’ international career is over, but in the Bundesliga he still remains in many people’s eyes the best centre back in the league. Statistics from last season certainly add weight to the case. The esteemed Kicker Sportmagazin voted him this week as the Bundesliga’s best central defender and his performances (particularly in the Rückrunde) were proof enough of that.
He averaged 70 completed passes per game last season, won an average of 10 challenges and won close to 70% of is aerial challenges. He is a threat at set-pieces going forward, although he was limited to just one goal last season (against Dortmund!).
His ability to bring the ball out from the back and play accurate forward passes will improve Dortmund and his experience is sure to be of a massive help to the relatively inexperienced Akanji, Diallo and Zagadou.
Second time syndrome
Dortmund have made quite a habit in recent years of re-signing their former players after big money moves to other big clubs. Down the years we have seen Mario Götze, Shinji Kagawa, Nuri Sahin all lured away from Dortmund, only to return some seasons later. In all three cases it is hard to argue that any of the returnees refound their original form with BVB and were paler imitations of their former Dortmund selves.
The romantic attraction of bringing back a prodigal son can often not be rewarded with the same impact on the pitch. Kagawa and Sahin were welcomed back with gusto, but neither were the same player as before. Hummels has the added burden of the schism caused with the fans following his move to Bayern.
It will be very interesting to see how the return of Mats Hummels will go down amongst the fans. Will the Yellow Wall on the Südtribune welcome him back with open arms, or will the fact that his departure to Bayern left a nasty taste in the mouth linger in the minds of the supporters?
“He really wants this” sporting director Michael Zorc told Funke Sport this week. “Otherwise he wouldn’t have done something like this. It is not an easy step to take. It’s another revamp for him. I like it.”
Sections of the fans let Hummels know in no uncertain terms their disgust/ disappointment when news broke that he was moving to Bayern. The example of Mario Götze will give him hope that he can earn redemption in front of the BVB fans, but a lot will depend on his level of performance and impact.
If he gives Dortmund that extra 5% they lacked last season, then all will be well, and bygones will be bygones. Any mistakes defensively, and he’ll be the unwanted pensioner tainted by his previous defection to the Bavarian enemy.
While a lot of the pro arguments concern what Dortmund will gain, one of the cons is more to do with what Bayern Munich are going to be losing. There is a real danger that the transfer could come back and bite them should Hummels in fact prove the decisive factor in BVB pipping the Bavarians to next season’s title.
With both Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard arriving this summer and Niklas Süle establishing himself as the club’s defensive lynchpin, those in charge at the Sabener Strasse have decided that they don’t need Hummels.
With Jerome Boateng also potentially on his way, that puts a lot of pressure on both Hernandez and Pavard to settle instantly and slip seamlessly into the Bayern back line. Any injuries or loss of form (Pavard didn’t exactly shine with relegated VfB Stuttgart last season) could leave them regretting the sale of the dependable Hummels.
Bayern could ultimately end up receiving more money for Hummels than they paid for him back in 2016. The profit alone won’t mean anything if the defender does prove to be the missing piece of Dortmund’s puzzle and helps them usurp Bayern as the dominant team in the Bundesliga. Will Messers Hoeness and Rummenigge regret improving the BVB starting XI?
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