It was not the 5-0 score that made the statement. Borussia Dortmund would fully expect to cram a few goals past their Ruhr neighbors Duisburg, who play in the third division.
No, it was the identities of three of their goalscorers, or more specifically their ages. Jadon Sancho, 20, Jude Bellingham, 17, and Giovanni Reyna, 17, were all on target in Monday night’s German Cup defeat.
If you add to the equation a certain Erling Braut Haaland, 20, who somehow failed to score, and second-half replacement Reinier, 18, and you’re not far from Dortmund’s chosen identity for the coming season.
Borussia Dortmund made light work of Duisburg in the German cup match on Monday evening
Jude Bellingham, their summer addition from Birmingham, became their youngest ever goalscorer
Brilliant, gifted young tyros and many of them make Lucien Favre’s team another exciting proposition as the Bundesliga kicks off this weekend.
Dortmund kicks off their latest quest to steal Bayern Munich’s crown with a home game against Borussia Monchengladbach on Saturday night, a day after the champions kicked off their season with an ominous 8-0 demolition of Schalke.
Perhaps the acid test comes during the Super Cup meeting with Hansi Flick’s Treble winners on September 30, and certainly in the two rivals’ first competition at Signal Iduna Park in early November.
Few clubs in Europe can rival Dortmund for identifying, scouting and contracting talented youngsters. Most importantly, no one matches Dortmund for giving such players opportunities in the first team.
Given the plentiful crop of young players – there are also Ansgar Knauff, 18, Immanuel Pherai, 19, and Youssoufa Moukoko, 15, on the periphery of the first team – even Haaland and Sancho suddenly feel like the old guard.
Jadon Sancho opened his account for the new season with an early penalty against Duisburg
Erling Haaland was not on track, but is being tipped for another free scoring campaign in 2020-21
And think about 31-year-old Marco Reus and Mats Hummels, who are more or less babysitters because they balance things in the Dortmund team with wisdom and experience.
Favre has its critics, but an admirable effort has been made to lower the average age of the team and squad. Young players don’t just make up the numbers or fill the quota in Dortmund, they play their full part.
The club is nearing the end of the summer transfer period on October 5 and that means English star Sancho will be theirs for at least a few more months and most likely an entire season.
Dortmund have played a blinder amid genuine interest in the Manchester United winger, holding on to their £ 108 million valuation as the Old Trafford club lamented Covid-19’s financial impact.
There are suggestions that United is making some headway on the finer details, but also reports that they have changed course on other right-wing targets.
Sancho smiled as he celebrated Dortmund’s goals as Man United’s chances faded
Lucien Favre will be delighted to keep the services of a player who scored 20 goals last season
Bundesliga unless stated otherwise
Saturday Borussia Mönchengladbach (H)
26th September Augsburg (A)
September 30th Bayern Munich (A)
October 3 Freiburg (H)
October 17 Hoffenheim (A)
the 24th of October Schalke (H)
It helps Dortmund that at no point has Sancho agitated to leave. After a phenomenal 2019/20 season of 20 goals and 20 assists in all competitions, he is back on the road with a cool penalty against Duisburg.
The broad smile on Sancho’s face as he celebrated the fourth by embracing his teammates and later congratulating Bellingham on his first competitive goal for the club does not indicate a player desperate to pack his suitcase.
For his part, Sancho is having another good season and a positive Euro 2020 with England will only increase its value and further expand its circle of admirers than United next summer. Why rush to leave?
Sancho was Dortmund’s main goalscorer in 2019/20, but he was pushed close by Haaland, who scored 16 goals despite only playing half the season’s handicap in yellow and black.
The Norwegian’s class is clearly beyond question and he could well break all kinds of records in his first full season there.
Dortmund scored 102 goals in all competitions and 84 in the Bundesliga last season, their return to the top league since the mid-1970s. There’s no reason their lively attack power can’t surpass that.
It’s an early day for Bellingham, who earned a dream move from Birmingham after a championship breakthrough, so much so that the Blues retired his No 22 shirt.
Any suggestion that Dortmund could relax him with a few appearances on the second team seems to have been interrupted. Favre started Bellingham in two exhibition games before the season and then in the first round cup game.
The American Giovanni Reyna had a breakthrough in Dortmund last season
The German club has increased their creative possibilities with the loan from Reinier van Real
His goal, the second of the evening, made him the club’s youngest scorer in 110 years of history and further landmarks are given from here.
However, it remains to be seen whether he will start against Gladbach this weekend with Dortmund well-stocked in midfield with players like Julian Brandt, Axel Witsel, Emre Can, Thomas Delaney and Mahmoud Dahoud offering competition.
But with a lot of football on offer this season, Bellingham will likely have plenty of opportunities to impress with sporting director Michael Zorc confirming that he is ‘an instant reinforcement to our first-team squad’ and not a backup.
American rising star Reyna earned a promotion from the under-19 team to the first team halfway through last season and certainly looked right in the Bundesliga when he was taken off the bench.
He’s hoping for more starts this time in an attacking position in midfield after a strong pre-season and can only improve with more experience.
One of the few arrivals in the summer was up-and-coming Brazilian midfielder Reinier, who will be on loan from Real Madrid for the next two seasons, having just signed for the Spaniards from Flamengo.
Bellingham already looks good and hopes for many opportunities in the first team
Dortmund hopes he can be their next breakthrough star, adding another spark of magic to a team that doesn’t fall short.
German youth international Knauff has moved on to the training of the late and Dutch youngster Pherai’s first team after doing well for the under-19s.
And big things are expected from Moukoko, the Cameroon-born international under 20. He was 14 when he made the switch to the Dortmund under-19 team, scoring six goals on his debut.
Already the youngest ever scorer in the UEFA Youth League, under German FA rules, he won’t be able to make his Bundesliga debut until his 16th birthday on November 20.
That could well happen, as Moukoko was taken under the wing of Haaland and the club’s other forwards during first-team training.
Ansgar Knauff (right) pictured with Erling Haaland during a pre-season match with Feyenoord
Hopes are sky high for 15-year-old striker Youssoufa Moukoko, who trains for the first team
But the million-dollar question is whether Dortmund’s young guns can help sustain a Bundesliga challenge against Bayern after they sadly dropped out after last season’s reboot.
They resist the temptation to take a windfall from Sancho, calculating that the Englishman is scoring and coming up with too many goals to be sold.
But without that money, Dortmund won’t be able to strengthen other parts of their squad, especially in central defense and left back, where options are scarce.
They have at least contracted Thomas Meunier to replace the departed Achraf Hakimi on the right, the last two seasons loaned back to Real Madrid, who sold him to Inter Milan.
While the Dortmund squad looks good on paper, it remains to be seen if they have the mindset to take that final step and push Bayern all the way into the title race.
Bayern remains the team to beat in Germany after completing a stunning Treble last season
With Sancho, Haaland et al in their ranks, there will be no shortage of firepower, but Bayern have followed up their Bundesliga, Pokal and Champions League victories by signing Leroy Sane.
Bavaria won’t rest on its laurels and Dortmund doesn’t have to hope they go through an early season crisis like they did 12 months ago, but without the Flick-inspired resurgence.
Dortmund will certainly entertain with their group of child prodigies. Whether they will be successful in the coming season is an entirely different matter.