Borussia Dortmund youth academy manager Lars Ricken has professed that his side don’t buy superstars but they develop them. The Bundesliga side are amongst the best at finding and then transforming players into the best with Nuri Sahin, Jadon Sancho and Marco Reus on a list that spans hundreds.
Sancho is their latest superstar with reports indicating that English starlet is now worth upwards of a £100 million with clubs across Europe keen on a move. That’s a list that includes and is not limited to Manchester United, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona and even Paris Saint-Germain. But it’s exactly what Borussia Dortmund thrive at doing with the club set to make nearly ten times what they spent on the former Manchester City youth star.
However, legendary Dortmund midfielder and now youth academy manager Lars Ricken confirmed that it doesn’t happen by accident or even coincidence but instead it is the way the club operates. The 43-year-old admitted that this is how Dortmund stay relevant in the Bundesliga and added that their clear and obvious strategy is to create next-generation superstars and not buy them.
"The way we do things didn't happen by accident, or by coincidence. It is a clear and obvious strategy not to buy superstars but to create them. Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang weren't superstars when they came to Dortmund. We developed them to become superstars. It is very important for the club," Lars Ricken said to the BBC.
"The reason the atmosphere in our stadium is so good is because there is a great identification between the players and the fans. The supporters see it is a gift for them to play in our stadium. We have signed some really good players but we also have young ones - Haaland is 19, Gio is 17. They are very light on their feet. It is great to see."
However, while their youth academy is well known across Europe, Dortmund’s success on the field has been sparing with the club winning only one trophy since Jurgen Klopp last won the double. But over the last few years things have changed with Lucien Favre leading the club to a second-place finish last season and with the club still in the running for this season’s league title.
And yet, Ricken went on to admit that the club’s youth systems has flourished because of their performances on the field and because of their fans. The club have the highest average attendance in Europe and Rickens added that trophies are important but playing with a never say die attitude is just as important.
"Halfway through the last season under Jurgen Klopp in 2014-15, we were 17th in the table. But the supporters were so thankful for the times they had before, that when we lost another match they still gave the players a big hand to give them courage for the next matches. Trophies are very important but, especially in Dortmund, the attitude you are playing with, the passion, emotion and never giving up is as important," he added.