Borussia Dortmund is misleading.
All the tropes of a Big Club are there; the 85,000-seat stadium, always full. The world class players. The Champions League runs. The domestic cups. The global fan base. If you were new to the game, there’s nothing blatantly obvious, really, to separate BVB from, say, clubs like Manchester City, Juventus or even Real Madrid.
They are, of course, not like those clubs. Their budget is smaller, their mandate more constricted, their ultimate aims in player acquisition different. They trawl up coveted youth players for pennies, or, in Christian Pulisic’s case, for free. They’re willing to burn time pushing them up through their U19 apparatus in exchange for lower fees. They need to make big sales before they splash for big buys.
And, in the case of Ousmane Dembele, they use their multi-faceted scouting network to pull up transfers for teenagers at a fraction of the cost.
Dembele moved from Rennes in 2016 for $15 million. His latent value according to Transfermarkt more than doubled in the last year, which Dembele spent setting Europe to the torch. But latent value doesn’t mean much in the afterglow of Neymar’s $222 million move to PSG. Barcelona, now flush with cash everyone in the world can see spilling from their coffers, needs a replacement. Or two. And Dembele is on the list.