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A big reason for the strong first season under Tuchel was the fact that, in 2015, Dortmund managed to hold on to all their star players despite the disappointing end to Klopp’s tenure at the Westfalenstadion.
It is almost cruel that one year later, after a terrific campaign, three key players departed in the same transfer window.
Mats Hummels was the team captain, one of the faces of Dortmund’s resurgence under Klopp and, not least, a world-class centre-back capable of dominating play from his deep position on the pitch. His defection to Bayern was the biggest loss the Black and Yellows could suffer on an emotional level.
“By handing in his captain’s armband of the German vice-champions, the leader of BVB’s rebellion against Bayern’s monopoly is waving the white flag,” Buczko pointedly opined for ESPN FC.
Gundogan, meanwhile, despite missing a number of matches with various injuries, including a dislocated knee that finished his season early and cost him an appearance at Euro 2016 with Germany, was one of the most important players in Tuchel’s system, pulling the strings as the masterful conductor of most attacking moves.
As this writer argued in an earlier piece, Dortmund miss Gundogan dearly after failing to properly replace him following a move to Manchester City in the summer.
Lastly, Mkhitaryan was on fire throughout the 2015/16 season, ending up with a whopping 23 goals and 32 assists in 51 matches, per Transfermarkt.com. The Armenian and Tuchel were a match made in football heaven, as he alluded to in an interview with B/R in February.
“When Tuchel came, we started to play a different kind of football,” he said. “We try to keep the ball more, we try to pass it more and play very offensive football.”
Dortmund did well to sell all their stars for high fees, but one has to wonder how much better they would be if even only one of them had resisted the siren calls and stayed put.