Ousmane Dembele went on strike to try to force through his move to Barcelona. By standing his ground and getting his price, Dortmund's Hans-Joachim Watzke made the best of a toxic situation, writes DW's Davis VanOpdorp.
Borussia Dortmund had little choice but to agree to sell Ousmane Dembele to Barcelona. Had they not sold Dembele, who had gone on strike to try to force through a move to his desired club, it would have been extremely difficult to bring him back into the fold. Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke knew that, as did sporting director Michael Zorc.
That is why both men attended Champions League draw in Monaco on Thursday - an event Zorc had never previously attended - where they reportedly met with Barcelona officials. At that point, Dembele had been suspended by Dortmund for two weeks and was said to have cut off all communication with the club.
Despite the fact that their options were extremely limited, the two Dortmund front-office men stood their ground and extracted their asking price from the Catalan giants. They did so by using the little leverage that they had.
They knew that Barcelona were desperately looking for a replacement for the recently departed Neymar and that Dembele, who had joined Dortmund from Stade Rennes just 12 months ago, had a full four years left on his contract. So Dortmund fans should be happy about how the two came up with the best-possible resolution to what was a toxic situation.
To receive an initial 105 million euros ($124 million), plus hefty add-ons which will make the deal the second most expensive in football history, is a staggering achievement given Dembele is only 20 and is not yet the finished article.
Another star sold
Fans may not be so happy though. Dortmund remain in the upper echelons of European football but Dembele's move to Barcelona shows they still struggle to keep their biggest stars. That stigma was part of what caused the breakup between the club and their last coach, Thomas Tuchel, as he was frustrated by the sale of three players in 2016 - Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ilkay Gundogan and Mats Hummels - after a second-place finish in the Bundesliga.
Liverpool, in contrast, have not so far bowed to Barcelona pressure as the Spanish Cup champions tried to pry away Brazil playmaker Coutinho from their clutches. However, one could argue that Dortmund did not crack either as they forced Barcelona to meet their demands.
Sure, Dortmund could have insisted that Dembele remain at the club and fulfill his contract but when has that ever worked to the benefit of a club? Even if he had ended his strike, an unhappy player often does not give his best and infects the rest of the dressing room. Instead it is better to cash in when you can.
Many will say that Dortmund can't afford to lose such a remarkable young talent - Dembele scored 10 goals and recorded 21 assists in 49 appearances last season. However, Christian Pulisic made a good case against that argument with his performance last week.
Watzke and Zorc therefore agreed a deal they felt they had no choice but to make, and they extracted a handsome price to spend on replacements.