Borussia Dortmund has arguably had five of the best young talents in all of Europe play at their club at any time over the past five years, yet they have all slipped away.
Is it truly sustainable, in a football sense, to sell your best players year-on-end without putting a majority of the profits to use?
Dortmund fans may think not as they see their arch-rivals Bayern Munich dominate the Bundesliga and European competition every season.
So who have they sold, who have they bought, and what should Dortmund do with their incredibly lucrative transfer budget this summer?
DEPARTURES & ARRIVALS
In the past, names like Robert Lewandowski and Mats Hummels have come back to haunt Dortmund. Selling big names left the club unable to replace them with players with enough quality as those that left.
These five stars are the ones that have or will have left Dortmund for the greatest sums in the past five years:
I. Ousmane Dembélé - To Barcelona FC for €105M
II. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - To Arsenal FC for €63M
III. Christian Pulisic - To Chelsea FC for €64M
IV. Jadon Sancho - To Manchester Utd FC for €85M
V. Erling Haaland - To Manchester City FC for €60M
From just these five players, Dortmund has earned €377 million. But who have Dortmund bought with the money that they have gained?
I. Jude Bellingham - From Birmingham City FC for €26M
II. Donyell Malen - From PSV Eindhoven for €31M
III. Mats Hummels - From Bayern Munich FC for €31.8M
IV. Emre Can - From Juventus FC for €26M
V. Karim Adeyemi - From FC Salzburg for €31M
From these five new arrivals, Dortmund has spent €145.8 million. Players like Giovanni Reyna from the NYCFC academy and Niklas Süle from Bayern Munich FC have also been solid additions, but they were both on a free transfer.
This leaves €231.2 million left in the bank based solely on the transfers of these ten players.
Dortmund has worked economically by not buying big-money signings like the clubs that they sold their best players to have the luxury to do.
At some point, Dortmund has to look at their past handful of seasons and think about how much they have underachieved.
Dortmund has won three domestic trophies in the past five years while Bayern- who they should be aspiring to be like - has won upwards of 14 trophies in that same span.
In fact, Bayern has only spent more than €50 million on a single player twice in the past five seasons. This was with Lucas Hernández from Atlético de Madrid for €83M and Leroy Sané from Manchester City for €62.5M.
Dortmund has the ability to become a top club in Europe once again because of the profits they have made and the fact that they have one of the best young players in Europe Jude Bellingham to build around.
Now is the time to transition from a development club to a competing club for the Bundesliga and Champions League. Their scout team has been successful at finding young players for cheap and selling them for a high price, but at some point, they cannot continue to sell once they have a really talented player in their squad.
If Dortmund wants to beat Bayern to the Bundesliga title in the next few seasons, they must spend like a big club. Bayern's process is bringing in two to three €20M signings per year who add depth to their squad.
The next step should be to go for young players that are higher profile even if they are more expensive than past signings. Staying in the Bundesliga could be a helpful avenue by buying outstanding players from the clubs below them like:
(2021/22 statistics and Transfermarkt estimated prices)
I. Christopher Nkunku - 34 G / 20 A - €70M
II. Patrik Schick - 24 G / 5 A - €42M
III. Filip Kostic - 7 G / 14 A - €20M
IV. Taiwo Awoniyi - 20 G / 5 A - €16M
It is still important to keep the club's identity, though. A core of young players is essential to keeping Dortmund and its fanbase connected to its history. Going back to the Klopp era, Dortmund was thought of as less than Bayern, but they still won the league and outperformed their rivals.
Two or three top-class players in their starting XI to complement their current squad and a manager to match could push Dortmund back to the level of Bayern and back to reaching European semi-finals and championships.