Speaking in a two-part, opinionated interview with the FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG newspaper on Monday and Tuesday, Hans-Joachim Watzke discussed the current situation at Borussia Dortmund. "We need to re-establish an optimal balance between technically high-quality football and a winning mentality," the chairman of the board said. Elsewhere in the interview he explained why the club sanctioned the departures of Ousmane Dembélé and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, why he is against Monday games ("unless they are scheduled for sporting reasons such as Europa League fixtures"), and why he wants to put the emphasis back on the relationship between the club and its fans.
Hans-Joachim Watzke to FAZ on unrest at the club:
"If, just as we have been over the course of the past twelve months, one is faced with so many difficult situations for which there is no precedent, then naturally it is completely obvious that there will be greater unrest. But unrest is not in BVB's DNA. Within the club, there is a sense of unity. However, it's also true that non-footballing incidents such as the bomb attack and the negative transfer speculation surrounding Aubameyang and Dembélé left their mark."
...on figures, targets and successes:
"Thirteen years ago, we made 75 million euro in turnover, had debts of around 200 million, no longer had our own stadium and were on the verge of bankruptcy. This year we're set to make well over half a billion in turnover, will have no financial liabilities, the stadium is back in our ownership and we have plenty in the bank. On a sporting level, over the last decade we have consistently played at international level, won two championships and two cups, reached several other cup finals, finished runners-up in the Champions League and have qualified for Europe's elite club competition six times. At present, we are not quite in the kind of position we would like to be in, but we are only one point away from second. That's the status quo. It could be the case that this season we miss out on our objectives for the first time. So if one must talk about "failure", then we're speaking about a failure at a high level. I have now experienced some really different times at Borussia Dortmund."
...on the Dembélé transfer:
"We signed Dembélé for 15 million euro – and we received an offer that would earn us up to 148 million euro. That's a figure that we as stock-listed company have to consider very carefully. Especially if a player continues to behave in such a way, goes on strike, leaves the country and is no longer able to be contacted. The sum was simply too large to say: now we'll make you sit in the stands for a year. From a character and ethical standpoint, the Dembélé case was a disaster."
...on the Aubameyang transfer:
"He clearly told us that he would stay for the season, partly as a reaction to the departure of Dembélé. But in his case, there was also the fact that he believed we should be grateful towards him because in 2016, when Hummels, Gündogan and Mkhitaryan all left, he declined some very lucrative offers and pledged himself to BVB. There's an element of truth to that. We would have struggled if Auba had been part of the 2016 exodus. This was a feeling that resonated with us, too. And so, among other reasons, that's why we ultimately did it. But above all, it was because we had the feeling things would never return to normal with Auba in the second half of the season. Not with the fans. Not with the team. Too much had broken down due to his behaviour. The sum of 64 million was not so high that we had to do it for financial reasons alone."
...on possible further sagas:
"I have told the team in no uncertain terms that the next player to try something like that will fail miserably. He will have a huge problem. Stock-listed company or not: the next player who tries to put us under pressure by withholding performances or even striking will not get away with it and will be made to sit in the stands. They all know that now. That's a public statement that I can measure myself with! Following Dembélé and Aubameyang, there is now an overriding interest in the club – we need to get a better structure into our squad again.”
...on (additional) leading figures:
"The best example is Sven Bender: he is a fighter before the Lord. He wasn't getting the games with us that he previously did under Jürgen Klopp, partly due to injuries but not solely for that reason. He had asked for permission to leave several times, we tried several times in vain to get him to change his mind. Except for Mats Hummels, no other player's departure was so difficult for me. Sven is a fantastic lad. He stands for exactly what we need to bring back into the BVB team in the new season. We urgently need two or three players who exude this extreme winning mentality, who are hungry and are capable of getting angry from time to time. Friction ensures dynamism! We must re-establish an optimal balance between technically high-quality football and a winning mentality."
...on changed expectations:
"With our success, there has been a change in expectations and the self-belief of the players over the years. The team that won the title in 2011 and 2012 were, in footballing terms, definitely not as good as the current team. But they had the best mentality you could possibly imagine. In the summer we need to adjust the squad, perhaps significantly – depending on the second half of the season. Ultimately, he (Editor's note: Sporting Director Michael Zorc) must make sure the purchases and sales fit the coach's wishes. It doesn't help if you sign players who don't get used. Michael Zorc continues to have my complete trust, even if we were to experience a setback just for one year after ten very, very successful seasons."
...on the victory in Cologne:
I hope that it can precipitate a turnaround for us. In any case, the BVB team I saw out there on the pitch showed absolute desire. In spells, we played some really good football. If I were a neutral fan, I would love to watch a match like the one in Cologne. I'd have a lot of fun! And by the way, last season we also had to battle really hard right until the end in the race for the Champions League places. And I believe that we have a good chance this year too. Even though Peter Stöger – and that's the difference here – doesn't have the likes of Dembélé and Aubameyang, and hasn't had Marco Reus up until now. At times recently, he had to play with a 17-year-old as the left-wing forward, a 19-year-old on the right flank and an 18-year-old in the centre-forward role. (…) As BVB coach, Peter Stöger continues to be unbeaten in the league and, together with his team, he has now earned 12 points from his six matches in charge. As far as I know, only Bayern have amassed more points in this period."
...on the past 12 months:
"What I myself underestimated were the long-term effects of the attack. After a few weeks we returned to our normal everyday lives, and I believed winning the cup showed we had dealt with it. That was clearly a misjudgement. I have been told by psychologists that traumas often have a delayed effect. And against the backdrop of the ongoing trial for the attack, perhaps that is the case even more so. In the case of one or two of the affected players, that possibly means that there is a slightly lower pressure resistance – to phrase it carefully. That's not something you can measure, but people that we work with are convinced of this effect. We have not broached this until now. But if one is to conduct a proper analysis, it would be dubious to ignore that."
...on Borussia's role on the European football scene:
"It remains our objective to be a big club. But, with regard to the Aubameyang case, one must nonetheless acknowledge that there are six or seven clubs in Europe that are bigger than Borussia Dortmund. And 20 that have more money. If you write the kind of story that Borussia Dortmund have over the course of more than a decade, then unfortunately only the very biggest clubs come in for your players. We are actually one of the few clubs that have produced word-class players that, in economic terms, can be prised away from the club. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich can solve any problem in the world with money. We can't. Never. That impedes us. The fact is: from a purely financial point of view, it has become easier to prise a player away from BVB that it is from a mid-table club in England. There's so much TV money that even goes to the bottom club in England...but thankfully there are still players who are driven by their hunger for sporting success. We need more of them in the future."
...on sporting ambitions and requirements of the players:
"A club like BVB cannot plan a title win. Bayern or Barcelona can. As Borussia Dortmund we cannot talk about titles, we simply to try to achieve this at some point. Like we did in the summer when we finally won the DFB Cup again. Perhaps, after ten years of sustained success, we will really have to take a step back if it doesn't work out with the Champions League this season. Sometimes you need to do that if you are then to take the next steps forward again. But in addition, what we need again are players who capture the emotions of the crowd with one or two actions. That is much more important than the number of followers on Instagram. For some players, the table needs to be their focus again rather than social networks. Of course, nowadays you can't do without them. We use them as well. But the focus needs to be right again. From time to time one could post a picture of a challenge they have won – and not just pictures from the red carpet."
...on Borussia Dortmund's future:
"We need to succeed in again creating a stronger unity between the fans and the club, and the fans and the team, in Dortmund. In this regard, we are always more ambitious than many other clubs. That means that while we need to develop new sources of revenue as part of the internationalization process, we must not take any decisions that go against the wishes of our ten million fans in Germany. In the league, we also need to discuss whether the Monday games really need to take place – unless they are scheduled that way due to Europa League commitments. Borussia Dortmund will provide the impetus for this. I can sense a real resistance to this from the fans. From a commercial point of view, we should not do everything just because it is possible. Without Monday games we will probably earn one or two million euro less from 2021. But a greater sense of unity with the fans is worth more to us. In that sense too, Borussia Dortmund's objective is to return to our roots!"