All good things have to come to an end. A case currently none more truethan for Ruhr valley side who have seen more ups and downs in the last decade than most clubs experience in their entire history. While this season will go down as a success as a whole, the last two weeks have certainly been a morale crusher in the eyes of Borussia Dortmund fans. Exiting the Europa League in the most dramatic fashion (eerily similar to Dortmund’s quarter-final win against Malaga a few seasons ago) and slipping seven points from the top of the Bundesliga pretty much leaves all hopes of silverware resting in the DFB Pokal final, with the not-so-small matter of Bayern Munich to defeat to earn that trophy.
With some negativity swarming the club at a time like this, difficulties snowball quickly. With reports swirling that star defender Mats Hummels would be leaving the club for the red side of Munich, amid additional speculation that İlkay Gündoğan and other BvB stalwarts may be leaving, uneasy feelings among fans of the yellow-blacks have been building.
Today Dortmund officially announced that Hummels has requested a transfer to Bayern Munich, so it certainly looks like he’s departing the Ruhr Valley if a transfer fee can be worked out. Dortmund management, who’ve shown considerable ability in replacing departed stars with quality newcomers, have certainly been considering their options in finding a potential replacement for Hummels, as they seem to live by the adage that failing to plan is planning to fail. And options exist, within the club, and outside of it.
The In-house option- Matthias Ginter
When Matthias Ginter was brought from SC Freiburg in 2014 by Jans Joachim Watzke and Michel Zorc, it was with the intention to have a quality back-up in the case of a situation much like this. Like Hummels, Ginter (22 year sold) is a great passer from the back, sensible in the challenge and a colossus in the air. While this season he has thrived playing in defensive midfield and at full-back, he most definitely would prefer playing in the heart of defence and, if his impressive showing against VFB Stuttgart is anything to go by, then he is more than ready to transition back into is old position.
Clearly, the 6’3″ Ginter still has a way to go to before he can come under the ‘World Class’ bracket, but Hummels’ departure could be that very spark to turn him into the player everyone expects he will be. Despite some being dismissive of his contributions, Ginter’s three goals and five assists in league play this season have been a plus. Additionally, he’s won 62% of his aerial challenges while completing 82% of his pass attempts… without drawing a card in over 1800 Bundesliga minutes, indicating maturity beyond his years. With over 100 Bundesliga appearances already under his belt, the answer as to who could successfully replace Hummels may well already be in the Dortmund locker room.
The big money option- Shkodran Mustafi
The Bad Hersfeld Native has been on Dortmund’s radar ever since his €8 million move to Valencia CF. A largely unknown entity when he was with the Hamburg Junior teams and the Everton U 21’s, he chose Serie A competition with Sampdoria to hone his craft in the league known for its defending expertise.
The 24-year-old defensive stalwart has greatly contributed to Valencia’s fine run last season which led them to the bright lights of the Champions league, and although things haven’t been the same due to a host of changes at the helm of the club, Mustafi’s stock is still high and for good reason. More like Sokratis Papastathopoulos than Hummels, his reading of the game, tackling and sheer physical presence prove to be huge obstacles for any forward. The defender with over 125 appearances in Italy and Spain is likely to cost upwards of €30 million, so this move could only materialise if Dortmund are ready to really loosen their purse strings this summer to sign one world champion to replace another.
The ‘it could happen, right?’ option- Marc Bartra
Not a lot of Barcelona players get linked to other clubs in the media. And why would they when you are a part of one of the best sides in history. Bartra, a graduate of Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy, had to wait his chance to move up into the first team like most of their youth products. But with older and more experienced players in the likes of Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Jeremey Mathieu and even Thomas Vermaelen in reserve, it is no surprise that Bartra didn’t have his opportunity to blossom into the defender he can be. What better club to move to than the one creating world-class talents by the truckload?
Bartra would undoubtedly thrive under Thomas Tuchel’s style of play, one that is not dissimilar to the possession oriented game he had been immersed in at an early age in Spain. The move would be another potential shrewd signing for Watzke as Bartra’s contract only runs till the summer of 2017 and he seems desperate to engineer a move out of the club for lack of game time. Like Mustafi, Bartra is six-feet tall, and like both the Valencia man and Ginter, he’s had some senior men’s squad international experience in addition to coming up the national youth ranks. Could the stars finally align to sanction the transfer of Bartra to yellower pastures?
Who do you think could replace Hummels at Borussia Dortmund? Leave your answers in the comments below.
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