"We have to roll the stone to the top of mound over and over again", said Hans-Joachim Watzke in interview with stadium magazine "Echt" (Mainz edition) regarding Borussia Dortmund's situation. After the comings and goings of the transfer window, he is now looking forward to the forthcoming season: "I know that we have a star-studded and exciting squad!"
Mr. Watzke, a few days ago you were able to announce a record turnover at the press conference on BVB's annual financial performance. Are you nonetheless relieved that the game itself will once again take centre stage?
Absolutely! There is one thing I am before anything else: a huge football fan. It is my sport, and the thing which has strongly characterised my life for decades now. Ultimately, my life revolves around the game, and my club, Borussia Dortmund. I cannot contest that figures, and, preferably, positive ones are part of the modern game. Our figures speak for themselves. They have risen by 500% since 2006.
Despite not participating in the UEFA Champions League in the previous business year, consolidated turnover rose by 6.7% to a record high of €281.3 million (the year before, €263.6 million), adjusted for internal transfers. Post-tax, Borussia Dortmund made a profit of €29.4 million. The business would seem to be growing robustly...
I take the result to be a clear indicator of Borussia Dortmund's earning power. Our sporting and financial health is unparalleled in nearly 107 years of the club's history. Of course, we are continuing to grow in almost every area, and we need to do that if we want to maintain our position as one of UEFA's Top Ten ranked clubs. However, we also want to continue to be the club that we are. We will never forget, wherever we are between Borgisplatz and Shanghai, where we come from.
What kind of feedback have you received with regard to this from BVB fans?
Mostly the very positive sort. Only 34 season ticket holders out of 55,000 cancelled their subscription this summer! Well above 30,000 people are on the waiting list for a season ticket, and we count 140,000 amongst our members. These are positive signs. I am sure the majority of the fans are able to identify with the club and the path we have chosen for ourselves.
This summer you oversaw a genuine upheaval at the club regarding playing staff. Do you believe you are now looking back on the most intensive transfer window at BVB during your time here?
Since the cup final at the end of May, we have completed about a dozen transfers. That is the kind of summer we certainly are not used to here at BVB. And yes, it was an intensive period of work for everybody. I must admit, Mats Hummels' transfer was particularly hard for me. But for him too. I fought for Mats in a way I have never fought for another player. We telephoned ceaselessly, and met many times privately. However, I am not angry that he has gone. I would not have understood a transfer to Manchester City. That he wanted to go to Munich made sense. Munich is his home, his family live there and he has friends there.
You had not anticipated Mkhitaryan's transfer?
No. In all our conversations with him we got the feeling that he wanted to extend his contract with us. With the beauty of hindsight, we misinterpreted the situation. That is my responsibility. In years gone by we have always lost at least one important player during the window. Our work here at BVB is a little like that of Sisyphus: We have to roll the stone to the top of the mound over and over again. We responded calmly and professionally – as is our wont here – to the transfers of Mkhitaryan, Gündogan and Hummels. Michael Zorc was ready for everything. He did a great job and always had top class options as to how to proceed. I know that we have a star-studded and exciting squad. I also know our fans well enough to be certain that they will not overreact if things do not run perfectly from the very beginning.
In Ousmane Dembélé you have managed to capture an exciting young talent who was on most of the big European clubs' shopping lists this summer.
We began working on his acquisition very early and very intensively. He has all the attributes necessary to have a great career. We are certain that our manager, Thomas Tuchel, will help him develop into a world class player. That is also true for Emre Mor, who had already left a lasting impression wearing the Turkish kit at the European Championship. Nevertheless, we will not burden them here with unfeasibly high expectations. We want them to be ambitious, but we also want them to take their next steps forward calmly.
Raphael Guerreiro joins the club having just earned a Euro 2016 winner's medal. Are you pleased that you had sealed his transfer prior to the start of the tournament?
Of course. Raphael certainly did not do anything to decrease his market value as the tournament went on! We are convinced that he will provide us with many more high quality options as to how to set up. And he is just like Marc Bartra and Mikel Merino, who we picked up from Spain, namely, a really good guy. The openness and ability to stay grounded with which these boys have gone about their business here from the word go have certainly won my respect.
In Mats Hummels BVB have lost a World Cup winner, but two others (Mario Götze, André Schürrle) have come to the club at the same time. How are they settling in?
Excellently. Neither is coming here with a heady season behind him, and both are 100% focussed on their football. They were fully integrated as part of the team from day one. Honestly speaking, with regard to Mario, it is as if he had never been away. I had always hoped to be able to re-sign him. He is an exceptional and unique footballer, who only had one wish: to come back home.
Götze said himself after his return that he would not have made the same decision to transfer if he had known what he does now.
And I know exactly what he is talking about. He could have taken the easy way out and have earned more money by playing for any number of top European clubs. He decided though for the somewhat more arduous path, in that he has come home. He accepted as part of that, that he would have to convince certain critics who have not received him with open arms due to his previous transfer. We have had our belief confirmed by impressions made during both training sessions, at the team presentation and during questions fielded by the press, that the majority of BVB fans welcome his return home. And as Mario has at all times been completely honest with us, and has told us clearly and directly what he wants, I can completely understand their attitude.
Borussia Dortmund is a club that pays due deference to its history, culture and tradition. How do you teach the new players – Götze notwithstanding – what it means to be a part of the BVB family?
We all spend a lot of time helping the new players bed in. A large part of that is, of course, helping them get closer to the 'soul' of the club. Our long serving fan representative, Jens Volke, who stems from the 'Ultra' scene, has been a part of the communications department for some weeks now. In his current role, he will visit some of the club's historical sites with our new youth and professional players, and will help familiarise them with our special club culture. It is very important for Borussia Dortmund that the boys understand how important football is for the region, an understanding that informs how we act as a club. And when I see the humility players come here with, such as Marc Bartra, who came here from the mighty Barcelona F.C., then I need not worry about any kind of distance arising between our new players and our fans.
To conclude, let us talk about targets for the season. What needs to happen, so that you can say at the end of the year: "We can be happy with that!"?
Our targets for the season have hardly changed. We want to have the feeling at the end of the season that we have fulfilled our potential. That goes hand in hand with our renewed participation in the Champions League, and I would be very satisfied with reaching the knock-out phase of the tournament.