While many clubs would understandably be frustrated at constantly losing to those higher in the pecking order, the inevitable of transfers makes them much easier to manage, says Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.
“It’s the only way for us because when a player performs very well, we have to fight against the big, big, big clubs with the oligarchs and the Arab states behind their backs,” Watzke told analyst Darren Lewis. main sportsman at CNN.
“And this fight you can’t win, but you can win a fight against an 18-year-old player, like Jude Bellingham, because this player loves playing at Borussia Dortmund because we always have 80,000 spectators, that’s a very good atmosphere and the club knows how to manage young players.
“It’s the way we do it and, okay, we have a good department looking for young players every day, but it’s also very important if you have the player here, you have to develop him and I think that it works… most of the time, it works.”
Watzke is under no illusions about Dortmund’s position in the hierarchy of modern football.
The club have nurtured – and then sold – many of Europe’s biggest and most expensive stars in recent years; Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Jadon Sancho, Mario Götze, Mats Hummels, Ousmane Dembélé and Christian Pulisic are among the players to have worn the famous black and yellow jerseys.
While Watzke understands that high player turnover is part of the business, there is always a human being behind the transfer fee, and on some occasions saying goodbye is more difficult than others.
“Sometimes it’s a little more emotional,” admits Watzke. “It was very emotional for me when Mats Hummels told me in 2016 that he would leave the club after I think seven or eight years because it was a long time and we had a very special relationship.
“But sometimes players are at Borussia Dortmund for one, two, three years, and in that period it’s not so deep with emotions and it’s normal in football that players come, players leave and if they want to go, OK.
“Sometimes it’s a good deal; sometimes it’s not so good. When we sold Ousmane Dembélé to Barcelona after a short period, it was a very good deal. When Robert Lewandowski left us without transfer, it was not a good deal, but that’s football.”
Now it looks like Haaland is the next to leave the club.
The 21-year-old has scored a remarkable 85 goals in 88 games since joining from RB Salzburg in 2020, breaking numerous Bundesliga and Champions League records along the way.
Manchester City look set to meet Haaland’s announced €75m ($79m) release clause – a real bargain given his talent and the current transfer fee climate – and have beaten a number many of Europe’s biggest clubs upon his signing, including Real Madrid, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain.
On the day of CNN’s interview with Watzke (April 26), the Dortmund CEO admitted he was unsure if Haaland would leave during the European summer transfer window. What he knew for sure, however, was that if Haaland left, Dortmund would continue to compete as they always have.
“It’s a decision for Erling,” Watzke said. “Erling, you know, has an exit clause and he has to decide whether we want to take that exit clause or not and he has time to give us his decision. When the time is right, he will.
“But we [Dortmund] We played football for 113 years, and for 111 years we played without Erling Haaland. We had Robert Lewandowski, then he left us in 2014, but we’ve played football in 15, 16, 17 until now.
“Then then came Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and then Erling Haaland and you can be sure that if Erling makes the decision to leave us, we will find the next one. [player] 100 per cent.”