The transfer merry-go-round was in full-swing at the Signal Iduna Park this summer with no fewer than seven players signed by Borussia Dortmund and new coach Lucien Favre, but for club captain Marco Reus the acquisition of Axel Witsel is the most important.
Die Schwarzgelben took until the final day of the 2017/18 campaign to be assured of UEFA Champions League football this season and there was little surprise that the club went on a recruitment drive in pre-season.
Witsel’s move from Tianjin Quanjian was not the only one which made headlines – with Achraf Hakimi (signed from Real Madrid), Abdou Diallo (Mainz) and Thomas Delaney (Werder Bremen) among those sharing column inches – but his impact has been the most keenly felt thus far.
Trailing Greuther Fürth in the DFB Cup first round last Monday, Witsel replaced Delaney for the final half hour and had a timely impact, shoring up the midfield before scoring a 95th-minute equaliser. Reus assisted the Belgian’s debut goal before sealing the win himself, but he reserved special praise for his new teammate.
“[Witsel] has a big character,” the 29-year-old forward told Kicker. “When he came on you could see that he was exactly what we needed. We’re now very well stocked in this position.”
Witsel, capped 96 times for his country, faces competition from Delaney, Mahmoud Dahoud and the returning Julian Weigl for a deeper central midfield berth, but his work at either end of the pitch should see him get the nod against RB Leipzig on Sunday.
“We didn’t sign him to score goals,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc. “But this time it helped!”