Following the sale of Mario Gotze to Bayern Munich, Dortmund fans might have been bracing themselves for a double blow. Having lost the Champions League final to their fiercest rivals Bayern Munich, star striker Robert Lewandowski announced his intention to leave the club despite being one of the key players responsible for their spectacular recent run.
As rumours and analysis about how he’d fit in at various English and Spanish clubs made the rounds, he must have just watched in amusement as none of those moves were ever going to materialise. He had his mind set on a move to the very club that had hurt Borussia Dortmund the most – Bayern Munich. This could potentially turn out to be true, with the latter’s president Karl-Heinz Rummenigge expressing his complete confidence in the move happening. Here are some recent remarks by the President –
“I am absolutely optimistic that the player will be transferred to Bayern Munich next year” – from Bayern’s pre-season training camp in Riva Del Garda in northern Italy
“We no longer want to talk about it this season but I expect Dortmund know what will happen next summer” – to SportBild
Right now, Dortmund are taking a very tough stand to prevent themselves from being weakened further and strengthening their rivals simultaneously, while the player (or his agent?) seems willing to create an equally intense drama to force the move.
But the issue here is the timing. Lewandowski wants to move now, while Bayern are extremely confident in waiting for a year so that they can get him for free. One wonders whether Dortmund’s stance of not cashing in on their most valuable asset now and losing him for free to the enemy next year is the right call.
Why should Dortmund sell?
While the arguments in this article are very valid, I will have to disagree with them. Dortmund must cash in on Lewandowski now, rather than later. Here are a few reasons why Dortmund should reconsider their current stand.
The aforementioned article mentioned that a good season and a trophy would compensate the monetary loss. But the money that Dortmund would get by selling now would be much more beneficial than an awkward parting next year. Such is the demand for Lewandowski right now that Dortmund can doggedly extract up to 30 million from any interested party. This is a huge sum for a player with only a year left on his contract.
Dortmund can use the money to get an equally good replacement, or more replacements whom they can develop. Bringing in new faces will definitely be an upgrade from a player with questionable commitment. In fact, they have already signed a striker, the much coveted Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Considering the present situation, he may only end up being a backup rather than a replacement for Lewandowski.
Selling him to Bayern now would actually work in Dortmund’s favour. Pep Guardiola would want to impose his own philosophy on the team. This would mean bench time for strikers like Lewandowski and Mandzukic. Guardiola preferred a false 9 with Messi at Barca, and will be looking to shape the side according to that tactic, with Gotze playing the no.9 role in all likelihood.
David Villa never really thrived in his favourite position due to this, as he was sometimes forced into the position of a wide forward rather than a center forward; eventually he got fed up and left.
Bayern already have Mario Mandzukic as their main striker. Adding an equally good striker, if not better, to the squad may end up doing more harm than good. Being an out-and-out striker would be the last position a player would desire when the manager is employing a false 9.
Mandzukic will be forced to the bench and will get lesser game time than he is used to, and Lewandowski will share the bench with him. This makes one wonder why Bayern want two world-class strikers in their squad, and then change to a tactic which will not use a proper striker.
The signing of Thiago Alcantara again shows Bayern’s intent to add to an already overloaded midfield, which points to only one possible explanation – the manager does not seem to need true strikers.
Dortmund have a recent history of selling their best player every summer and still managing to challenge for trophies. They lost Nuri Sahin to Real Madrid, Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United, and Mario Gotze to Bayern Munich this summer. Yet, they have managed to find replacements all the time (Henrikh Mkhitaryan for Gotze this season). So why should Lewandowski be any different?
One may argue that it is two key players departing this summer to the same club rather than one (which has been the norm), but will it affect them as severely as expected? They will definitely miss Lewandowski’s goals, but can’t the rest of the squad compensate for it? What if Aubameyang has a highly productive season, while Lewandowski is stuck on the bench?
Considering their ability to pluck players from the unknown and convert them to big-name stars, there is no doubt that Dortmund will move on from Lewandowski (if they sell now) by signing an additional striker to partner Aubameyang. Dortmund transformed Shinji Kagawa from a completely unknown player into Manchester United’s top target last year. When he was sold, they had the players to step into his shoes.
The performances of Gundogan, Bender and Kara resulted in Kagawa not being missed. A similar trend was seen when they replaced Sahin (ironically, they have him on their books again!). There is still a good one-and-a-half month of the transfer window left, which is ample time to scout and sign a replacement for the outgoing Pole.
One has to wonder why Lewandowski wants to move. He can walk into Dortmund’s starting XI right now, something which he cannot expect every week at Bayern. Besides, Dortmund are renowned for the atmosphere they generate in the stadium – their fans’ display of passion and intensity are second to none. The Signal Iduna Park has always been a difficult venue to play for visitors, especially due to the noisy and partisan crowd. Why would Lewandowski want to miss their adoration and support in exchange for a place on Bayern’s bench? I cannot understand.
He would also have to brace himself for a frosty reception as an away player at Dortmund’s ground. Clearly, something other than footballing reasons seems to be at play. Dortmund are the best bet to challenge Bayern for the title, and carrying Dortmund to the title should be a challenge to enjoy for Robert rather than accepting a bit part role elsewhere. Could money be the sole reason?
Inspite of their on-field excellence, Dortmund cannot match Bayern’s wage structure, which could be the real reason why the Pole is so desperate to leave.
Lewandowski holds all the cards. He has to decide between whether he is happy coming off Bayern’s bench once in a while, or bettering last season’s exploits by staying with Dortmund. In case he chooses the latter and then moves for free next year, it will be an even more bitter pill for Dortmund to swallow.
The best thing for BVB to do now would be to implement the classic mantra of ‘no player is bigger than the club’. If a player wants to leave, there is no point in forcing him to stay. Dortmund must stamp their authority and be brave enough to sell him this summer and use the money to sign another striker. It would be the best course of action for the club.
Pep will have a really hard time choosing his starting XI from a squad that has an embarrassment of riches in every position and simultaneously keeping everybody content with their playing time. In case of a rift between the manager and some key players, Dortmund can take advantage under the excellent stewardship of Klopp. Playing as a team with togetherness and a will to work for each other can tilt the balance in Dortmund’s favour compared to Bayern’s well-oiled machine on the pitch with suspect behind-the-scenes relations.
Dortmund must sell Lewandowski to Bayern now. Without doubt, Bayern will strengthen; but it may create more problems than solutions (too many cooks spoiling the broth, you know). Dortmund can move on from an uncommitted player and use the cash generated by his sale to find a young and hungry replacement who can make sure the Pole will not be missed. A new hero can be adopted by the departure of someone who clearly is not in the right frame of mind to don their famous yellow.
You never know what surprises the crazy auction that is the transfer market can have in store, but what if Lewandowski dramatically decides on a U-turn and pledges his future to Dortmund? Food for thought.