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Dortmund May Need to Sell Star Players

January 20, 2004

Are the vultures already circling troubled German soccer club Borussia Dortmund? Speculation is growing that the once top-flight team is preparing to sell some of its best players to come up with some cash.

Going, going...gone? Tomas Rosicky may be headed to the English Premiership.Image: AP

Long plagued by poor results on the pitch and money problems in the boardroom, the once mighty Borussia appears these day to be limping like a dying wildebeest, being shadowed by hyenas behind and vultures above.

In an efforts to solve its financial woes, it seems the 2002 Bundesliga champion is ready to initiate a fire sale to cash in its best assets. Comments from Czech star midfielder Tomas Rosicky stoked speculation he was on the verge of leaving Borussia Dortmund, with a decision coming perhaps as early as this week.

Roman Abramovich
Chelsea's Roman Abramovich.Image: AP

First in the queue of eager shoppers outside the gates of the Westfalen Stadium is Russian billionaire and FC Chelsea chairman Roman Abramovich. The man who has bankrolled the so-called Chelski revolution in the English Premier League appears to have an insatiable appetite for the world’s best players and the deep pockets to match. The London club is reported prepared to pay upwards of €30 million ($37.1 million) for Rosicky.

Player fuels rumors

Rosicky has been doing little to dampen the Russian's ardor. "I've known about Chelsea's interest for eight or nine days," the midfielder recently admitted when questioned by reporters. "It is now down to the clubs to see what happens, but if I were Borussia I would not refuse the offer."

Rosicky, the current Dortmund captain and integral free-flowing cog in the Czech machinery at the heart of the team, is valued at around €14.8 million but would likely cost FC Chelsea much more than that, given the player’s rising stock and his current agreement with the German team.

Bundesliga 1. FC Kaiserslautern gegen Borussia Dortmund
Image: AP

Rosicky joined the Bundesliga side from Sparta Prague in 2001, and is under contract with them until 2008. A majority of the inflated price would go on paying compensation to the club for the loss of a contracted player.

Dortmund looking for profit on sale

Gerd Niebaum, Borussia’s president, on Tuesday said Dortmund did not have an offer for Rosicky on the table and he refused to comment on the reports. But for a club in Dortmund’s position -- this season alone it faces an estimated €25 million loss --a rival club offering to pay the asking price of €30 million for a player that cost almost half that three years ago would present the former German title holders with an offer perhaps too alluring to refuse.

Such a deal would be difficult for the debt-laden club to ignore after losing out on the estimated €12 million financial windfall in Champions League revenue. The club’s misery was made complete when they were unceremoniously dumped out of the UEFA cup by French side Sochaux, losing 6-2 on aggregate.

Over the Bundesliga’s Christmas break, numerous reports surfaced that Borussia was also looking into borrow around €100 million euros by issuing debt simply to keep the club afloat. The securities would reportedly be backed by the future revenue generated by viewing rights over the next 12 years. Team managers have since repeatedly denied that there is a liquidity crunch in Dortmund, but speculation caused by the massive borrowing plans has refused to subside.

Top stars to be sacrificed?

UEFA Cup Ewerthon im Regen
Ewerthon of Borussia Dortmund, right, leaves the field under a pouring rain after his UEFA Cup, second round, second leg soccer match against Sochaux, Thursday, Nov. 27, 2003 in Sochaux, eastern France. Sochaux defeated Borussia 4-0 and advances to the next round of the competition. Teammate at left is unidentified. (AP Photo/Patrick Gardin)Image: AP

The sad reality of the situation at Dortmund is that, with a number of underperforming and overpaid players on the books -- many are currently injured -- only the top stars at Borussia are going to be worth anything to interested parties. That means the sale of Rosicky, compatriot Jan Koller and the Brazilian youngster Ewerthon (picture) represent the best chance of generating cash.

The vicious circle would then be set in motion once more; top players sold to pay off debts, leading to the team being undermined by a reduction in quality and the possibility of poor results which in turn could mean loss of revenue and yet more debts.

Despite the pen being far from poised over a deal between Borussia and Chelsea on the Rosicky deal -- Dortmund coach Matthias Sammer has angrily called for the saga to be concluded one way or the other by the weekend -- it looks to be only a matter of time before more check books are waved in the general direction of an increasingly desperate Westfalen Stadium.