This was the season when Borussia Dortmund were finally going to tear down the walls of the German football system, rip Bayern Munich from their throne and snatch their crown as champions of the Bundesliga.
On paper, it sounds pretty simple.
Evidently, these ambitions couldn’t be further from the truth, as the harsh realities of modern football have smacked them in the face like Sideshow Bob stepping on a series of ill-placed rakes.
Instead of battling it out at the top of the table, Dortmund have fallen into a tailspin, sacked coach Lucien Favre for holding back this talented crop of players, only to quickly discover he may not have been the only problem after all.
Now sitting sixth in the Bundesliga and facing the nightmare of missing out on Champions League football next season, Dortmund may be forced to sell players in order to pay the bills. Subsequently, the club have drawn up an eight-man list of stars whose sale would balance the books, and there are some big hitters on there.
But who are the eight potential departures, and which clubs may fancy a crack at signing them?
Possible Destinations: Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea
Considering Jadon Sancho is one of the most exciting attacking prospects in Europe at the moment, it’s no surprise that the Premier League wants the return of their prodigal son. Manchester United are the favourites to snatch the 20-year-old, and they won’t be deterred by his poor form this year. After all, it is probably their interest and failed transfer which has caused this slump.
As always, there will be other giants sniffing around. Liverpool could look towards Sancho as part of a potential rebuild, while Chelsea will want to bring him back to London. The Blues are pretty stacked in terms of wingers and attackers though, so he may not be one of their top priorities.
Possible Destinations: Every top club in Europe (with cash to spend)
Who wouldn’t break the bank for the chance to sign Erling Haaland? The 20-year-old is a relentless robot of a striker, destroying defenders and scoring goals week in, week out. There is no one like him in the modern game, and having only just left his teenage years behind, we’re in for at least another decade of this ruthless efficiency.
Naturally then, Haaland’s being linked with just about everyone who has enough cash to snap him up. If we had to pick out a favourite, it’d probably be a team already knocking it out of the park, but still in need of an elite striker to transform them into an unstoppable force. Manchester City, anyone?
Possible Destinations: Manchester United, Chelsea
Jude Bellingham only joined Dortmund in the summer for around £25m, but his time in Germany could already be over. Interest in the 17-year-old was high last year, with Man Utd also courting the teenaged midfielder.
The Red Devils will be keeping an eye on developments here then, especially if superstar Paul Pogba finally leaves Old Trafford in the summer. Chelsea are also linked with a move for the former Birmingham City star, as they see him as an alternative to fellow target Declan Rice.
Possible Destinations: Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona
This one is definitely a harder sell than the aforementioned trio – primarily because Axel Witsel is injured for the long haul. The Belgian star seems destined to miss the rearranged Euro 2020 in the summer, after undergoing surgery on his achilles tendon.
So, which teams are likely to take that risk? Arsenal are a shoo-in for these kinds of dangerous deals, and Paris Saint-Germain are always in the market to pad out their team with some cheaper alternatives. And then there’s Barcelona, who just need bodies on the cheap.
Possible Destinations: Sevilla, Everton, Lyon
There was a time when Mahmoud Dahoud was being linked with the upper echelons of European football, tipped to become the next artist of the midfield. But now aged 25 and rotting away on Dortmund’s bench, those days are long gone.
The Syrian-born star needs a change of scenery and to join a club which can help him to flourish once again. While he won’t get near the starting lineup for most top European clubs, he could make an impact on the next rung down. There is a great player in there, somewhere.
Possible Destinations: Juventus, Bayern
Gio Reyna is a genuine future star of the game, and he’d be earning a lot more attention if he played at any other top European club. Unfortunately for him, his talents are occasionally dwarfed by those of his companions, and he can get lost in amongst all the hype.
But make no mistake, his talent is real. Juventus have shown their eye for an American Bundesliga star by snapping up Weston McKennie in the summer, and they could well go for round two with Reyna. If not, big brother Bayern are always on standby to lend a helping hand to their rivals by hoovering up their prized possessions.
Possbile Destinations: Atletico Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain
It may be because his surname translates to ‘warrior’, but Raphael Guerreiro feels like a very Diego Simeone and Atletico Madrid player. He shone in Portugal’s Euro 2016 triumph, but has not quite hit the heights many expected since.
He’s still an established member of this side however, and can do a good job in the right team. He’s also openly admitted that he almost joined PSG before, so perhaps the French champions will return to claim their versatile man.
Possible Destinations: Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur
If there is one position where it’s becoming harder and harder to get value for money, it’s the centre-back role. Genuine, elite defenders are tough to come by nowadays, and it’s all about taking a risk in the market and hoping it pays off. Just ask Liverpool and their double swoop in the January transfer window.
Ben Davies and Ozan Kabak may prove a master stroke – or it may not. If you chose answer B, then maybe Manuel Akanji is the smart money for the summer. The Premier League’s giants could all do with reinforcements, so expect this one to be a goer.