The shrewd business of Borussia Dortmund, a welcome reprieve to transfer market procrastination


During this age of rampant speculation and loafing among clubs looking to sign players in the transfer market, one has to admire the way Borussia Dortmund shrewdly goes about the business of replenishing its ranks.

Stripped of star midfielder Mario Gotze by Bayern Munich and losing defender Felipe Santana to Schalke (in a bid for more playing time), Dortmund entered the summer like most clubs, looking to rebuild.

Santana, who failed to lock down a center-back spot over Mats Hummels and Nevan Subotic, was replaced by Werder Bremen stud Sokratis Papastathopoulos. The Greek international, known as ‘Sokratis’ or ‘Papa’, had been expected to join Bayer Leverkusen but snubbed the North Rhine club because of his desire to work under BVB manager, Jurgen Klopp.

“I absolutely wanted to join Klopp,” Sokratis told German newspaper, Bild

Dortmund and Bremen agreed to a £8.4 million ($12.5m) for the hulking center-back, good value for a young player (24 years old) who many consider to be one of the up-and-coming stars at his position. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Sokratis acquisition is that Dortmund took care of it quietly and three days before they sold Santana to Schalke.

No rumors. No prolonged negotiations. Just pure execution.

The same no-nonsense approach to business took place this past week when Dortmund signed St-Etienne striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (pictured) for a fee of £11.4 million ($17m). The Gabon international, who scored 19 goals and notched 9 assists in Ligue 1 this past season, was a coup that no one saw coming.

Aubameyang had been strongly linked to a move to Newcastle. The Magpies made the 24 year old their top attacking prospect of the summer and looked prepared to shell out £15 million ($22.4m) for his services. When asked about a transfer to Tyne-side, Aubameyang seemed up for it, claiming that he saw Newcastle as “a good club” with a “monumental stadium.”

But, like most clubs, Newcastle delayed, and delayed and delayed. In fact, it was not weeks or months that they had been monitoring Aubameyang, but the entire past year. And while Mike Ashley & Co. knew that Anzhi Makhachkala, Paris St-Germain, Atlético Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur were all keeping tabs on the striker, no one had a clue about Dortmund.

Until they swooped in and not only got the deal done in a matter of hours but did so at a savings of £3.6 million. That’s great business.

Like Sokratis, Aubameyang is an anticipatory purchase, one that lessens the sting when Robert Lewandowski inevitably moves to Bayern Munich at the end of next season.

The same situation played itself out last week when BVB and Shakhtar Donetsk agreed on a £21.5million ($32m) fee for midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Up until that point, Liverpool had been rumored for weeks to be contemplating a bid for the goal-scoring midfielder.

But while the Reds dawdled around, Dortmund struck quietly and quickly. Once again, it was over before it began.

So will these moves be enough to propel Dortmund back to the Champions League finals?

Only time will tell.

But the muted, exepeditious business practices of Dortmund are a welcome reprieve to the speculation and procrastination that so often plague transfers in world football.

No clean sheet, no cake for Leicester at Rainieri’s birthday party

LEICESTER, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 22:  Leicester City mascot Filbert Fox is seen prior to the Premier League match between Leicester City and Crystal Palace at The King Power Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Leicester, England.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
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It’s a happy birthday celebration for Claudio Ranieri, though cake will be missing for Leicester City’s players.

The manager turned 65 on Thursday, and was ready to share some of his gigantic birthday cake with his players if they fulfilled his requirements on Saturday.

[ MORE: Match recap | Fuchs’ great goal ]

The Foxes picked up a comfortable-enough 3-1 win through Ahmed Musa, Christian Fuchs, and Shinji Okazaki, but Yohan Cabaye‘s late goal means no dessert.

“I said I would share my birthday cake in the dressing room if I got a clean sheet,” Ranieri joked to the BBC. “They clearly don’t want a piece.”

Ranieri also explained Jamie Vardy‘s bench place being down to squad rotation after a busy week — Leicester beat Copenhagen in the Champions League — and said Musa is about ready to kick on after an adjustment period in England.

Birthday-boy Wenger plans to drown sorrows after Arsenal draw

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 02: Arsene Wenger, Manager of Arsenal looks on during the Premier League match between Burnley and Arsenal at Turf Moor on October 2, 2016 in Burnley, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
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Arsene Wenger turned 67 on Saturday.

His Arsenal side didn’t reward him with the present of three wins as the Frenchman watched them labor to a 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough.

[ MORE: Bradley’s Swans solid ]

The Gunners thought they’d snatch victory at the death but Mesut Ozil’s goal was offside and although they dominated possession, Middlesbrough looked dangerous on the break with Adam Traore, Alvaro Negredo and Gaston Ramirez all going close.

Speaking to the BBC after the game, Wenger thought his Arsenal side looked a little bit tired following their 6-0 win in the UEFA Champions League at home against Ludogorets on Wednesday.

“It is a game where you had a lot of possession but there were tired legs and you are prone to counter-attacks. You make it difficult for yourself. 75% possession but you could have lost the game, that is modern football.  When you are not sharp, you lack creativity in the final third. I must say, we gave everything but we did not have the legs today.

“The energy levels were a bit down but we were intelligent enough not to lose it. We were exposed at times. When you cannot win, you must not lose. They had chances but our goalkeeper saved us today. Petr Cech had a good performance in decisive phases. We tried. You don’t win on command though. We lacked our creative potential around the box. That is part of it.”

He was also asked if he plans to have a drink to celebrate his birthday. Wenger’s response was classic…

“At least you can have a drink on your birthday. When you win you deserve it. When you don’t you need it,” Wenger said with a smile.

Regardless of a small slip up and an end to their six-game winning streak, Arsenal sits top of the Premier League on Saturday after the 10 a.m. ET games.

Surely that’s reason enough to have a few glasses of Champagne, Arsene?

Christian Fuchs’ bullet a highlight for Leicester City (video)

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Leicester City showed the class of champions on Saturday, improving its Premier League standing with a 3-1 win over Crystal Palace.

The King Power Stadium saw some dicey late moments thanks to a Yohan Cabaye goal, but first got to celebrate an absolute stunner from an unlikely source.

[ MORE: Match recap ]

While Ahmed Musa and Shinji Okazaki goals are more encouraging signs for the Foxes’ attack, it was a scintillating bit of work from Christian Fuchs that really stoked the fire.

Fuchs came onto a ball with Leicester leading 2-0 and lashed his left football through the ball for a venomous volleyed goal.

Bob Bradley “disappointed” as solid Swansea fail to take chances

SWANSEA, WALES - OCTOBER 22:  Bob Bradley, Manager of Swansea City claps the fans prior to kick off during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Watford at the Liberty Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Swansea, Wales.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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Bob Bradley got his first point as a Premier League manager on Saturday but the American coach knew it should’ve been more.

[ VIDEO: Pulisic’s late goal ]

Gylfi Sigurdsson hit the post and Mike Van der Hoorn produced a fine save from Hurelho Gomes as the Swans drew 0-0 with Watford at the Liberty Stadium in Bradley’s first home game in charge.

Making five changes to his Swansea City side which lost 3-2 at Arsenal last week, Bradley made the Swans much tougher to break down as Watford’s striking duo of Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo barely had a sniff at goal.

Young center back Alfie Mawson impressed, as Bradley changed three of the back four who looked shaky at Arsenal last time out, and for most of the season.

Speaking to the BBC about the 0-0 draw, Bradley was happy with the second half display and Swansea’s first clean sheet in eight Premier League games.

“The second half was strong and we came out right from the beginning looking for a goal. It didn’t happen but there are a lot of positives. It was important to get a clean sheet and the play from our center halves was solid as Deeney and Ighalo are difficult to play against. This is a step we can build on,” Bradley said. “Alfie (Mawson) impressed and it is not a surprise when you see him day in, day out. He is strong, good in the air and I am very happy with him.”

“I think the team we picked today made sense, we had a solid game but we are disappointed. It is a home match so we want three points, but you see the chances we are creating and we can feel good and try to move in the right direction. There is disappointment for sure, but a shared feeling of an all-round good effort.”

If you look at the stats below, it suggests just how tight Bradley’s side was at the back, with the expected goals map showing a 0.4 rating for Watford.

We all know that Bradley will bring defensive solidity and improved organization but the fact that he has done it so quickly at Swansea will be a big bonus for the New Jersey native.

Bradley knows that the goals will come with Sigurdsson and Modou Barrow particularly dangerous, once again, but the main thing which will help the Swans climb up the table and away from the relegation zone is clean sheets and nicking wins.

With the next four games handing Bradley two tough matches and two winnable ones — they face Manchester United and Crystal Palace at home and Stoke City and Everton away — the Swans will look to keep it tight and take their chances when they come.

They didn’t do that on Saturday but the progress is clear for all to see. For a team who is without a win in eight PL games, they aren’t letting it impact their play as Bradley continues to whip them into shape.