How will Dortmund replace a player like Mario Gotze?
This should be a good time to be Borussia Dortmund. It's just over a fortnight before their second-ever Champions League final, and football fans across Europe light up at the mention of the club's name. But the mood music around every neutralÃ¢ÂÂs favourite club has a discordant undertone.
For within their ranks lies a traitor, a favoured son turned sworn enemy. A player who recently felt the full wrath of the WestfalenstadionÃ¢ÂÂs yellow wall as it turned on one of its own with a special banner dedicated to him, saying Ã¢ÂÂThe pursuit of money shows how much heart you have.Ã¢ÂÂ There were other banners, blunter and more explicit.
Such is the result of Mario GÃÂ¶tze's decision to join Bayern Munich next season. And while Dortmund prepare to face the Bundesliga champions at Wembley on Saturday 25 May, they must also grapple with a new task just as daunting: they must set about replacing GÃÂ¶tze.
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Borussia's elevation into the European spotlight mean that media outlets across the continent are happy to discuss Dortmund's dilemma, with agents, reporters and coaches alike speculating on the search for an suitable alternative.
Christian Eriksen, the most likely addition, seems the most straightforward replacement. Eriksen's contract runs out next summer so Ajax are ready to cash in, while the 21-year old Denmark international has been doing a similar job to GÃÂ¶tze's at Dortmund: sitting behind the main striker in front of two holding midfielders.
But for all his promise, Eriksen's successes have been limited to the Eredivisie, a league that often struggles to offer a bright exchange rate from Dutch to Deutsche in terms of goals and assists Ã¢ÂÂ as Borussia MÃÂ¶nchengladbach have discovered with Luuk de Jong, who scored 25 for FC Twente last term but has managed just six goals in his debut Bundesliga season. The transition could be especially troublesome for Eriksen, who stands barely 5ft 9in tall and lacks the strength or genuine pace to match his incredible technique.
Given the potential perils of relocation, it's understandable that Dortmund have also been linked with two players who have proved themselves very much at home in the Bundesliga, despite both being young men from abroad.
Belgium international Kevin de Bruyne cost Chelsea ÃÂ£7m from Genk in January 2012 but has yet to play a senior game for the Blues. He has spent this season on loan at Werder Bremen, making a name for himself by becoming a linchpin in the clubÃ¢ÂÂs successful battle against relegation. With eight goals and nine assists from central midfield, he fits the central playmaker role that Dortmund will be desperate to fill.
Eriksen, De Bruyne and Son: options outside
His natural inclination to drift out wide, where he has played before, will suit DortmundÃ¢ÂÂs interchanging front four, but the real gift of this young player is his ability to finish a play as well as he can start one. In quite the same fashion as GÃÂ¶tze himself, De Bruyne is a clinical attacking midfielder with an eye for the exquisite pass and neat finish.
In contrast, HamburgÃ¢ÂÂs Son Heung-Min has made his name in the northern port city through his sheer ability to score fine goals. And not just the odd goal Ã¢ÂÂ four of the 12 heÃ¢ÂÂs scored his season have been against Dortmund themselves, as his erratic side did the double over the European contenders.
The South Korean's style is actually more akin to DortmundÃ¢ÂÂs other protÃÂ©gÃÂ© Marco Reus, running at defenders and often gliding past them. Where De Bruyne or Eriksen are suited for starting a play, Son is more effective after the final ball has been made, and left to turn the chance into a goal.
In that sense the 20-year-old Ã¢ÂÂ who is also out of contract in summer 2014, meaning Hamburg may have to sell now or lose him in a year's time Ã¢ÂÂ is less of a direct replacement for Gotze than another option for Jurgen Klopp's forward line. That would become especially pertinent if Robert Lewandowski does indeed leave Dortmund this summer.
As yet, all three potential signings are subject to nothing more than rumours. And considering the history of DortmundÃ¢ÂÂs transfer policy and Klopp's side-building style Ã¢ÂÂ wherein big-money signings are the exception rather than the rule, while the manager buys small and juggles his players to suit his needs Ã¢ÂÂ perhaps the answer will lie closer to home.
There is a strong case for the evolution of Ilkay Gundogan from a sitting playmaker to a complete No.10. Truly establishing himself for Dortmund and Germany this season, the Gelsenkirchen-born 22-year-old is developing at a pace which may be hampered by a new signing.
There's also Marco Reus to consider. Assuming Lewandowski does stay for another season, Reus will play along the three behind the striker next season Ã¢ÂÂ but not necessarily in the left-sided position he has usually occupied so far in his 18 months at Dortmund.
Gundogan, Reus and Gotze keep it in-house
With the expected introduction of 19-year-old Leonardo Bittencourt and 20-year-old Moritz Leitner to the regular first team, Klopp may be more inclined to push Reus Ã¢ÂÂ suddenly something of an elder statesman (he turns 24 at the end of May) Ã¢ÂÂ into the centre, where he excelled at previous club Gladbach and has always seemed more comfortable.
A Gotze-less Dortmund is a concept that will take some getting used to for the Black and Yellows, but it's a problem that will need to be quickly and efficiently dealt with if the club have any ambitions of catching Bayern Munich next season.
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