Soon Alexander Isak will play for two years with Borussia Dortmund. The 19-year-old storm talent has been working with four coaches at BVB since his change in January 2017 – and his chances of winning with the pros have tended towards zero. At SPOX his consultant Moses Ssewankambo talks about Isak’s current situation.
The time at Borussia Dortmund, that much can be said, has not been a good time for Alexander Isak so far. It all began when he moved for 8.6 million euros from AIK Solna to BVB in January 2017, when coach Thomas Tuchel frankly said after the announcement of the deal: “I didn’t know the player. It’s all been decided very quickly. The flow of information was very short-term.”
This was only the beginning of the mud battle between the club superiors and Tuchel, who actually wanted to guide Oliver Torres from Atletico Madrid to Dortmund in this winter transfer period and then threw himself over with head scout Sven Mislintat.
Isak was still there and one wondered how this young lad would ever get past goal machine Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But the transfer from Isak was of course a perspective one. Then Tuchel agreed: “It fits perfectly. This is a transfer that offers the club unbelievable long-term planning security. That makes 100 percent sense for BVB.”
And for Isak, too, how his advisor Moses Ssewankambo looks back in an interview with SPOX: “The choice to choose between several clubs for Dortmund came from Alexander and his environment – on the basis of several talks with the BVB and the information that the club works very well with young players and gives them a chance. Coach Tuchel knew all about it.”
However, as Aubameyang did not injure himself and Isak had to arrive in the new country first, only four minutes of compulsory play were booked for the Swedish team at the end of the second half – at the cup match in Lotte.
New season, new luck, huh? Not quite. Tuchel’s successor Peter Bosz let Isak play the DFB Cup duel in Magdeburg for the first time. The striker promptly thanked him with his first and only goal for the BVB and an assistant.
It was only when Aubameyang, already under Bosz successor Peter Stöger, was expelled from the squad at short notice due to disciplinary measures that Isak was allowed to make his debut in the Bundesliga in the first game of 2018 against Wolfsburg – and was replaced after a solid performance after 68 minutes.
Whenever Isak finally played, you could tell that he lacked playing practice. Technically, the 19-year-old is shod and has a goal instinct, but his robustness was lacking against the mostly physically stronger opponents. “He had to get used to men’s soccer. When an ox like Papa Sokratis confronts you, it hurts. He must first learn that,” said ex-Borusse Nuri Sahin last year about Isak.
In test matches against underclass teams, however, Isak’s skill flashed much sooner; in the summer of 2017, for example, he scored four goals in his 5-2 win over Rot-Weiss Erfurt. “He has evolved since his move, but not as he could have done in a year and a half due to four different trainers,” concludes consultant Ssewankambo.
With Lucien Favre, coach number four was on the mat in the summer and he also seems to see no use for the Swede. Favre hardly used Isak in the preparatory games, and he was only allowed to watch the bigger forms of play in training.
“He’s still extremely young. He’s got a lot of talent, that’s for sure. But age is not easy, there are many ups and downs,” said Favre. For the Swiss, the depths obviously dominate, because Isak hasn’t been allowed a second under him yet. However, a change in summer was not up for discussion, as Ssewankambo says: “That has never enjoyed our attention.”
Isak is currently in the second team of the BVB, which plays in the fourth regional league West. There he scored five goals and two models in ten games and above all: Isak finally plays regularly.
“I know what I can do. It’s not the level I see myself at. It’s like it’s between me and the coach. But I still can’t complain. I think my shape is good. I trained well, but didn’t get as much playing practice at a high level. There’s no reason for me to look back or think about it. I stayed here and have to fight,” Isak said recently in an interview with the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
Consultant Ssewankambo, however, assures that “the decision to play in the second team, as all decisions were made together with the club so that he can develop further”. In practice, Isak also wanted to play in the Youth League. In Bruges, he should have played for the U19 team for the first time, but Isak found out at Dortmund airport that UEFA had withdrawn his right to play. The reason: Isak, born in 1999, does not yet play the necessary two years at BVB.
What is the next step in this conflict situation for Isak, whose contract runs until 2022? Recently rumours circulated that Isak’s training association AIK Solna was speculating on a loan. Also a change to Spain was already haunting around. One thing’s for sure: The regional league cannot be the solution for Isak.
“If he should change in January, this will be discussed and planned together with the club – but he probably won’t change,” says Ssewankambo. The consultant continues: “There has never been a serious conversation with the new coach, who is known to be very good for young players. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen again. Alexander Isak continues to believe that Dortmund is the right place for him. He’s only 19, there’s plenty of time left.”