A huge emphasis is placed on youth in modern day football as teams seek to latch onto the next big thing as early as possible to prevent their rivals from doing so. Many of the big clubs simply rifle through the academies and splash the cash on anyone with a decent reputation on the off chance they’ll turn into something special. However, in my opinion, it’s much more impressive when a club is shrewd in it’s youth recruitment by carefully watching youngsters and sacrificing a slightly larger transfer fee for a player with a bit more experience. The reason I feel this is more impressive is that any big team can throw a few hundred thousand at a smaller team’s academy, but it takes football knowledge and guts to pay a slightly bigger fee and pick someone who has been rigorously scouted.
The first criticism is certainly not one that can be levelled at Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund. In fact, on the 14th October 2016, Thomas Tuchel actually fielded a starting line-up with an average age of 22.8 years! The oldest player in that eleven was Marcel Schmelzer at 28 and they even had an 18 and 19-year old on the bench too! I won’t claim this transfer policy is entirely Tuchel’s doing but you can’t help but notice the influx of young talent since his appointment.
Take the last summer transfer window for example, the average age of Dortmund’s signings was just 22.5, so you can clearly see that Tuchel is looking to give his squad a fresh look. One signing that caught some people’s eye was that of Ousmane Dembele from Stade Rennais. The fee was thought to be around £12.75m and although Dembele looked to be a great talent, it was still quite a risk from the German side to shell out such a sum on a player so young and raw. Dembele is just 19 years of age and has already repaid the faith shown in him with some fantastic displays and he also holds the title of being the third top goalscorer for the season (inevitably behind the lethal Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Marco Reus). From a transfer that caught the eye to a transfer that certainly didn’t and that is the transfer of Raphael Guerreiro. Guerreiro has been a huge success since joining and even made an impression in the European Championship winning Portuguese side this summer. Initially thought to be more of a left sided player, Guerreiro has put in a string of excellent performances in the centre of midfield and is arguably Dortmund’s singing of the season, it seems they have unearthed a real gem.
Emre Mor is another who was brought in during the summer and he continues the theme of youth at the age of just 18. Mor is an attacking player who preferably operates on the right wing and again looks to be an intelligent signing. Despite being only 18, Mor has 8 international caps for Turkey to his name already. Mor has played 581 minutes of football so far this term and is earning valuable experience, I’m sure Tuchel is looking forward to moulding him into the top class player he looks like he can be. Also recruited in the summer was Spanish defender Mikel Merino. Dortmund signed the 20-year-old from Osasuna and although his game time has been fairly limited so far at just 3 appearances, Merino also looks like an interesting player for the future.
If you look back to the summer transfer window before the one just gone then you’ll also notice Dortmund signed Julian Weigl from 1860 Munich when he was just 19. Since signing Weigl has shown excellent potential and has really risen to the top in terms of being regarded as one of the most exciting young talents in Europe. With 19 appearances to his name it’s clear that Tuchel has faith that Weigl can hold his own amongst the elite.
Other youngsters in Dortmund’s squad also worthy of a mention include Felix Passlack (18), the young right back and Alexander Isak (17) who was signed in this winter transfer window just gone. I’d be foolish to exclude Christian Pulisic too who is an incredible prospect and someone we’ve already done a scout report on which you can check out here – Christian Pulisic – Scout Report.
Although youth isn’t entirely on their side, it might also be worth considering that Mario Gotze is still only 24 (yes, I couldn’t believe that when I read it either!) and Matthias Ginter is just 23 too. For goalkeeping options, Dortmund have the talented Swiss keeper Roman Burki and although he may be 26, that’s still fairly young for a goalkeeper.
In conclusion, the faith that Borussia Dortmund and Thomas Tuchel hold in youth is nothing short of astounding and so far you’d have to say that most of the signings have paid off. If I was a top team looking to freshen up my squad then I’d certainly be sending my scouts to follow the Borussia Dortmund ones!