Opinion: Borussia Dortmund’s stance on Moukoko is un-called for and bewildering

DORTMUND, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 1: (LR) Youssoufa Moukoko and Niclas Füllkrug of Borussia Dortmund sitting on the bench ahead of the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Heidenheim 1846 at Signal Iduna Park on September 1, 2023 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Ralf Ibing - firo sportphoto/Getty Images)
DORTMUND, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 1: (LR) Youssoufa Moukoko and Niclas Füllkrug of Borussia Dortmund sitting on the bench ahead of the Bundesliga match between Borussia Dortmund and 1. FC Heidenheim 1846 at Signal Iduna Park on September 1, 2023 in Dortmund, Germany. (Photo by Ralf Ibing - firo sportphoto/Getty Images) /

Borussia Dortmund have been said to be willing to let Youssoufa Moukoko go should they receive a substantial bid for the player.

Of all the club’s associated with the development of young, promising footballers, Borussia Dortmund have often been at the top of the list for players looking to make the next step in their careers and showcase their abilities at the very top level. As of recent however, the club have had trouble really showcasing the talent of players brought through their own academy.

In many cases, much of Dortmund’s academy products have had to seek pastures new for more minutes on the pitch. Ansgar Knauff is a recent example of this. Other players, such as Jamie Bynoe Gittens and Gio Reyna have had limited minutes due to injuries and fitness struggles over recent years, dulling their ability to stamp their place in the team. While the former was able to play a good portion of Dortmund’s home game against Wolfsburg this past weekend, the latter is still yet to make an appearance this season for a variety of reasons.

No player really exhibits Dortmund’s situation regarding young players quite like Youssoufa Moukoko, however. Moukoko has been, by and large, the most anticipated youth academy prospect under contract with Die Schwarzgelben for as long as anyone can remember. This is is much so that the Bundesliga’s rules were changed to accommodate his debut a few seasons ago. His performances in Dortmund’s youth ranks are a thing of legend, and his professional debut was highly anticipated by anyone who followed the team closely and knew what he was capable of. All in all, Moukoko was expected to be Dortmund’s next star, home grown player.

So far, things have not panned out the way we would have expected them to for Moukoko. A combination of injuries and competition in the squad has culminated to the young German international hardly getting any minutes under Edin Terzić, who has favored an out of form Sébastian Haller and newcomer Niclas Füllkrug up front. The general line of thinking, according to what we can gather, has to do with Terzić’s preference of having a more physical striker up front.

Because of this, Füllkrug was signed in anticipation for Haller’s expected absence in the second half of the season due to AFCON. Haller has failed to perform this season however, which has now put Füllkrug front and center as the main choice up front. Despite Haller’s dip in form, Moukoko continues to get little to no minutes, which may come back to haunt Dortmund in more ways than one.

On the players end, Moukoko constantly being sidelined is not helping his development whatsoever. At Moukoko’s age, game time is extremely important and sitting on the bench consistently will not do anything to push his career forward. It would be unsurprising to hear that Moukoko is disgruntled with this lack of opportunities despite signing a new contract this past winter, and with top clubs allegedly circling the player with interest, it would be completely understandable if the player expressed his desire to leave.

Moukoko’s departure, should it come to pass, would have a twofold effect on Dortmund. For one, they would be losing a player that could have been their first real academy success story since Mario Götze came through the clubs ranks. A departure would be an all around failure for the club from the academy standpoint and really hurt their image as a club that gives top, young talent a chance to shine. There are other top youngsters in the academy, such as Julian Rijkhoff, who may end up looking to take their future elsewhere to avoid the treatment Moukoko is currently receiving.

On the outside, players who may currently see the club as an option to really come and hone their skills may turn elsewhere to avoid the situation Moukoko finds himself in as well. The overall landscape of football is becoming more welcoming towards the idea of young, talented players getting more time on the pitch and more clubs are emerging as possible destinations for those talents. This would be a terrible time for Dortmund to damage their reputation in this vein.

Moukoko’s lack of minutes comes as a shock due to the fact that none of Dortmund’s other options in the position have made a clear claim on it via their performances. It could be possibly argued that Füllkrug starting Dortmund’s games makes sense particularly because of his league experience, ability to help in build up play, and how well he already meshes with the other members of Dortmund’s front line, but Moukoko should at worst be second in running, both due to his clear talent but also due or the different element he brings onto the pitch when played as a striker.

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Taking the game against Wolfsburg as an example, it was baffling to watch Terzić shoehorn on a clearly struggling Haller instead of giving him a rest and allowing Moukoko a chance to shine. The game didn’t call for it to slow down, and there were quite a few moments where perhaps Moukoko’s speed would have been far more effective up front than Haller was. The game had not yet been killed off and it wouldn’t have taken much for Wolfsburg to get back into it. Moukoko could have offered more of an edge up front and even finished the tie off. It is these sort of decisions that bring into question Dortmund’s stance regarding Moukoko, and what makes me worry that not only are they hurting their relationship with one of their top prospects; they are also slowly moving towards as one dimensional approach that could put their short and long term goals as a club at risk.