Cologne - Of all the Bundesliga clubs to strengthen their squads on the final day of the summer transfer window, Borussia Dortmund were perhaps the team in least need of reinforcements.
New head coach Thomas Tuchel could not have wished for a better start to life in the Signal Iduna Park hot seat, guiding die Schwarz-Gelben to the top of the Bundesliga table, the second round of the DFB Cup and the group stages of the UEFA Europa League thanks to eight successive victories in all competitions. Nevertheless, Tuchel opted to dip into the transfer market one last time on 31 August, securing the services of one of Europe’s brightest attacking prospects in 20-year-old Belgian international Adnan Januzaj.
The son of Kosovo-Albanian refugees, Januzaj arrives in North Rhine-Westphalia with a point to prove after leaving English Premier League giants Manchester United FC on a season-long loan deal. Described as "a beautifully balanced player" by none other than legendary head coach Sir Alex Ferguson, who promoted the Brussels native to the Red Devils’ first team before his retirement, Januzaj burst onto the scene at Old Trafford under the guidance of Ferguson’s replacement David Moyes, scoring both goals in a 2-1 victory over Sunderland AFC on his full debut for the club.
Januzaj went on to make 38 appearances in all competitions that season, scoring a further three goals and chipping in with eight assists - an impressive return for an 18-year-old youngster competing for a first-team spot with the likes of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata and Shinji Kagawa. Under former FC Bayern München head coach Louis van Gaal, however, Januzaj struggled to nail down a regular first-team berth in Manchester, making just 18 league appearances in his second full season in England. Despite scoring the only goal of the game in United’s win over Aston Villa last month, Januzaj was in need of a fresh start - one that Dortmund were only too happy to provide.
With the likes of Kagawa, Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan having started the season in blistering fashion, Januzaj has his work cut out to become a permanent fixture in Tuchel’s starting eleven. Sporting director Michael Zorc is convinced, however, that the former RCD Anderlecht man has a key role to play at BVB, who will have to juggle their domestic campaign with the gruelling rigours of the UEFA Europa League this term. "Adnan is a highly talented and technically gifted player who will complete our attacking department," the 53-year-old said recently.
As well as his outstanding technique, creativity and vision, the five-time Belgium international also boasts a wicked left foot, providing an extra threat from set-pieces and adding another dimension to Dortmund’s potent attacking weaponry. Arguably the biggest feather in Januzaj’s cap, though, is his versatility: He has played in all positions across the attacking midfield three at one point during his career. He has even been deployed as a false nine, though he was generally regarded as more of a playmaker during his time in Manchester.
BVB fans 'truly unbelievable'
No matter where he lines up, Januzaj can’t wait to become the first player from Belgium to pull on the famous yellow and black jersey, saying he wants to achieve "big things" at the Signal Iduna Park. "I want to try to win as many trophies as possible," he told bvb.de. "I joined Borussia Dortmund because it’s a very good club, first and foremost, but I also wanted to keep developing. It’s a massive club in Germany and the fans here are unbelievable."
His first taste of German top-flight action is likely to come against Hannover 96 this coming Saturday. With Marco Reus struggling with a toe injury sustained against Hertha Berlin on Matchday 3, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang suffering an ankle injury in Gabon’s African Cup of Nations qualifier against Sudan, Januzaj might just be thrust straight into the BVB starting line-up at the HDI Arena. If his full United debut is anything to go by, Michael Frontzeck’s side could be in for a long afternoon.