Borussia Dortmund’s Kjell Wätjen signs long term professional contract

Borussia Dortmund youth academy star Kjell Wätjen has signed a long term extension with the club.
AC Milan v Borussia Dortmund: Group F - UEFA Youth League 2023/24
AC Milan v Borussia Dortmund: Group F - UEFA Youth League 2023/24 / Jonathan Moscrop/GettyImages

Borussia Dortmund were handed some very good news on the youth academy front this week with u19 star Kjell Wätjen verbally agreeing to sign a long term professional contract with the club. The club moved very quickly to make the announcement official, with Dortmund today releasing the official statement regarding his new contract. Wätjen has been in scintillating form for the u19s this season, with the young German midfielder netting 10 times and racking up a further 8 assists in the u19 Bundesliga West. 

Penning Wätjen to a long term deal is a massive victory for Dortmund, who have been bereft of many true academy products (barring Moukoko in recent years) making an impact on the first team in the last few seasons. Wätjen is among a contingent of promising players like Tom Röthe, Cole Campbell and Paris Brunner that have the potential to break that cycle for the club, with each showing in their own ways that the academy can produce potential future stars for BVB. 

Wätjen’s commitment to Dortmund also comes at a time where midfield is an area of interest for the club as we look towards the summer and a potential rebuild. Having an academy product as an available option for the coming season would be an immense success for the club. The player has been most likened to Jude Bellingham (who played a more box-to-box role while with Dortmund) in terms of play style, but Wätjen is very versatile, having the ability to play as an attacking, central or defensive midfielder, so this adds to just how impactful the youngster could be moving forward.

The one concern anyone could have with Wätjen is just how many minutes he’ll actually get should Edin Terzić remain at the helm come next season. Terzić has earned the ire of fans and players alike for his conservative approach to allowing young players to have time on the pitch. It would be counterintuitive to sign such a talented player to a long term contract without providing a path to first team minutes. Add to this the growing frustration of likes of Youssoufa Moukoko and Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and one simply hopes this situation is different for Wätjen. 

Dortmund Sporting Director Sebastian Kehl has given Wätjen his vote of confidence however, stating that this professional contract is absolutely deserved based on what he's shown in terms of his development and performances:

"Kjell has developed great in recent years and absolutely deserves this step. In our U19, he has drawn attention to himself through strong performances in both the Bundesliga and in the UEFA Youth League and has continuously worked his way to the professional squad. We are far from seeing his development at the end."

Sebastian Kehl

Wätjen, for his part, is excited for this new chapter of his career and is ready to help lead Dortmund into a new era:

"Although I'm still very young, I've already been able to play for my favorite club for many years - and I'm really keen to be able to do so with the big boys in the coming years too"

Kjell Wätjen

Wätjen has been with the club since the u10's, which means that hes very much integrated into the cultures and values of Borussia Dortmund. Having a player that could quite possibly be a future star for this Dortmund side, especially in midfield, is important when one takes into context Marco Reus' situation.

While its still not clear if he will be at Dortmund next season, in the event that Reus does leave, Dortmund will be losing a talismanic figure both on and off the pitch that really has been the face of the club. It's far too early to place that mantle or responsibility on Wätjen to be sure, but there is potential there that if he lives up to the promise that he's shown, he could be that next talismanic figure for the club.

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As per the club's announcement, Wätjen’s contract is set to run until 2028, which will keep the player at Dortmund for many more years to come. His story of coming up through the youth ranks makes him a local boy through and through, which is still something the club should most certainly focus on; having local talent play an active and leading role in the success of the club. It would be wonderful to witness Wätjen develop into a stalwart for Dortmund in midfield, and possibly help lead them to many successful seasons in the future.