Finishing fourth in the Bundesliga last season, it has been a summer of change for Borussia Dortmund. With new coach Lucien Favre coming in, Marco Reus has already announced that he is ‘Probably the best coach I’ve ever had.’
Linking up with his previous manager, a then 23-year-old Reus produced one of his best seasons to date at Borussia Monchengladbach in 2011/12, scoring 18 goals in 32 league games.
With a remarkable 16 players in Die Schwarzgelben’s squad under 25-years-old, could Favre help them harness their ability like he did with Reus?
Stacked with quality youngsters, a case could be made for Mahmoud Dahoud, Christian Pulisic and Julian Weigl, but they have all seen significant first team game time. Here are five Borussia Dortmund youngsters who could make their first team breakthroughs in 2018/19.
1. Alexander Isak
First up is Swedish sensation Alexander Isak. The lanky centre-forward stands at an intimidating 6’3, with his svelte build making him look even more domineering.
Signed from his hometown team AIK Solna, the 18-year-old cost Dortmund a sum of €8m. On his 17th birthday, Isak scored a double against cross city rivals Djurgardens IF in a 3-0 win. Before moving away from Stockholm, teammate Chinedu Obasi described him as ‘Sweden’s new Zlatan’.
Already having made his debut and scored for his national side, Isak has a big future ahead of him. It was also suggested that he turned down a move to Real Madrid before putting pen to paper in Germany, as he seeks first team game time sooner rather than later.
With confidence, power, speed and an eye for goal either aerially or on the ground, Isak has all the traits needed to play at the highest of levels. Look for the man of Eritrean heritage to compete with Maximilian Philipp for Borussia’s starting spot up top.
2. Jadon Sancho
The story of young Englishman Jadon Sancho is certainly an absorbing one.
Taking home best player with England at the U-17 European Championships and a winners medal at the U-17 World Cup, Sancho has been used to success. Starting in Watford’s youth system, the pacey winger was soon picked up by Premier League big boys Manchester City.
However, after struggling to make a significant breakthrough, Sancho made the decision to move abroad. Having sparkled at BVB, he took over the number 7 jersey from Barcelona bound Ousmane Dembele.
Nearing the end of last season, Sancho scored his first Bundesliga goal in a 4-0 romping of Bayer Leverkusen, a game in which he also picked up two assists. Having appeared for the first team 12 times last season, Sancho will hope for a greater role in Favre’s squad this term.
3. Achraf Hakimi
Joining Dortmund on a two-year loan from Real Madrid is Moroccan international Achraf Hakimi. Born in Madrid, the right-back scored his first goal for Los Blancos in the 5-0 hammering of Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu last year.
Appearing at Russia 2018 with his adopted nation, Hakimi battled with club teammates and position rivals in a match against Spain. Seeing his opportunities in the capital stagnate after Dani Carvajal’s return form inury, Achraf has decided on a move to North Rhine-Westphalia.
With Carvajal spending a season at Bayer Leverkusen in 2012, Real may hope to see Hakimi’s development shoot up much like their current full back. Having only shown glimpses at Real, a continued level of game time for Hakimi would improve his situation greatly.
Now fighting with Pole Lukasz Piszczek for his defensive slot, the exuberant Hakimi may seek to highlight stamina and pace as his 33-year-old competition slows down slightly. With nobody assured of a starting spot under new boss Favre, there could be an interesting tussle for places in Die Schwarzgelben’s first eleven.
4. Manuel Akanji
Since joining from Basel this January, Swiss international Manuel Akanji has started to make a name for himself. Appearing in 11 Bundesliga games last season, the €22m man has shown an ability to dominate in the German first division.
Already said to be Switzerland’s best defender, the 23-year-old had been chased by Liverpool before moving to Dortmund. A star in the making, this term will likely see Akanji cement his place in Die Schwarzgelben’s back line.
Playing for his national side at the World Cup, Manuel gained vital experience on the biggest stage. He will hope to carry over that knowledge into upcoming domestic and European campaigns.
With Sokratis Papastathopoulos signing for Arsenal this summer, Akanji and Omer Toprak will now look to form a solid partnership as Dortmund’s starting centre-backs. Eyeing up a challenge to seemingly perennial champions Bayern Munich, a solid foundation will be crucial for BVB. Manuel Akanji could prove a star performer.
5. Sergio Gomez
Last but not least is ex-Barca man Sergio Gomez. Coming straight from La Masia’s continual conveyor belt of talented midfielders, the 18-year-old was snapped up by Dortmund for a measly €3m.
Speaking to BVB’s official website after signing Gomez in January, Die Schwarzgelben’s sporting director Michael Zorc commented: “Sergio Gómez is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world for his age group.
“We have been interested in him for some time and are happy that he has decided to join Borussia Dortmund despite receiving offers from many of Europe’s top clubs. Sergio will train with the first team and get match practice with the U19s until the summer,”
Since then, Gomez has signed a professional contract and debuted in the Bundesliga. He will see this season as an opportunity to push on and challenge for more first team action. Winning the silver ball in last year’s U-17 World Cup, Gomez was a key contributor in his nation’s second place finish.