The Journeyman | BVB: Part 7 – Wonderkids Incoming

With a second successive Bundesliga title in the bag and an invincible season behind us, it was time to reflect on next steps and goals of this Journeyman save. I’m still excited about the potential of this Borussia Dortmund squad, but the key next challenge is to win that elusive Champions League for the first time – 16 years into the save!

I’d planned for the summer to be relatively quiet as I didn’t feel there was too much need for change. However, circumstances saw it turn out otherwise and resulted in an influx of exciting new wonderkids.

Big money sales

The summer began by selling off players that hadn’t been good enough last season. Right-back Justin Dos Santos went to Monaco for £22.5 million and youngster Sébastien Gaudin, who undoubtedly had potential but wasn’t going to realise it as he was still only sixth-choice midfielder, went to Leipzig for a cool £40 million.

We also allowed centre-back George, who was 31 and in the final year of his contract, move on as Juventus offered £35 million for him. The same went for goalkeeper Nicolás Rodriguez, who joined Norwich City for £6.75 million thanks to the exciting emergence of young goalkeeper Dawid Pawlowski, who’d signed from Heerenveen the previous summer.

But those deals paled into significance with two big money sales. First, young striker Morten Hansen, who’d been OK on loan at Hoffenheim last season, received an offer of £35 million from Derby County that we managed to negotiate up to £50 million! Then midfielder Leandro Quintiliano, who was 23 and nowhere near first-choice, saw Genoa come in with a £53 million offer from Genoa. So they were both flogged too.

Wonderkids incoming

We’d lost a former Sporting player and Portuguese legend of the save in the summer, but we replaced him with a potential legend in the making in Joao Ribeiro, who comes in for £30 million from my former club Sporting. Then we strengthened at right-back by bringing in 20-year-old Frenchman Samy Franceschi for what is admittedly a lot of money at £35 million rising to £70 million from Southampton.

And we cast the net a little further to the future and met the board’s expectations for signing German players from our rivals with exciting wonderkids Pascal Bottner from Hamburg and winger Holm Berg from Leipzig then a bit of Brazilian flair in young striker Eduardo from Internacional.

This took our transfer income this summer to £216 million, while we spent just £86 million – which takes the Dortmund bank balance over £375 million. And with those sales and signings wrapped up, this is how we’re looking for the new season:

And the season with that shape began well as we thrashed Borussia Monchengladbach 3-0 in the German Supercup, with last year’s top scorer Cataldo Strambelli picking up where he left off with a brace then Jajá wrapped the win up late on.

Bundesliga title defence begins

The title defence began in fine fashion with a 4-0 thumping of newly promoted Freiburg, led by another Strambelli brace. Bayern drew their opener, which gave us a nice little immediate advantage.

That was followed up by racing into a 2-0 lead at Hamburg, including Ribeiro’s first goal for the club with a sensational 30-yarder. But we somehow let them score two in the second half, only for Sarue to score a late decider with a Braganca-esque free-kick.

The great start continued with a 1-0 win at Leipzig sealed by Jajá’s second half goal, while Bayern lost at home to Fortuna Dusseldorf, then a 3-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt sealed by a Hitoshi Nakajima brace and substitute Jocemar Campestrini’s first of the season.

And that teed us up for a first Der Klassiker derby of the season at Bayern. But our long unbeaten run ended with a narrow 1-0 defeat in which we were unlucky to be on the losing side, especially as Strambelli had a goal unfairly ruled out at 0-0.

But we put that disappointment behind us with a dominant 2-0 win at home to Bochum, in which Nakajima scored and created Adolphe Gérard’s first of the season. We again found ourselves 2-0 ahead at Hoffenheim, only to concede and allow the hosts to take control and have shots at will but survived thanks to Pawlowski making a string of saves. Then wasted a huge amount of chances as Lautaro Rojo’s first of the season edged us past Schalke in the first Der Riviere derby of the campaign.

That nicely teed up a top of the table clash as we entertained Leverkusen. But it wasn’t one for the neutral as we played out a turgid 0-0 draw, in which we again missed a host of chances. But, that kept us top of the league with just one draw and one defeat, one point clear of Leverkusen and three ahead of Bayern after 10 games.

And we returned to winning ways with a solid 3-0 win at Stuttgart inspired by a Strambelli brace – one of which came from a launch forward by keeper Pawlowski – and a late Jajá goal. Then came from behind to claim a 2-1 win at Monchengladbach, with Strambelli scoring the crucial winner.

We then absolutely hammered Augsburg with 14 shots but went in 0-0. I got angry at them, went attacking and Strambelli took control by scorimg and creating one. I gave him a rest for Ricardo Martínez, who scored his league goal for us off the bench. But we then slipped to a 0-0 draw at Fortuna Dusseldorf, on the same day that Leverkusen beat Bayern to go top of the table moving into 2036.

Another tough Champions League group

We got drawn in another difficult group in the Champions League, this time with Man City, Milan and, again, Red Bull Salzburg (last year we had Barca, PSG and Salzburg).

The group began, again, at home to Salzburg and, despite going behind early to their first shot, we fired back with a 4-1 win inspired by a Strambelli brace. Game two was in Milan, where AC deployed a weird narrow 4-1-2-2-1 formation so I told the lads to focus play out wide and we scored twice from crosses from wide positions to win 2-1. Tactical genius!

The same applied to our home game with Milan, which we won 2-0 with goals from Jajá and a Matías Sarue screamer, then a 0-0 draw in Salzburg sealed qualification. And we rounded it off with a solid 1-1 draw at home to City.

Join us next time to see if we can take the fight to Leverkusen in the Bundesliga and maybe improve our Champions League efforts.

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