Despite making Dortmund somewhat competitive in the Bundesliga title race again in 2015/16, taking them to the Europa League and Champions League quarterfinals and winning the German Cup last season, Dortmund’ ‘Yellow Wall’ were given inclinations that things behind the scenes were falling apart. For over a year, there were rumours of unrest, particularly a row between Tuchel and BVB’s chief scout at the time, Sven Mislintat, following the transfer of Oliver Torres from Atlético Madrid in January 2016.
Mislintat was instrumental in bringing many of those aforementioned young gems, as well as goal-scoring machine Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and French sensation Ousmane Dembélé to Dortmund. Mislintat was banned from Dortmund’s training ground and making contacts with players following his spat with Tuchel, essentially forcing Watzke into a corner. Despite the small progress they seemed to make under Tuchel, Watzke fired him and brought in Bosz as a measure to try and appease Mislintat. But, still rattled by those events, Mislintat bolted from Signal Iduna Park to become Arsenal’s head of recruitment late last month, a big coup for the Gunners and equally damning for BVB. Watzke’s mistreatment of Mislintat was shambolic, to say the least, even saying he ‘regrets the way he treated him. Watzke also made a series of broken promises to Tuchel, selling Henrikh Mkhitaryan, İlkay Gündoğan and Mats Hummels in the summer of 2016 despite insisting all three wouldn’t be sold. Additionally, there were disagreements over potential signings, plus reports Watzke didn’t seem a big fan of Tuchel’s admittedly maniacal nature. This non-stop bickering ruined what could have been a very fruitful partnership. Now, Bosz is essentially Watzke’s lap dog and is probably only still there so he can save face.
The remainder of their schedule before the winter break should provide a bit of reprieve, with Werder Bremen and Mainz on the docket. However, that’s succeeded by an earlier than usual DFB Pokal tie away to Bayern, plus a home date with Hoffenheim to round out their pre-Christmas schedule. Plus, with Schalke, Mönchengladbach, RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim all in contention for Champions League places, Dortmund may have to take on their impending Europa League duties in the New Year with a bit more urgency.
With the injuries, backroom uncertainty and no Dembele to call upon after selling him for a boatload of cash to Barcelona following one brilliant season, it will take a while for this mess to be fixed. Even if Bosz is fired, it’s unclear who will take the reins, especially with Bayern also seeking a permanent manager at season’s end. Lucien Favre was pursued in the summer to no avail and is enduring his usual ‘start fast, flame out faster’ act at OGC Nice. Then there’s Julian Nagelsmann, who would be the perfect replacement, except Bayern really want him and would probably be his first choice if he were to depart Hoffenheim.
Dortmund’s yellow wall – referencing their structure and not their vociferous fan base – is crumbling. Not to the crippling effects it once knew, especially with the talent at its disposal and a strong financial outlook. But for BVB’s foundations to truly be sturdy again, they must stop becoming architects of their own demise and get the right builders for the job. And fast.