Hit Or Miss? Assessing Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund Recruits

Rumours are already beginning to circulate regarding potential transfer targets for new Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp. The January transfer window is the first opportunity the German has to improve his squad. It is not clear whether Fenway Sports Group will give Klopp to the opportunity to spend big in the New Year or whether he will have to make do with the current crop of players. Big name players such as Robert Lewandowski have been linked with a re-union with Klopp however it is highly unlikely that the most in-form striker in the world at this time would swap the Allianz Arena for the grasses of Anfield.

Liverpool fans watched Brendan Rodgers and the club’s infamous transfer committee spend in the region of £300m on new recruits during his time at the club; only a handful could be labelled a success. Over-spending on players such as Adam Lallana and Christian Benteke, coupled with the failures of Mario Balotelli and Dejan Lovren; on top of players who were never cut out to wear a Red shirt such as Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas and Rickie Lambert did not give Liverpool the calibre of players they needed to replace the likes of Luis Suarez.

Klopp’s tenure at Dortmund was similar to his current situation at Anfield. Although Liverpool spend big during Rodgers’ tenure at the club, their spending power is no match for the likes of Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United. Klopp at Dortmund often saw his best players depart for bigger clubs with Mario Gotze and Lewandowski swapping the yellow of BVB for the red of Bavaria.

Klopp also had to work with a limited budget during his time in Germany but how have the 48 year old’s recruits fared?

Mats Hummels

One of Bayern Munich’s biggest mistakes was allowing academy prospect Mats Hummels to leave the club at the age of 19. Hummels had been with Bayern since the age of six and initially joined Dortmund on loan in 2008. Klopp signed the German defender on a permanent transfer for just £3m after impressing at the heart of defence and forming a solid partnership with Neven Subotic. Hummels developed under Klopp to become one of the most sought after defenders in the world. Hummels oozes class and became a World Cup winner with Germany last year partnering Bayern’s Jerome Boateng at the back. The 26 year old rejected the advances of Manchester United in the summer to stay at the Signal Iduna Park for yet another season and his reported market value is around £24m; offering a serious return on Klopp’s investment.

VERDICT: Hit

Shinji Kagawa

Shinji Kagawa signed for Dortmund from Cerezo Osaka for only £350,000 due to a release clause in his contract which allowed him to leave for Europe. He was named in the Bundesliga XI despite an injury stricken debut season at BVB after scoring eight goals in Dortmund colours. Under Klopp, Kagawa became a vital goal-scoring playmaker for Dortmund before he was bought by English giants Manchester United for around £12m. However, the Japanese international failed to make the grade in England, mainly being deployed as a winger and Klopp brought him back to Dortmund for just £5m where he remains a key player.

VERDICT: Hit

Marco Reus

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Marco Reus spent the majority of his youth career at Borussia Dortmund before eventually signing a professional contract with Borussia Monchengladbach. Reus made an instant impact at his new club scoring his first goal for the club after a 50 metre mazy run. After a fine run of form, Klopp realised the error of his club’s ways and re-signed Reus for just £12m; representing one of his most expensive transfers during his time at Dortmund. Reus has become one of Europe’s best attacking players, netting 59 goals for BVB and flourished under Klopp helping his side win two Bundesliga titles and reach the Champions League final and is now worth almost three times the amount Dortmund paid for the German. Despite two injury hit seasons, Reus remains Dortmund’s most important player and someone who Liverpool fans can dream about following Klopp to Merseyside.

VERDICT: Hit

Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan almost became a Liverpool player before Klopp snatched him from under Liverpool’s nose and brought him to Germany for £19m; his most expensive transfer to date. Mkhitaryan was seen as an ideal replacement for the out-going Kagawa and proved to be a hit in his first season at the club. The former Shakhtar playmaker ended his first season with nine goals and ten assists which was a decent return for the club’s most expensive signing. However, Mkhitaryan particularly struggled during Klopp’s final season at the club. Injuries and poor form coupled to a bad season for the 26 year old which led to some questioning his price tag. However, under new manager Thomas Tuchel, Mkhitaryan has found his form again and has been vital in Dortmund’s excellent start to the new season hitting a hat-trick in Europa League qualifying and a brace on the first day of the German season.

VERDICT: Hit

Robert Lewandowski

Playing his trade for Lech Poznan, Robert Lewandowski came close to joining Blackburn Rovers and was offered to Sporting Gijon in Spain who rejected him. Klopp was the man to bring him to Dortmund for just £3m and the Polish striker hit a respectable nine goals in his first year. He would go on to become one of Europe’s most feared strikers under the guidance of Klopp. Lewandowski went on to score 94 goals in the next three seasons for Dortmund including four goals against Spanish giants Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final and a hat-trick against Bayern Munich in the German cup final. Unfortunately for Dortmund and Klopp, the club were once again unable to keep hold of one of their prized assets and the forward left for Bayern Munich on a free transfer where he has flourished and is arguably the most in-form striker in the world at the moment.

VERDICT: Hit

Ciro Immobile

Ciro Immobile was the man tasked with filling the enormous boots that Lewandowski left behind and the Italian just wasn’t up to the challenge. Klopp signed the striker from Torino for around £12m and the 25 year old failed to adapt to life in Germany. Immobile struggled and grew unhappy with life in Germany and did not enjoy the best of relationships with the club. Just three goals in 24 Bundesliga appearances saw Immobile heading for the exit door leaving for Sevilla and claiming he wasn’t given enough support by the club. Immobile is considered the biggest failed transfer of Klopp’s era.

VERDICT: Miss


Ilkay Gundogan

Klopp bought their German midfielder in the same fashion as Lewandowski and Hummels; a relatively unknown gem. Ilkay Gundogan is another who falls under the same category. When Nuri Sahin, after being Dortmund’s stand out player of the year, left for Real Madrid and Dortmund fans thought he would be irreplaceable. Klopp signed Gundogan from second division side Nuremberg for just £3m. Gundogan was a main stay in the Dortmund side and was a prominent figure during the club’s best years and the German scored from the penalty spot in the Champions League final. Klopp’s final season in Germany could have been a lot different if his German dynamo had been fit but Gundogan again struggled with injuries. The 24 year old is another name who has been linked with a Klopp re-union on Merseyside and the German was full of praise for his former mentor.

VERDICT: Hit

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Klopp signed Aubameyang from French side Saint Ettiene after finishing second in the Ligue 1 scoring charts with 19 strikes; only behind PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic. A relatively expensive signing for Dortmund saw the Gabon international switch to Germany for £9m. He could arguably be Klopp’s biggest coup after making an instant impact, scoring 16 goals in all competitions in his first year at the club. This was followed by 26 following year and has started the new season in electric form scoring 14 goals in just 13 appearances under Tuchel. Aubameyang is yet another name to be linked with Liverpool with questions marks surrounding the future of Benteke now Klopp has been appointed. However, the 26 year old signed a new contract until 2020 at the start of the season and claimed he never wanted to leave Dortmund.

VERDICT: Hit

Lukasz Piszczek

Polish right-back Lukasz Piszczek was another hidden gem that was discovered by Klopp and flourished under the German’s guidance. Piszczek enjoyed three steady seasons at Hertha Berlin before Dortmund picked him up a free transfer. He quickly established himself as a key player under Klopp as part of a back four containing Marcel Schmelzer, Subotic and Hummels. An all-action defender, able to attack and defend can be one of the best in the world on his day. Piszczek was another plagued by injuries during Klopp’s final season at the club but remains one of his best signings.

VERDICT: Hit

Adrian Ramos

Adrian Ramos was a signing made by Klopp to bolster Dortmund’s attacking threat alongside Aubameyang following the departure of Lewandowski. Ramos left for Dortmund after making over 150 appearances for Hertha Berlin, agreeing a move in January but joining the club in the summer following a tremendous run of form. At the age of 28, there was no much room for development so Dortmund fans would have hoped the goals would flow as the signing certainly wasn’t one for future. However, Ramos failed to replicate his form under Klopp and proved to be an expensive failure. Ramos ended his first season with just three goals and has started this season in similar fashion with just the one strike thus far.

VERDICT: Miss

Conclusion

As with every team, not every transfer works out the way you hope it would. Both Ramos and Immobile were in top form and seemed like ideal replacements to try and fill a Lewandowski sized void. The same could be said for Rodgers who signed Lovren after a solid start to life in England with Southampton. However, with Klopp, the positives outweigh the negatives. Klopp has developed into a knack of developing young unknown talents into superstars; something which will interest FSG who have adopted a ‘Moneyball’ approach with Liverpool. This again raises the question of the infamous transfer committee. The German manager has a clear excellent track record for transfers so it is unclear how he will fit into the recruitment process at Anfield and whether he will happy to see his first choice target be overlooked if the committee does not agree. One thing is for certain, if Klopp’s previous dealings are anything to go by, future transfer windows could be exciting times for the Reds.

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