Borussia Dortmund are keen to close the gap to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga next season and have, accordingly, been one of the busiest clubs in the summer transfer window. Achraf Hakimi, Thomas Delaney, Abdou Diallo, Marius Wolf and Marwin Hitz are among the players to have arrived at the Signal Iduna Park…
New coach Lucien Favre has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal for 2018/19. What will the new boys bring to the BVB squad? bundesliga.com takes a closer look.
Signed from: Real Madrid
What to expect: A marauding full-back almost as happy attacking as defending.
Comparatively tall for a right-back at 5’11”, Hakimi likes to stick close to his opposition winger and is tenacious in trying to win the ball back. His pace allows him to plug gaps in his team’s defence as well as support the wide man playing in front of him. Zinedine Zidane promoted the 19-year-old to Real Madrid first-team last season – in nine games deputising for Dani Carvajal, Hakimi helped his side to four clean sheets and chipped in with two goals.
Another useful asset is his versatility. Right-footed, Hakimi played all three of Morocco’s games at the FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer on the left flank. Lukasz Piszczek remains a world-class operator for BVB, but having turned 33 in June it’s possible he won’t repeat his 24 Bundesliga starts last term. Dortmund’s best left-back remains up for debate, meanwhile. Is it Marcel Schmelzer? Raphael Gurreiro? Jeremy Toljan? Expect to see Hakimi given chance to impress down either side in 2018/19.
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Hakimi could have played for Spain. Born in Madrid to parents of Moroccan descent, Hakimi grew up in the Spanish capital’s suburb, Getafe, and joined Real’s youth academy at the age of eight. As young as 15 he made it clear that he planned to play for the Atlas Lions, though. “Playing with the Moroccan team is a dream that I want to achieve,” he said. Two years later those dreams came true, with Hakimi making his debut in a 4-0 win over Canada in Marrakesh.
Position: Central midfielder
Signed from: Werder Bremen
What to expect: A bustling box-to-box midfielder whose head never goes down
Delaney arrived in the Bundesliga with Bremen last summer after amassing nearly 250 games with hometown club FC Copenhagen, for whom he was named captain at 22. A full Danish international, the midfielder was still something of an unknown quantity in Germany, though. Thirty-two Bundesliga games later, 31 of them starts, and the picture became abundantly clear: Delaney was and is a leader. Only Augsburg defender-from-the-front Caiuby (501) contested more challenges than Delaney’s 432 last season, yet he only picked up five yellow cards.
Watch: Thomas Delaney: bowling over Bundesliga fans from the start
Left-footed, Delaney adds balance to a team left-to-right as well as front-to-back. Not particularly prolific, he nonetheless hates losing. Delaney’s three league goals last term were equalisers in draws against Dortmund and Hertha Berlin, as well as the first in the comeback from 2-0 down against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 25. Nuri Sahin – BVB’s only other left-footed midfielder – has the silk; Delaney will provide some much needed steel.
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The USA tried to call Delaney up for their 2012 Summer Olympic Games campaign. Copenhagen-born Delaney’s paternal great-grandfather emigrated to the USA from Ireland before the family moved onto Denmark, and he might have been eligible. “They were very interested,” Delaney recalled in Alexi Lalas' State of the Union podcast. “I don't know how far I went when considering it… I'm not so connected to the U.S., so I decided I’ll give it a shot for Denmark.”
Thursday: 25 years old, 0 international goals.— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) September 5, 2017
Monday: 26 years old, 4 international goals.
What are your birthday plans this year? 🎉 pic.twitter.com/mTvePLwbDn
He gave it four shots in one short week last September. Days before his 26th birthday, Delaney was yet to open his account for Denmark. A week later and he’d plundered a hat-trick against Armenia as well as the opening goal in a 4-0 rout of Robert Lewandowski’s Poland.
Signed from: Mainz
What to expect: A defensive stalwart who likes to play out from the back
Another left-footer, Diallo was the long-time captain of the France U21 team and graduated from Monaco’s youth academy before getting his first taste of Bundesliga football with Mainz last season. The 05ers may have only escaped the relegation places by three points, but Diallo impressed despite his team playing most of the season on the back-foot, winning an average of 13 challenges per game. In possession he’s almost as impressive, with 80 percent of his passes finding their intended target, even though many of them are arching balls from his preferred left-central-defensive position out to the right wing.
After losing 3-2 to fellow European aspirants RB Leipzig last October, Ömer Toprak was singled out by Yussuf Poulsen as a source of the Saxony side’s victory. “The plan was to press hard when Toprak had the ball,” he explained. “As a right-footer he always had to go on his left side or strike the ball with his weaker foot. We wanted to take advantage of that.” Toprak remains a fine player, but such positional imbalance is fixed in a stroke with the signing of Diallo.
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Ousmane Dembele told Diallo to sign for Dortmund. The pair used to be France U21 teammates and they remain close friends. Dembele may have left Die Schwarzgelben for Barcelona last summer after a single season at the Signal Iduna Park, but he has positive memories of his time at the club. “I asked him about BVB,” Diallo explained during Dortmund’s tour of the USA. “Dembele simply said: ‘go there!’”
Signed from: Eintracht Frankfurt
What to expect: A fleet-footed final-third operator climbing up the levels
Two short years ago Wolf was turning out for Hannover’s reserves, unable to penetrate the then-Bundesliga 2 side’s first team following his January 2016 transfer from 1860 Munich. Eintracht Frankfurt rolled the dice on Wolf last season and how their gamble paid off. Just as happy on the right wing as he is playing centrally behind a centre-forward, Wolf chipped in with six goals and 10 assists in all competitions, helping Die Adler to the DFB Cup at Bayern’s expense in May.
Dortmund boast some of the deepest final-third options in the game: Marco Reus is one of the finest attackers in world football when fit; Christian Pulisic is already the USA’s best player at 19. The prospect of Wolf lining up alongside them is mouth-watering, and if how he handled his last step up is anything to go by, Dortmund fans should be very excited indeed.
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He nearly quit the game. At 21, having given up an apprenticeship in a bank to pursue his dream, Wolf found himself training with Hannover’s amateurs in the fourth tier of German football. A period of soul-searching followed, with the youngster bouncing his frustrations off his parents. “When I was sent to the amateurs it wasn't easy at all,” he explained. “I was thinking, ‘How come I'm not getting my chance? Why can't I show what I can do?’” He decided to get his head down instead, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Signed from: Augsburg
What to expect: A serial shot-stopper ready to compete with Roman Bürki for the No.1 jersey
On Wolfsburg’s books when they won the Bundesliga in 2009, Hitz had to wait until February 2010 to make his Bundesliga debut with the Wolves, but he’s barely looked back since. A hulking 6’4”-tall cupboard of a man, the Switzerland international was in fine fettle last season, keeping eight clean sheets as Augsburg finished with 41 points, comfortably closer to the European places than the relegation quagmire.
With Roman Weidenfeller retiring, competition for a place between the sticks at Dortmund should be a two-horse race with compatriot Roman Bürki. Both have played over 100 Bundesliga games to date. In that time, Bürki has completed 41 percent of his passes to Hitz’s 30 percent, but when under pressure, Hitz comes out on top, his 74 percent save ratio dwarfing Bürki’s 41…
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Hitz has scored in the Bundesliga. One of only three goalkeepers ever to have done so (Jens Lehmann for Schalke and Frank Rost for Hamburg are the other two), Hitz was the hero for Augsburg back in February 2015 with Die Fuggerstädter trailing 2-1 to Bayer Leverkusen. Deep into stoppage time Augsburg won a corner, Hitz got on the end of it, and his volley on the turn was even nominated for for German TV broadcast ARD-Sportschau's Goal of the Year.