After a mixed season, Borussia Dortmund was forced to rebuild. A new coach, a new sports director and well-known newcomers should improve the prospects in the Bundesliga title fight.
In an interview with the “Deutsche Presse-Agentur”, club boss Hans-Joachim Watzke comments on the new BVB, the title prospects and the shocking tumor of newcomer Sébastien Haller.
Recently you have not only been managing director of Borussia Dortmund, but since February you have also been chairman of the supervisory board of the DFL and 1st vice-president of the DFB. Is it an exaggeration to describe you as the most influential manager in German football at the moment?
Hans Joachim Watzke: I don’t think in such categories and agree with Pope John the 23rd: One shouldn’t take oneself so seriously. I didn’t push myself. At some point, the vast majority of clubs simply wanted me to get involved. And when I do something, I do it right. I probably had an influence before, now I bear responsibility. That is the difference.
With such intensive part-time jobs, is there still enough time for BVB?
Borussia Dortmund will not lose an hour of working time as a result. I’ve only missed one league game in 18 years at BVB because I had a fever of 40.8 at the time. BVB is my job, my task, my passion. Everything else comes on top. It is possible to manage this in terms of time – ambitious, but possible.
There is enough work at BVB. There is a new sporting director, a new coach, a much changed squad. That feels like the start of a new era. For her too?
Honestly not. If you want to speak of a new beginning, then that’s more the case with the DFB or the DFL. There is a very high degree of continuity at BVB. The new sports director and the new coach didn’t just fall from the sky. Sebastian Kehl had four years to get used to the job and learn it from scratch. And the job as head coach is not new territory for Edin Terzic either. It makes a difference whether you bring two complete strangers into your organization or two who know the organization inside out.
BVB has already invested over 80 million euros in the new squad. Is the impression misleading or is the desire for more investment risk growing again in Dortmund after years with rock-solid business figures?
Not at all. So far we have invested maybe 15 million euros net. Other Bundesliga clubs invest significantly more in net terms. We mustn’t forget that we gave up Erling Haaland. It is also a fact that after two and a half years of Corona and damage of more than 100 million euros in loss of income, as of today, Borussia Dortmund does not have a single euro of financial liabilities to banks or credit institutions.
The reason for the high sporting staff turnover was certainly the performance of the team in the past season. You yourself sometimes found clear words and described the performance in Europe as a “complete catastrophe”. What bothered you most about the team last season?
Football is a results sport and the results at international level were just bad. In addition, there was the early end of the DFB Cup with a second division team. If you are as talented as I am, you have to find clear words. That was not what Borussia Dortmund wanted. point, over, end. But you can be satisfied with the Bundesliga, that was okay.
The external BVB consultant Matthias Sammer longs for more continuity at Borussia. He recently said, “This is the club and this is the team. You should recognize that.” What did he mean by that?
BVB exudes more continuity than almost any other club. Reinhard Rauball has been the club president for ages. I’m doing this for 18 years now and Michael Zorc has done it for 24 years. Sebastian Kehl has been with us for a long time, Lars Ricken has been with us for a long time. That’s why I think Matthias meant the coaching position, even though he was also convinced that it was the right thing to do in the summer. Of course, every club would like to work with a head coach for as long as possible. But it is also a fact that the average in the two leagues is 1.3 years.
What makes you confident that Edin Terzic could sometimes go above this average. You had recently expressed the wish to be able to work with a coach again for “three or four years”.
What makes me optimistic is his high professional qualification. On top of that, Edin has really delved into life as a coach and as a member of Borussia Dortmund. Edin knows every branch of the club. This club is not only ambitious, it also has a soul. Edin knows for sure that when he presses a button, eight other lights will come on. That helps, then you have a good early warning system and you can also assess things. This total passion for the club is not played or learned at Edin, but lived from an early age. So he has ideal starting conditions.
Sébastien Haller’s shocking diagnosis doesn’t make the coach’s job any easier. How did you personally experience the events?
The issue got worse and worse within a few hours on Monday. To be honest, we’re still in shock. The least important thing is the sporting history. Sébastien’s health is much more important. Within 24 hours his life was turned upside down. The team was also completely shocked. Such bad news, concerning someone from your closest circle, naturally affects the whole training camp. Everyone is thinking of him.
What influence does Haller’s absence have on squad planning for the new season?
From my point of view, falling into hectic and actionism is a moral and ethical problem. We can’t speculate on a player’s health until there is a crystal clear diagnosis. And it will definitely be several days before that happens. You have to be serious about the situation.
Does this diagnosis make you worried about a bumpy start to the season?
It might get bumpy. But we mustn’t use that as an alibi in any way, we have to see it as a challenge.
Former technical director Terzic is now head coach. The former license player boss Kehl now sports director. So there are two vacancies. Will these positions be filled?
Basically nothing is free. One of the reasons we created the two positions was to be prepared. Sebastian’s position was a so-called onboarding position for the position he now holds. There will certainly be someone at some point who will support Sebastian in some way. One point in Edin’s position was, of course, having another person in the club who identified strongly with BVB. And who you know will eventually be able to solve your trainer question.
Are there any vacancies in the squad? Allegedly, BVB is still looking for a left-back.
We have at least three players for this position. But eternity statements no longer work in professional football anyway. I don’t see it at the moment, but I also know that in two weeks the football world can look completely different again.
FC Bayern Munich is the only club that has so far invested more money in the squad than BVB. Does that worry you a bit?
You have to be able to afford what Bayern have done so far in terms of transfers. But that’s nothing new. This will not turn the Bundesliga’s financial power upside down, but rather cement it further. I’ve said it a hundred times: Leipzig, Leverkusen, we – of course we would all like to see Bayern not win the championship. But the German public cannot necessarily demand that of us. Because nobody is demanding that Mainz 05 be in front of BVB next year. However, the budget difference between Mainz and Borussia Dortmund is smaller than that between BVB and Bayern Munich. That’s just fact. And the media should take note of that.
Is there renewed boredom in the master fight?
With these newcomers, Bayern Munich is the number one favorite. They may lose an exceptional player in Lewandowski, but gain two exceptional players in Mané and de Ligt. At some point in a season we have to have the quality, the courage and the luck to strike again. Then Bayern would still have to accommodate us or Leipzig or Leverkusen or whoever. But then it would happen at some point that another club would become champions. I never said it would happen next year.
You caused quite a stir with your statement a few months ago that FC Bayern will also collapse at some point.
Not collapse, but burglary. What I mean by that: There’s one constant in life that doesn’t last forever. In France, Lille became champion two years ago, although Paris is economically overpowered.
Are the transfers from Mané and de Ligt to FC Bayern indications that the Bundesliga is also becoming more interesting for international stars?
The Bundesliga was never uninteresting. There are certain circles in Germany that are interested in badmouthing football. Certain media had reported in the past two years that the interest of viewers would decrease dramatically after the Corona period. That the chasm has become vast, that all other things are turning. But if I now follow the interest and the season ticket sales, most of it was said. The problem: If you hear it a hundred times, you end up believing it yourself. Unfortunately, that happened to me too, I have to admit. You have to get rid of these things.
The Bundesliga is not facing an ordinary season. There is a World Cup in the middle of winter. Does the long break affect the title fight?
The World Cup award to Qatar was not the greatest feat. But now we have to make the best of it. The effects will not be as severe as one might think. Whether you decide the first half of the season on November 15th or December 15th, in the end it’s about four weeks. As a result, the balance of power and the balance of power in German football will not be different when it starts again in January.
What has to happen at BVB for you to be satisfied at the end of the coming season?
I’m satisfied when we can have the feeling that we’ve come close to our maximum in terms of potential. Defining that exactly is of course difficult. But last season we felt it wasn’t like that.
To person: Born in Marsberg and 63 years old, Hans-Joachim Watzke has been managing director of Borussia Dortmund since 2005. In February 2022, he also took over the offices of DFL Supervisory Board Chairman and 1st DFB Vice President.