Hans-Joachim Watzke: Borussia Dortmund has a unique model to compete for players with Europe’s elite

Hans-Joachim Watzke. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Hans-Joachim Watzke. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) /

Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has spoken very earnestly regarding the appeal of the club’s model to top young talents around Europe, but admitted that it comes with a price.

As has become clear for some time now, Borussia Dortmund’s knack of finding young, top talent and providing them a platform upon which to perform, grow and showcase those talents has earned them a very unique place in the world of football. Their place in European’s football hierarchy is somewhere just below Europe’s wealthiest clubs. But under Hans-Joachim Watzke’s stewardship they have still been able to compete for the signature of some of the most talented young players in the word despite not holding a candle to these clubs financially.

The reason for this, according to Watzke, is the trust that the club puts in these young stars, and the minutes they give them on the pitch. These players, including the likes of Jude Bellingham and Erling Haaland to name a few, become integral parts of the squad very early on.

“We obviously have a unique selling point,” Watzke said on the OMR Podcast. “You can see from the development of the players that the most talented ones make their breakthrough with us the fastest. I spoke to the guys from Ajax recently. All the younger players we have now, they were also on their radar. The difference is, we end up getting them. We’ve shown that we also have no inhibitions about letting a 17-year-old like that play.”

This model also comes with a price, however. While Dortmund is seen as the premier club for young talent to develop, they find it difficult to hold on to their best players sometimes due to the lopsided financial power of clubs like Manchester City, Chelsea, and Paris Saint-Germain to name a few. BVB have sold players like Ousmane Dembele, Jadon Sancho, and İlkay Gündoğan and a number of others to clubs who can afford to pay much higher wages.

At some point, the best players are bought away and you start all over again. It’s hard to permanently develop a top European team if you don’t manage to keep your players over three or four years. We’re not at that level yet.”

The same scenario now threatens to happen with Erling Haaland this summer. Watzke has indicated that he is not willing to “go all out” and give the striker a big money contract primarily because it would not necessarily be good for the “hygiene of the dressing room”.

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While the gap in wealth remains a problem and Watzke admits that something must be done, he was also quick to say that he will support the 50+1 rule all the way, as football is something to be protected from becoming a sport for only those who can afford it. It is a conundrum German football will inevitably have to face however, lest they risk being priced out of the beautiful game by those in the other top 5 leagues.