It’s still several months before Marco Rose will take over at Borussia Dortmund, but he could be forgiven for wondering exactly what he’ll be getting this summer.
Will Jadon Sancho be in the squad, for example? Will supporters fill the Yellow Wall for his first home game? And will he ever have a fit, senior right-back to play regularly?
If he could, though, Rose would have two wishes for what awaits him when he does eventually take over at Signal Iduna Park, and both were on show on Wednesday night: to be in the Champions League, and to have Erling Haaland at his disposal.
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As it stands, neither can be considered anywhere near guarantees.
Dortmund are sixth in the Bundesliga, six points off the top four and with one win in six in league play. Haaland is one of the most-admired forwards in all of Europe, with a strike rate few can match. In scoring two first-half goals against Sevilla, the Norwegian claimed his 24th and 25th of the season, from 24 appearances.
If Tuesday night’s Champions League encounters saw Kylian Mbappe confirm himself as the heir apparent to the title of best forward in world football, the following evening saw Haaland remind everybody that he’s the Frenchman’s most likely companion along the journey.
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Ultimately, Dortmund’s ability to offer progress and success will determine how long the 20-year-old remains in place – along with the the obvious factors such as when teams step forward with an appropriate bid. And, of course, their chances of success are heightened while they have Haaland at the club.
But this isn’t to suggest that Rose will be inheriting anything approaching a one-man band.
Dortmund are likely to face a decision over Sancho again, who has rediscovered form over recent weeks, and sporting director Michael Zorc has already suggested that there will be several enforced sales if Champions League football is not earned for 2021/22.
Even so, BVB have a litany of talented youngsters to continue to build around: 18-year-old Giovanni Reyna, who made such a tremendous impact last season; 16-year-old forward Youssoufa Moukoko, already with two Bundesliga goals to his name; injury-plagued and raw, but clearly talented, 21-year-old defender Dan-Axel Zagadou. And perhaps most of all beyond Haaland and Sancho, English midfielder Jude Bellingham, still just 17.
The former Birmingham City man opted for Dortmund over other potential new clubs as he saw the possibility for game time and growth. He has certainly seen plenty of each this term, playing in all seven of his team’s games in Europe this term.
It can be tough to control a match at this level, particularly in a side as inconsistent as Dortmund have been and on the elite stage where he was entirely inexperienced prior to this season, but he showed his value against Sevilla in both a ball-winning capacity and as a technical, forward-thinking talent.
Add in Emre Can, Julian Brandt, Marco Reus and Raphael Guerreiro – another who’ll likely be on the departure list if the top-four finish isn’t earned – and there are plenty of players who both have the quality to improve Dortmund further, and have the style of play and versatility to fit Rose’s usual systems.
This first-leg win showed both sides of BVB: the attacking potential they have and the defensive unsteadiness. A 3-2 scoreline away from home very much tilts the tie in their favour, but the uncertainty at the back shown after Sevilla notched a late second – and even the manner of conceding it off a simple set-piece – still served to underline just how precarious Dortmund’s leads feel at times. The second leg will come at a crucial point in the season.
The incoming manager, soon to be preparing Borussia Monchengladbach for a Champions League tie of their own against Manchester City, will get an up-close look at Dortmund in early March, when the two sides meet in the DFB-Pokal quarter-finals.
That week will very likely define what type of immediate future Die Schwarzgelben can offer their new manager – they’ll face Rose’s current club in the cup clash, then Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, then the second leg against Sevilla in the last 16.
Victory in one or two could mean a change in mentality, optimism and outlook for this season, which has been difficult and inconsistent so far.
Defeat in all three would leave nobody in any doubt that a hard rebuilding job is on the cards, and it would be incredibly unlikely to be done among Europe’s elite – or with the services of Haaland.
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