Borussia Dortmund have mastered the art of competing with the very best in Europe while maintaining a willingness to sell their best players to the highest bidder.
It’s an approach that has drawn criticism in the media and prompted revered Guardian columnist Jonathan Liew to ponder if Dortmund is a place “where dreams are made or a glorified feeder club?”
But, regardless of your stance on the club’s transfer policy, there is no doubt that their approach appears to be working.
Dortmund have qualified for the last-16 of the Champions League at the very least in seven of the last nine seasons. They reached the quarter-finals in two of those campaigns and also fought Bayern Munich in the showpiece final at Wembley back in 2013, which was decided by Arjen Robben’s 85th minute winner.
Domestically, meanwhile, they finished second or higher in seven of the ten seasons that preceded the current campaign, winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles under Jurgen Klopp’s tutelage.
Despite their success they remain perennially in Bayern Munich’s shadow.
As the cases of Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski go to show, there is always a bigger domestic club just waiting to snap up Dortmund’s prized assets.
But the west German outfit have also succumbed to offers from further afield in recent years, selling plenty of their star players to European rivals.
And the perpetual rise of Erling Haaland has reportedly prompted interest from Manchester City, Manchester United andChelsea and among other superclubs, lending reason to believe that Dortmund could soon sanction another historic deal.
Meanwhile, the future of Jadon Sancho remains an ongoing subplot.
With that in mind, GIVEMESPORT have looked back at the most expensive departures in Dortmund’s history and created an XI that brought a whopping £400.28m into the bank at Signal Iduna Park.
Here’s the star-studded XI in full…
Goalkeeper: Jens Lehman (£3.15m)
Dortmund have pocketed lucrative sums for their top talents in most positions but they’re yet to generate anything noteworthy for a goalkeeper.
Arsenal purchased Jens Lehman for just £3.15m in 2003 in what proved to be an inspired swoop.
Right-back: Marc Bartra (£9.45m)
Marc Bartra is a centre-back by trade with the skillset required to plug a gap at right-back when needed.
No natural right-back has left Dortmund for any significant figure, so Bartra gets the nod following his move to Real Betis in 2018.
Centre-back: Matthias Ginter (£15.3m)
Matthias Ginter is a brute of a defender at 6ft 3in tall and has increased in stature since leaving Dortmund for Borussia Monchengladbach in a £15.3m deal.
The 27-year-old is a regular for the club and has been instrumental in the club’s progress in recent years.
With 35 caps for Germany he’s another top talent from Dortmund’s alumni who bolstered the club’s revenue.
Centre-back: Mats Hummels (£31.5m)
That Mats Hummels is the most expensive defender in the backline attests to just how outstanding he was during his first spell with the club.
The colossal presence followed a familiar path by moving to Bayern Munich, but eventually re-signed for Dortmund three years later.
Left-back: Abdou Diallo (£28.8m)
Unlike some of the other players on this list, Abdou Diallo was only sold for a minor profit.
Dortmund offloaded Diallo to Paris Saint-Germain just one year after signing him from Mainz for £25.2m, and the 24-year-old looks to be benefitting from Thiago Silva’s exit in 2020.
Like Barta, Diallo is at his most natural in central defence but has the versatility and foot preference to slot in at left-back with ease.
Centre-midfield: Julian Weigl (£18m)
Julian Weigl was once tipped to be the next big thing and his departure from Dortmund in 2020 may have come as a surprise to some.
Benfica paid £18m to secure the 25-year-old’s signature and, following a bit-part start, he’s now cemented a regular berth in holding midfield.
Centre-midfield: Ilkay Gundogan (£24.3m)
Silky Ilkay Gundogan was part of the starting XI that faced Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League final and those with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the game will recall his equalising goal at the home of English football.
The creative midfielder eventually joined Manchester City in a £24.3m deal and, barring a couple of injury problems, has enjoyed a fruitful spell at the Etihad Stadium.
Pep Guardiola has removed the shackles on Gundogan recently and he’s rolled back the years to his attack-minded Dortmund days, notching seven goals – including a pair of stunning strikes against Chelsea and Crystal Palace – in just eight league games.
Attacking midfield: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (£37.8m)
Henrikh Mkhitaryan was playing his own sport in German football during the 2015/16 season, scoring 23 goals and providing 32 assists in 52 games across all competitions.
Those mind-boggling numbers helped Dortmund to attract what was then a club-record fee received for a player as Man United sought a solution to their post-Sir Alex Ferguson crisis.
Unfortunately things never worked out for him at United or at Arsenal thereafter, but he’s flourishing once again in Serie A with Roma having scored ten and assisted as many in 24 outings across all competitions this season.
Right-wing: Christian Pulisic (£57.6m)
Dortmund showcased their cunning approach to the transfer market when Chelsea landed Christian Pulisic for £57.6m.
The Bundesliga giants brought the USA’s next big soccer star to Europe on a free transfer in 2015 in a move that illuminated their ability to spot a commercial opportunity with shrewd foresight.
Not only did they make a colossal profit on Pulisic, who has earned esteemed praise at Stamford Bridge, they tapped into a new audience across the Atlantic that has since been bolstered with the addition of Giovanni Reyna.
From a business perspective, Dortmund are playing a smart hand.
Left-wing: Ousmane Dembele (£117m)
According to Transfermarkt, Barcelona’s move for Ousmane Dembele was the fourth-most expensive in football history after Kylian Mbappe, Neymar and Philippe Coutinho.
Yet another example of Dortmund’s ability to spot a rough diamond before their competitors, Dembele was acquired from Ligue 1 outfit Stade Rennais by Thomas Tuchel for just £13.5m in July 2016.
Following a pulsating season in which the jet-heeled Dembele thrived in Dortmund’s high-octane system, Barcelona decided they’d seen enough and put £117m into their pockets.
A stroke of genius that saw Dortmund generate profit of £103.5m in little over twelve months.
Centre-forward: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£57.38m)
The third most expensive sale in the XI is another example of Dortmund at their most shrewd.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was plucked from Saint Etienne for a fee of just £11.7m in July 2013, and five years later he left for a figure just shy of five times that.
With a return of 141 goals in 213 appearances and a leading role in the 2017 DFB-Pokal win, the Gabon international certainly warranted the lofty fee Arsenal paid for his services.
Here’s the line-up in full: