Lewandowski, Götze to trigger hectic offseason in Germany
It will take more than a butterfly flapping its wings to set off a major transfer-market merry-go-round this summer, but one thing is clear: in our globalized age of football, everything is connected.
Take the case of Robert Lewandowski. The Polish forward has refused to extend his contract beyond 2014 at Borussia Dortmund. The Black and Yellows would love to sell him abroad, preferably to Chelsea. Why Chelsea? Because a deal with the Blues could facilitate Dortmund's attempt to sign their young Belgian forward Kevin de Bruyne, who's currently on loan at Werder Bremen. De Bruyne, 21, is seen as an ideal replacement for Mario Götze. The dynamic midfielder was bought out of his contract (€30-plus million release clause) by Bayern Munich in late April.
De Bruyne, incidentally, also plays a big role in the proposed transfer from André Schürrle (Bayer Leverkusen) to Chelsea. The Bundesliga club has agreed in principle to sell the winger but wants to find a suitable addition to its squad first. De Bruyne is Bayer's preferred option. But things have been complicated by Dortmund's interest and Chelsea's insistence that the player will not be sold.
To take matters full circle, the Lewandowski saga will directly affect two more strikers: Edin Dzeko and Mario Gomez.
First, Dzeko. Manchester City has offers from England, Spain and Italy but privately favors a move back to the Bundesliga -- ideally to Dortmund. There have been talks between City and the Germans in the past but any agreement is conditional on a) Lewandowski being sold to Bayern (or abroad) this summer and b) City lowering the transfer fee significantly, to in turn enable Dortmund to meet Dzeko's wage demands.
Gomez will be watching the latest developments closely after finding himself second choice to Mario Mandzukic this season. With Lewandowski potentially arriving and the 2014 World Cup looming, Gomez certainly won't settle for being a third option.
So let's look at the various scenarios in a bit more detail, starting with a move that has been on the cards for quite a while: While Bayern has officially denied that Lewandowski has signed -- doing so without Dortmund's agreement would violate FIFA regulations -- the player's agents confirmed that he agreed to join an unnamed club.
"We have agreed terms with a club and intend to (make this) transfer this summer," Maik Barthel told Sport-Bild. "All of Dortmund's demands will be met (by the offer)".
Barthel intimated that Dortmund gave a suitable offer, and Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke admitted that an agreement was reached.
"We have agreed that we would talk (with Lewandowski) if a suitable offer came in by May 15th," said Watzke, before adding that a move this summer would not be a foregone conclusion.
Dortmund's stance has hardened significantly since Bayern snatched Götze behind its back. It's now conceivable that the club will make Lewandowski stay another season, to send a message that this team will not be broken up. The problem with this principled stance is that it's a very costly one. If Borussia doesn't cash in now, it loses out on €25 million or more.
Nobody can predict how a forced stay would impact Lewandowski's form. Even if doesn't affect him, a replacement (or two) will still have to be found next summer. So despite all protestations to the contrary, the most likely outcome is still a Lewandowski move to the Allianz Arena in the coming months. Borussia's attempts to sell the player to the Premier League or to Spain will be resisted by his agents. A tentative offer of another, much improved contract has also been rebuffed.
As a consequence, Gomez's position looks pretty untenable. No one is willing to go on or even off the record about a possible sale, but his manager, Uli Ferber, is clever enough to look at possible exit strategies.
"Of course Mario is not happy with the situation," Ferber said last month. And there is no doubt that there will be international demand for the tall center forward despite some of his limitations. Gomez could sign for clubs who miss out on Edinson Cavani (Napoli) and Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid) or replace either at their old clubs. Rumors about him going to Dortmund appear completely unfounded.
While Dortmund's wish to trade Lewandowski for De Bruyne (and some money) looks like it won't come to fruition, the approach may affect the potential Andre Schürrle move. Leverkusen is very close to an agreement to send Schürrle to Chelsea, and the German club's CEO, Wofgang Holzhäuser, admitted that the player has "probably signed a contractual agreement" with the Blues.
But the Germans overplayed their hand somewhat in the contract negotiations with Roman Abramovich's chief of staff, Marina Granovskaia, and left London without a completed deal. The two sides are not significantly apart in the valuation of the player (approximately €22 million plus a few add-ons) but Leverkusen will probably have to accept a little less than it wanted and go ahead without securing De Bruyne. Schürrle, however, should be unperturbed. SI.com has learned that expected-to-be Chelsea manager José Mourinho has personally sanctioned the deal after canvassing the opinion of a number of his Germany teammates (no prizes for guessing their identities).
If Dortmund can't get De Bruyne, the club will switch attention to 21-year-old Christian Eriksen. Described, not unreasonably, as "the Danish Götze" by Bild, the midfielder has declared his willingness to move to Jürgen Klopp's team in case both clubs can find an agreement. "I would try it, Dortmund is a great club," Eriksen told Dutch TV channel NOS.