A strong first season with Borussia Dortmund flowed straight into a big summer of football with England in South Korea. Read more on that here. But I’d doubled up my international commitments by keeping a close eye on bringing in new talent to bolster the Dortmund squad.
Last season’s top scorer Juan Carlos Juan went back to Liverpool, vice-captain Goncalo Ramos left after 13 seasons on a free transfer. So that was already two gaps that needed plugging. But a host of other sales left us with a very small squad at the start of the season.
28-year-old striker Carl Berglund moved to Swansea for a huge £40 million, considering he spent most of last season injured. And we also got good money selling Ersin Karabulut to Nottingham Forest for £39 million and Emmanuel Opara to Southampton for £32.5 million. That takes our incoming fees in the last 12 months to £435 million – more than the club had made in the previous 5 seasons combined.
In their place came 9 new players worth a total of £163 million. The key two players filled the much-needed roles of striker and attacking midfielder. The striker is 24-year-old Cataldo Strambelli, who cost £40 million from Liverpool but looks like a potentially great forward although he does lack bravery.
But the best new addition could be 22-year-old French attacking midfielder Martin Flores, who arrives for £35 million and a potential £70 million from Lyon. He’s only 5ft 2 in, but I think he was very much worth the splurge!
Other signings included exciting 19-year-old centre-back Lautaro Rojo, who cost just £6 million, 17-year-old striker Mirko Klemencic, 19-year-old Brazilian attacker Jocemar Campestrini, 20-year-old goalkeeper Dawid Pawlowski, and potentially the best prospect of the lot 19-year-old midfielder Sébastian Gaudin.
That leaves us with what I think has the potential to be the strongest squad I’ve had throughout this save. We have 10 players with 5-star potential and a nice youthful squad with only 5 players aged over 23 and just 2 aged over 28. It would certainly be competitive with the title-winning side of Valencia, which included the likes of Marco Kana, Philip Cohen and José Gaya.
However, the one thing eluding me on this save is the Champions League. So can we build this Dortmund side into the best in Europe? Unlikely, but hopefully the youngsters can fulfil their potential. For now, our first-choice staring eleven for this season looks like this:
Elsewhere, Man City paid out huge money for another of my former players by signing Betinho, my goalkeeper at Sporting and Valencia, for £95 million. They also spent £106 million on some midfielder from PSG.
Bundesliga defence begins
Season 2 in Germany began with the pointless Super Cup, which we lost on penalties to Bayern after a 0-0 draw, then an 8-0 win in the DFB-Pokal in which Flores, Campestrini and Strambelli, who got 4, scored their first goals for the club.
That sent us into a Friday night Borussen Derby to open the season at home to Borussia Monchengladbach in high spirits. And tthat showed as we dominated the opener, scoring early with Campestrini setting up Strambelli then left-back Djordje Stankov hitting a screamer for his first Dortmund goal. They got a goal back with their first shot of the game in the first minute of the second half – because, of course – but Strambelli made sure of it with his second.
Our first away day took us to Hamburg and a dull first half. But the diminutive Flores packed plenty of power into a 30-yard screamer, then Hitoshi Nakajima teed up opposite winger Campestrini to seal a 2-0 win.
We then welcomed Leipzig, who’d just sold the still free-scoring Erling Haaland (now 34) to Inter for £34 million, and their lack of firepower showed as we eased past them 2-0. And a tough start to the season took us to Bayern, who were surprisingly off-colour as we claimed another 2-0 win courtesy of Flores and a Daniel Braganca penalty.
The strong start continued with a 5-1 thrashing of Wolfsburg led by a brilliant Strambelli hat-trick. Then wins over Heidenheim and Hoffenheim were sandwiched by 0-0 draws at Eintracht Frankfurt and at home to Schalke. But we bounced back from the latter with a 4-0 thumping of St Pauli, in which Strambelli scored inside 40 seconds and they scored a ridiculous own goal courtesy of a defender smashing a clearance into his teammate’s backside.
First-choice wingers Nakajima and Jajá had been struggling with injuries at the start of the campaign. But the former marked his latest return with a brace to seal a 2-0 win at home to Stuttgart, then both scored in a win by the same scoreline at Holstein Kiel. And their backup Campestrini came up big next, as he came off the bench to bag a brace that inspired us to a 3-2 win at Fortuna Dusseldorf.
Jajá was at it again as we dismissed Hertha BSC 3-0, scoring after just nine seconds and bagging another in the second half. However, that didn’t earn him the quickest goal in Dortmund history as some guy called Tim Bachmayr – now with Lazio – had also scored after nine seconds in 2023!
Our league form had been ridiculous but a 2-2 draw at third-placed Bayer Leverkusen, which was a good result saved by a late Campestrini goal, was enough for us to drop to second behind Bayern, who’ve won 12 in a row since we beat them, moving into 2035. Ridiculous!
Champions League nightmare
Despite being first seeds, we got handed a nightmare Champions League group alongside Barcelona and PSG. Not sure how that’s even possible! So this may be a write-off. However, we began well with a 3-0 win at home to Salzburg.
I decided to go defensive for the trip to Barca and they ripped us apart and won 3-0, so for the trip to PSG I thought sod going defensive let’s play our natural game. And, that worked, as we won 2-0 in Paris with a first-half brace from backup left-winger Martyn Talbot, who of course was then ruled out for five weeks with a calf strain.
However, we then lost 2-0 at home to PSG, who scored a goal that was well offside then got a dodgy penalty on VAR. We bounced back to win 2-0 in Salzburg, which meant a draw at home to Barca would put us through. But we went one step better and beat them 2-1 led by a brilliant performance from Jajá, who scored and created the other.
Join us next time to see if we can keep up with Bayern’s ridiculous form and defend our Bundesliga crown.