According to reports, Borussia Dortmund academy striker Julian Rijkhoff feels he is ready to join the professional team, despite the club’s hesitation.
Borussia Dortmund have an important decision to make regarding the future of one of their flourishing young stars. Dutch youth international Julian Rijkhoff seems to feel that he is ready to join the pros for the coming season. Currently 18 years old, Rijkhoff joined Die Schwarzgelben‘s under-17s in January of 2021, making the move from Ajax’s academy, much to the disappointment of Ajax’s hierarchy.
Since then, Rijkhoff has been impressive, going from strength to strength. This season, playing for the under-19s, Rijkhoff has scored 26 times and provided 6 assists across 32 appearances. These performances have prompted the player’s feelings regarding his ability to join the professional team for there coming season.
Dortmund, on the other hand, seem to have their doubts. Rijkhoff signed an extension with the club in February of this year, and Sporting Director Sebastian Kehl noted that they would have a conversation about his role at the club moving forward at the end of the season. The end of the season is here, ands it seems that the discussions they’ve had so far have not yielded a final decision, with Dortmund hesitant to give Rijkhoff what he wants.
Analyzing the club’s standpoint, it’s safe to say that they are doing their best to integrate Rijkhoff and prepare him for a place in the first team in a way that doesn’t hinder his development adversely. No player should have more responsibility thrust on them the they are ready for, and this of course should be the priority of all club’s when handling the futures of their young players.
While I understand caution is a necessity, I still think there is some credence to allowing Rijkhoff to have his first taste of professional football this season. I also believe there is a way to do this without fully dropping the player into the deep end either.
Going into next season, Dortmund will be losing Anthony Modeste as the club will not be renewing his contact. This leaves Sébastien Haller and Youssoufa Moukoko as Dortmund’s main options for the striker position, with Donyell Malen likely filling in when necessary. There have been some rumors regarding Dortmund looking to re-sign Marvin Ducksch as a potential third option. Ducksch would offer a relatively cheap, third string option in the event that Moukoko and/ or Haller were to fall to injury.
That being said, it remains to be seen just how enticing the prospect of warming the bench at Dortmund might be for Ducksch, who excelled at Werder Bremen this season and will be looking for minutes. Instead of bringing back and old face like Ducksch, Dortmund could use the opportunity to promote a player like Rijkhoff to the professional squad as a third option for games when necessary, while allowing him to make the step up to the second team to continue his development in a more rigorous environment. As mentioned, Dortmund already have three players who play, or can play strike regularly (Haller, Moukoko and Malen), so it would make sense for Rijkhoff to get some minutes and continue his development as opposed to stagnating at under-19 level.
It will be interesting to see just what route the club ends up taking when it comes to Rijkhoff’s situation. There’s certainly more than enough striker depth to allow for a gradual transition into the first team without over-burdening or threatening Rijkhoff’s development. Moukoko himself was far younger when he made his debut and became part of the first team, and the club will be looking for him to take up additional responsibility in the squad now that he’s been at the top level since the 2020/21 season. This will allow for Rijkhoff to develop behind Haller and Moukoko and add yet another layer of depth to Dortmund’s embarrassment of attacking riches.