Football Features

Cheaper than Haaland: Borussia Dortmund’s best bargain signings

By Ben Green

Borussia Dortmund bargain buys

Published: 15:15, 14 May 2020 | Updated: 16:31, 15 May 2020

In hopes of aiding their Bundesliga title challenge this season, Borussia Dortmund pulled off yet another masterstroke in the market to enhance their reputation as Europe’s transfer gurus.

The January transfer window saw BVB not only sign one of the continent’s most sought-after youngsters in Erling Braut Haaland, but they also acquired his services for an exceptionally modest £17.1million fee – his buyout clause.

Indeed the Westfalenstadion has been a hive of shrewd transfer activity in recent years, with BVB signing some of world football’s heavyweight stars – but for a featherweight price.

Haaland was the latest of those mega talents to be enlisted into the Borussia books and he has flourished in the Bundesliga, but this is not the first time Michael Zorc has flexed his Midas touch.

In fact, BVB have signed some of the game’s most promising talents and current world-class stars for even less than the Haaland sum. So just how crafty have Dortmund been in the market in recent years?

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Signed from: Saint-Etienne

Reported fee: £11m

Signed from Ligue 1 outfit Saint-Etienne in 2013 as a goalscoring winger, Aubameyang found the back of a net under Jurgen Klopp at an alarming rate despite playing out wide. It wasn’t until the current Liverpool boss shifted ‘Auba’ from flank to forward that his Golden Boot exploits truly came alive.

And from there Aubameyang hasn’t looked back. He is now regarded as one of world football’s most devastating and prolific strikers, provoking Arsenal to courier £56m to Dortmund for his signature in 2018. Having signed for just £11m, Aubameyang‘s 141-goal return in only five seasons at Dortmund makes him one of the bargains of the decade.

Not to mention he was the fastest player to reach 75 Bundesliga goals for Dortmund, reaching the milestone in just 117 games – by comparison, Robert Lewandowski scored 74 in 131 league games for the club.

Ousmane Dembele

Signed from: Rennes

Reported fee: £13m

Another shrewd signing from French football, Dembele joined the ranks in Dortmund as a precocious winger and immediately flourished during his only campaign in the Bundesliga. The 23-year-old netted double digits in 2016/17 as Dortmund went on to lift the DFB-Pokal, while he was also named in the Bundesliga Team of the Season during his maiden term.

Naturally this alerted some of Europe’s big hitters, and Barcelona reached deep into their pockets to splash a lucrative £112m for the World Cup winner. Fans are still waiting for him to replicate his Dortmund form in Catalonia, but this will surely go down as one of the best pieces of transfer activity from the German club in footballing history.

Marco Reus

Signed from: Borussia Monchengladbach

Reported fee: £15m

Signed from Borussen rivals Monchengladbach in 2013, Reus has gone on to establish himself as one of Europe’s most threatening and lethal attacking players in the yellow and black colours of Dortmund. The 30-year-old has had ill-luck with recurring injury problems in recent years, but he is seemingly back to his best and now wears the captain’s armband for the Bundesliga club. 

Robert Lewandowski

Signed from: Lech Poznan

Reported fee: £4m

The 31-year-old is a goalscoring machine and will surely go down as the striker of the decade. He has gone on to immortalise his No. 9 status with Bayern Munich, but it was during his Dortmund days that the world started to pay attention to this menacing marksman.

A four-time winner of the Bundesliga top scorer accolade, few strikers can hold a candle to this lethal goal-getter, and Dortmund deserve huge credit for scouting him and providing a platform from which to thrive.  And it appears that Lewandowski is trying to return the favour, urging Haaland to remain in the Bundesliga amid reports of a move to Real Madrid and Manchester United.

“He has huge potential, but still has time,” Lewandowski said. “I don’t want to put any pressure on him with my statements.

“If he works hard, he can become a better player and eventually reach the top level. Therefore it might be good for him if he would stay in the Bundesliga longer before taking the next step.”

Ilkay Gundogan

Signed from: 1. FC Nurnberg

Reported fee: £4m

Gundogan is now an illustrious part of Pep Guardiola‘s furniture at Manchester City, but the Germany international was once pulling the creative strings as a luxurious axis for BVB. The 29-year-old is another like Reus who endured a long-term injury lay-off, but he returned and showcased his innate midfield ability at the Westfalenstadion before City came knocking on the door and lured him away for a handsome fee.

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Mats Hummels

Signed from: Bayern Munich

Reported fee: £4m

Hummels was initially signed on loan from Bavarian giants Bayern in 2008, but he quickly established a sturdy centre-back partnership with Neven Subotic, and so, Klopp wasted no time in making the defender a permanent fixture in his backline.

Hummels was signed for only £4m from Bayern in 2009 and went on to truly enhance his burgeoning reputation as one of football’s most formidable centre-backs, encouraging his former employers to return and tempt him to the Allianz for around £30m four years ago – he is now back with Dortmund.

Jadon Sancho

Signed from: Man City

Reported fee: £10m

Often billed the coup of recent seasons, Dortmund‘s gamble on youngster Sancho has proven inspired as the England international has gone on to, not only cement a starting berth in the club’s first team, but is now one of Europe’s most tracked players and will surely attract a fee north of £100m should the club look to sell.

Having already broken a handful of records at Dortmund, in February 2020 Sancho wrote his name into the Bundesliga history books by becoming the first player to score 25 goals in the league before his 20th birthday.

Ivan Perisic

Signed from: Club Brugge

Reported fee: £5m

Before Wolfsburg, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich there was Dortmund, who utilised their excellent scouting network to sign Perisic from Belgian football in 2011. He wasn’t quite able to have the sort of impact he has showcased in recent years, but he still garnered a profit, and his now elite-level form has shone another luminous torch on Dortmund‘s shrewd scouting system.

Shinji Kagawa

Signed from: Cerezo Osaka

Reported fee: £300k

Indeed Dortmund’s scouts have cast their nets wider than just Europe, with the club reaping the fruits of their excellent work in the market with the signing of unheralded talent Kagawa in 2010.

The attacking midfielder was causing quite the stir in Japan when Dortmund went under the radar to sign him, and Kagawa truly developed into a leading talent, becoming the leading Japanese goalscorer in the Bundesliga with 41 strikes across two spells. Kagawa’s performances under Klopp enticed Sir Alex Ferguson to bring him to Manchester United in 2012 for a tidy profit.

Lucas Barrios

Signed from: Colo-Colo

Reported fee: £4m

From East Asia to South America, and before the Lewandowskis and Aubameyangs of this world, Barrios was the master goalscorer for Dortmund. He endured a nomadic existence flitting between clubs in South America before Dortmund took a gamble in 2009 and what a signing he proved. to be.

A late bloomer, Barrios pitched up in Dortmund a decade ago, and during two exceptionally productive seasons, he lifted two Bundesliga titles, netting 35 league goals in the process. His third and final season proved less fruitful as Lewandowski rose to prominence and took the torch, but having signed for a paltry fee, his goals proved invaluable as Klopp lifted his two Bundesliga crowns.

Jakub Blaszczykowski

Signed from: Wisla Krakow

Reported fee: £3m

Another plucked from obscurity in 2007, Blaszczykowski won the club’s ‘Player of the Year’ award the year after he signed and didn’t look back. He was there as the club won two Bundesliga titles in 2010/11 and 2011/12, and started in the 2013 Champions League final defeat to bitter adversaries Bayern at Wembley.

Lukasz Piszczek

Signed from: Hertha BSC

Reported fee: Free transfer

Ok, he signed on a free transfer in 2010 from Hertha, but we couldn’t leave him out given his years of service. The Poland international has been a near-ever present for the club this decade and continues to play a prominent role to this day despite now being well and truly into his twilight years. An excellent servant and stalwart for the club.

Honourable mentions

Raphael Guerreiro (from FC Lorient)

Neven Subotic (from Mainz)

Ciro Immobile (from Torino)

Mahmoud Dahoud (from Borussia Monchengladbach)

Julian Weigl (from 1860 Munich)

Roman Burki (from SC Freiburg)

Kevin Kampl (from RB Salzburg)

Dan-Axel Zagadou (from PSG)