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Report: Zelalem nearing move to Borussia Dortmund

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Christian Pulisic has thrived at Borussia Dortmund, making the leap from highly-touted youth star to first team regular. Now, it appears another highly-regarded American prospect could be looking to follow a similar path at a club famed for youth developmenr.

ESPN reported Monday that Gedion Zelalem is nearing a move to Borussia Dortmund in the January transfer window. The club has reportedly been in pursuit of the 19-year-old Arsenal midfielder since December as they reportedly hope to attract him with promises of increased first team opportunities.

Zelalem, whose father is reportedly a Dortmund fan, has made just one appearance for Arsenal this season after spending last season on loan with Scottish side Rangers. The 19-year-old was born in Germany and previously featured in Hertha Berlin’s youth system before moving to the U.S. in 2006.

If the move were to go through, Zelalem would join Pulisic, Joe Gyau and Junior Flores at the club, although the latter is reportedly nearing a move himself.

31 comments
    • J.Thomas

      There’s no reason to think that he won’t get a chance. Dortmund develops players. Also, I’m sure that Dortmund has seen the fertile ground for supporters and eyeballs in the US. This never goes into a fans calculus but it absolutely goes into managements calculus. Pulisic has gotten so much attention that it has exposed the US to Dortmund and has created loyalty bonds. They will continue to search for American players who can further tie Dortmund to the US market.

      In terms of the USMNT and development, having a core of players who develop and get big minutes with bvb is pretty significant. Pulisic is an attacking set up player who plays the final ball. Zelalem is a possession-oriented player who retains the ball and unpredictability shifts the point of attack. They are both instinctive, intuitive savants. Having those two at Dortmund growing and performing in significant games together over the next few years would be something we have never seen in US soccer. It would be Donovan and Beasley playing at the same club at the top of Germany during their youth.

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      • J.Thomas

        Zelalem is kind of between two worlds with his game and may need to get better in either world.

        1) attacking – he needs to be more aggressive in attacking the goal, shooting, and playing the final ball.

        2) defending-he needs to be more aggressive in tackling and retaining defensive positioning/angles.

        Otherwise you have a unique player to put on the field when you want to salt away the game or minimize the number of opportunities for chances by the opposition, but you don’t have an integral piece who you build around.

        If GZ was able develop either one of the above aspects to his game, he’d be a consistent squad player for Arsenal. He may be able to get on the field as a possession maestro alone at BvB but I’m not certain that it will keep him there.

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      • Mac

        Respectfully disagree J. Thomas. You don’t need everyone regularly contributing to every goal scored. Not only is that unrealistic, but it diminishes the contributions of players like Xavi who only had like 2 seasons that he threw up crazy goal-contributing numbers, but were consistently praised by their ability to dictate the tempo of a game (Averaged about a goal/assist every 3 games during Barca’s height; do we think Zelalem is that good?).

        IMO, a huge part of BVB’s struggles this year have to do with losing Gundogan who was their Xavi with more of a desire to dribble in, draw defenders out of shape, and lay the ball off for someone else to deliver the final pass. He only averaged about 1 goal/assist every 5 games.

        Even for a more local comparison: Reyna doesn’t have ridiculous numbers, but I’d say its been over 10 years since his retirement, and we are still strongly somewhat in replacing how consistent he was in getting the ball in dangerous situations for other to do more damage (Bradley should’ve been that guy, and looked like it when he played at Roma.)

        Now with that said, I don’t really see Zelalem as providing that kind of service to this current BVB. Partly, because they seem to have shifted to a lone DM (Weigl) that provides that tempo, and Zelalem cannot provide the defensive cover by himself as you said. Nor can he play those more attack-minded CM’s who both seem to venture forward to overwhelm defenses (let alone being a threat on the counter press, which they still use.)

        So I agree there seems to be a mismatch in Zelalem’s skillset, and BVB’s tactics. Maybe Tuchel sees a need to change; to add a new element that lets Weigl and someone like zelalem worry about cycling possession, and their difference makers focus on better off the ball movement.

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  • Jim Wolverton

    The move would be good for Zelalem, as Dortmund is has a great reputation for youth development. I’m not sure a move a PL side should ever be the first choice of a youth player, they get no playing time and it appears they have no plan to develop these players.

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  • I scored three goals in one game

    Good move, bvbs style suits his game. Possession based attack is where he excels, good vision and comfortable on the ball in tight spaces. Prolly see first team mins or wouldn’t leave. As a bvb and USMNT fan seems there is a very nice young nucleus shaping for USMNT

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      • Twomilerule

        In the EPL yes but not in the Bundesliga. Nowhere near as physical and a lot of contact gets called. Plus, it seems the Bundesliga has a lot more youth playing heavy minutes.
        You might see a side of Zelalem game not seen before when surrounded by talented players and coaches?

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      • LouisZ

        I hope you are right, because from what I seen so far he is still needs a lot of work, like someone said above, he needs to be more assertive in the final 3rd and needs to defend or contain the opponents.

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  • Xantiro

    Think this is a good move for Zalelam but I find it a bit odd. Arsenal and Dortmund are almost identical clubs as far as prestige and aspirations. They are both massive clubs who have won major trophies but generally are just below the biggest clubs in their leagues. They both play possession based attacking football all-be-it Dortmund more in the Spurs styles pressing (or spurs in the Dortmund style really). Point is, if Zalelam is good enough to get first team minutes for Dortmund he should be good enough to play for Arsenal. At the very least make the bench for an FA cup match Arsenal didn’t care much about. But he didn’t, so does Dortmund see something Arsenal doesn’t?

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  • Bryan

    I don’t see him getting any playing time. IS BVB moving some of the guys that would be ahead of him? And if so, why would they see a completely untested commodity like Zelalem as the answer for the first team?

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    • johnnyrazor

      I would imagine at least one BvB CM will move this transfer window, and if not several are likely to move in July. Kagawa, Castro, or Sahin would seem possible moves would also think offers for Wiegl would be coming in.

      BvB has the philosophy to take a chance in young players and throw them into the fire if they show well in training. Emre Mor had just 13 appearances in the Danish league, Merino played 2 seasons in the Spanish second division, of course you have Pulisic and Passlack last year earning minutes off the U19 squad, you can even go back to Joe Gyau who was primed to begin playing for the first team before destroying his knee.

      They just have a different philosophy than Arsenal. Arsenal can buy a much high quality of player because they have more money so playing youngsters isn’t needed. BvB has to sell its promising players (Mkhitaryan, Hummels and Gundogan, eventually Aubameyang) and buy either young potential players or guys who look to have lost something (Gotze (at 24) and Schurrle).

      Both have crowded rosters, but time at Dortmund seems more likely. Of course for every Pulisic there is a Junior Flores so who knows.

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      • Twomilerule

        Good summary of Dortmund being big on developing younger players and later profiting from them. Arsenal and most of the EPL buying talent and performing or get cut loose

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  • bizzy

    Dortmund has a record of developing young talent and is doing a mighty fine job of developing one ours by the name of Christian Pulisic. With that record they are the perfect team to enhance key areas where Zelalem lacks in his game – FINISHING and STRENGTH.

    A Pulisic / Zelalem partnership in midfield that can develop from training day after day with a team like Dortmund with be very beneficial to taking the USMNT to the next level, as they both share the same attributes; dribbling, passing in tight spaces, creativity and vision (provided he puts in the work and makes the first team). IF it goes through I think it is a good move…

    …because the kid has skills

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      • johnnyrazor

        Bryan I had the same thought after watching for about a minute.

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      • johnnyrazor

        I don’t think the highlight video is Bizzy’s only evidence. We have seen him a few times with US youth teams and a few club friendlies. Highlights of matches for Rangers were also readily available last year.

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      • bizzy

        Only a fool and clueless individual would even THINK a youtube video is proof of evidence or can be used to determine Zelalem’s skill. I believe most people on here do their own research and don’t leave their mouths open to be spoon fed facts. We are talking about a player leaving Arsenal and going to Dortmund and you are worried about a video I pulled up and relating it to talent. I guess you don’t know anything about him, so pertaining to the video, you are welcome

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      • bizzy

        Bryan,
        If Bradley, the king of “back passing”, is the captain of the USMNT then Zelalem has nothing to worry about lol

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    • Anthony

      The guy has only spent 6/7 of his 20 years in the U club system before and after it was Euro Club system (he spent 3-4 yrs with the Hertha Berlin youth system before moving to the US).

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      • Dennis

        If I can do the math, he “featured” for the Hertha youth system when he was 9.

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      • Anthony

        I know that you are being sarcastic, but he was being taught in the Hertha Berlin youth system from 6 to 9. Believe of not, players in a lot of other countries are being taught fundamentals at that age. I know I was. In fact, I had a former boss, when I worked in Germany, who was in the Nuremberg at 7 until 14 – when he realized he was not good enough to go pro. On a side note, he ended coming to America for grad school (somewhere in Southern California – UCSB, UCLA, SD State, UCSD etc ) where a he watched and definitely thoght he could have played there, but that was the early/mid 90’s.

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  • Lost in Space

    Zelalem is approaching the age where he’ll need competitive minutes to continue his development. While the EPL is considered the top league in football, most of the Top clubs aren’t big on actually developing young talent. They either buy players who are ready to step into the first team, or they buying players than shipping them off to be developed at other clubs (see Miazga @ Chelsea).
    BvB is a club that buys young talent, develops it, than sells it on for a profit. While the German league isn’t as good at the EPL (top to bottom) it is still a step up from his loan to Rangers last year. IF Zelalem can make the bench….and get some minutes w/ BvB it’ll help him maturation process.

    I for one hope this does happen as Germany is a good league where Young US players are getting chances to prove themselves, and have seen success recently….Pulisic, Green, Wright, Wood, Canouse, Stanko, etc… The future core of the USMNT looks to be promising.

    Like

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