Ousmane Dembélé’s meteoric rise to the top hasn’t gone unnoticed. In just two years, the Frenchman has gone from making his debut at Rennais to joining Barcelona, via Borussia Dortmund, becoming the second most expensive transfer in football history behind Neymar. Both clubs announced on Friday that the 20-year-old would be joining the Catalan side for an initial €105m with a further €40m in future incentives. With an impressive first season at Borussia Dortmund and the potential that Dembélé could reach, Barcelona’s new No. 11 certainly justifies his transfer fee.
In just 50 games for BVB in all competitions, Dembélé scored 10 and created 22 while creating a respected working relationship with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Under the tutelage of Thomas Tuchel, the Frenchman improved with every game while of the 40 goals that Aubameyang scored, Dembélé created 11 of them and as a result, after just one season in Germany, his stock has gone from €15m to €105m. Staggering numbers to say the least.
However, the manner in the way Dembélé left Dortmund is what has made BVB fans upset. Just one week before the Bundesliga start, the Frenchman went AWOL from training, while Dortmund had rejected Barcelona’s first approach for the young forward. Hans-Joachim Watzke, Michael Zorc and Peter Bosz came to the conclusion to suspend Dembélé while reports emerged that he was already discussing a move to Barcelona. From that moment, it’s clear that the France international didn’t want to be at Dortmund, especially when it was his boyhood club that came calling.
Going on strike to engineer a move was never going to sit well with Dortmund supporters. We’ve seen fans alter their Dembélé shirts with both the transfer fee, as well as “Who the [expletive] is Dembélé.” For a season, he brought joy to Dortmund but with the emergence of Christian Pulisic, he won’t be missed.
The American scored the opening goal against Bayern Munich in the DFB Supercup while a goal and assist on the opening matchday against VfL Wolfsburg set him up for the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign. Jürgen Klopp has shown interest in the 18-year-old this summer but Pulisic remains calm while he’s stated that his focus is on Dortmund. Ability to play on either flank or as the No. 10, the American is destined for a big future as BVB move top following a 2-0 win against Hertha BSC.
Elsewhere in Germany, we’ve seen Bayer Leverkusen lead TSG 1899 Hoffenheim twice, who perhaps have a European hangover after going out of the Champions League to Liverpool. With the defeat in the UCL, Julian Nagelsmann will coach his side against SC Braga, Ludogorets and Istanbul Basaksehir – three teams they’re certainly capable of beating. Despite leading Hoffenheim twice, Leverkusen still look lacklustre going forward while they’ve been linked to Lucas Alario, an Argentine forward that will ease the goalscoring burden from Kevin Volland & Co.
Both Eintracht Frankfurt and 1. FSV Mainz 05 are without wins this campaign after losing to VfL Wolfsburg and VfB Stuttgart respectively while Schalke 04 once again look like their former self after falling to newly promoted Hannover 96, who have made it two wins from two with a single goal from new signing Jonathas.
1 | For just less than 24 hours, Hamburger SV sat top of the Bundesliga for the first time in eight years following a 3-1 win against 1. FC Köln on Friday night. Winning on the opening day against FC Augsburg, Markus Gisdol’s HSV came into this fixture full of confidence which was evident as they dominated from the first whistle up until the last. With 33 goals last campaign, HSV were the second-lowest goalscoring team in the Bundesliga but with four goals this season already, football in northern Germany is starting to look bright.
Summer signing Andre Hahn had given Hamburg the lead midway through the first half before Bobby Wood doubled that just six minutes later. A bullish performance from the front two, Köln’s defence found it difficult all night against a side that was just too strong for them. A change of referee – due to injury – and 13 minutes of stoppage time led to Frederik Sorensen scoring a late consolation but as Köln pushed for an equaliser, Lewis Holtby scored HSV’s third of the night to give them two wins in two.
Following the game Peter Stöger criticised his team for not being clinical enough in front of goal. The departure of Anthony Modeste – who scored 25 of Köln’s 51 Bundesliga goals last season – was clear on Friday while Jhon Cordoba has been chosen as the forward to replace the Frenchman, arriving from 1. FSV Mainz 05 for €17m. A buoyant atmosphere around the RheinEnergieStadion pre-match, Köln were drawn alongside Arsenal, BATE Borisov and Red Star Belgrade which will see European football return to Köln for the first time in 25 years.
2 | With Bayern Munich CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge confirming that there will be no more arrivals at the Allianz Arena, Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping that Robert Lewandowski can remain fit for the season. An impressive start to the 2017/18 campaign has seen the Poland international score six goals in four games in all competitions, with two of those coming against Werder Bremen on Saturday afternoon. Alexander Nouri’s Bremen had kept Bayern quiet up until the 72nd minute which saw Lewandowski score a brace in three minutes. An audacious backheel for the opening goal was followed by an impressive solo effort as Bayern clinched three points in a less than impressive fashion.
“I don’t know exactly which qualities the coach wants to see. But mine seem not to be 100 percent in demand.” Those were the words ushered by Thomas Müller following his omission from the Bayern squad on Saturday. The World Cup winner was introduced when Ancelotti’s side had already taken the lead while the question remains as to whether the Italian has trust in Müller who has scored just five Bundesliga goals under the Bayern head coach. One thing looks for certain though, and that’s that Lewandowski will once again be going head-to-head with Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for the Torjäger.
3 | Since his return to Borussia Dortmund in 2013 following spells at Real Madrid and Liverpool, Nuri Sahin’s return looked to be nothing more than a sentimental transfer. Plagued by injuries and failing to get into the BVB starting XI under Thomas Tuchel, the 28-year-old now plays a key role under new head coach, Peter Bosz – Dortmund’s 2-0 win over Hertha BSC on Saturday evening proved that. Sitting alongside Gonzalo Castro and Mario Götze in a midfield three, Sahin dictated tempo for the 90 minutes, completing 68 passes while assisting Aubameyang’s opening goal before adding one of his own 13 minutes into the second-half. At the age of 16, Sahin signed for Dortmund and so he knows just what it means to wear the famous black and yellow jersey, playing in front of the famous Yellow Wall. Stay fit, and he could have a huge say in the outcome of Dortmund’s season under Bosz.
With a limited budget, it’s always going to be difficult for Pal Dardai to replicate Hertha BSC’s of last season, that saw them qualify for the Europa League. Once again, their home form will be key to having a successful 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign while the addition of Davie Selke from RB Leipzig will lift some of the goalscoring burden off Vedad Ibisevic.
4 | Following an impressive 2-0 win against local rivals 1. FC Köln on the opening day of the season, many had expected Borussia Mönchengladbach to pick up yet another three points on their trip Augsburg and despite leading, Dieter Hecking’s side conceded an 89th minute equalise to share the points. Despite the 2-2 draw, the North Rhine-Westphalian club look like serious contenders to challenge for a place in Europe if their early form is anything to go by. Their fluidity in attack looks to be something to watch this season with Lars Stindl, Thorgan Hazard and Raffael all impressing in the opening two league fixtures, while Hecking has alternated between Ibrahima Traore and Patrick Herrmann in a 4-4-2 formation, that can easily switch to a 3-4-3.
And despite all their attacking capabilities, it’s defensively where they’ve improved immensely. The departure of Mahmoud Dahoud saw the arrival of Denis Zakaria who looks to be settling in well to life in Germany. In the Yaya Toure mould, the 18-year-old scored Mönchengladbach’s equaliser on Saturday to make it 1-1 while he has been praised in the German press for his athleticism. With two Bundesliga games already under his belt, Zakaria could well go on to be quite the coup for die Fohlen.
5 | Perhaps not the start RB Leipzig were hoping for, Schalke beat RB at their own game on MD1 but with a chance to make amends, Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side did so in impressive fashion once they got out of first gear. Going a goal down against SC Freiburg against the run of play, RB Leipzig were up against it midway through the first-half. Chances went begging but Timo Werner & Co. came out guns-blazing after the break. The German equalised to get off to the mark for the season just three minutes after the restart before Willi Orban put the East German club in the lead minutes later.
A dominant performance then saw RB Leipzig run-out 4-1 winners with another goal from Werner and a wonder-goal from new signing Bruma with just his third touch following his introduction. And despite all the speculation this surrounding Naby Keita this summer, the Guinea international played with a cool head for 90 minutes, carrying on from where he finished last season and with time running out for Liverpool, it’s highly unlikely that Keita will be leaving Leipzig this summer.
By Daniel Pinder.