Borussia Dortmund’s approach to recruitment is “not to buy superstars but to create them”, according to Lars Ricken, who has highlighted how much Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele improved at Westfalenstadion.
BVB have made a habit of bringing in some of the world’s most promising young players over the last decade, before selling them on for a huge profit after developing their all-round games.
The German outfit snapped up English winger Jadon Sancho for just £10 million ($13m) from Manchester City in 2017, and two-and-half-years later, he is being valued in excess of £100 million ($130m).
Dembele followed a similar path to Sancho back in 2016, when he signed a five-year contract with Dortmund after beginning his career in France with Rennes.
The 22-year-old adapted to life at Westfalenstadion very quickly and his impressive displays attracted attention from Barcelona, who secured his services in a £136 million ($177m) deal in the summer of 2017.
Aubameyang, meanwhile, joined Dortmund slightly later from Saint-Ettiene at the age of 24, but it was in Germany where he managed to establish himself as a household name before moving on to Premier League giants Arsenal.
Ex-Dortmund midfielder Ricken – who now serves as the club’s head of youth – has used Dembele and Aubameyang as examples of how successful BVB’s strategy in the transfer market has been, telling BBC Sport: “The way we do things didn’t happen by accident, or by coincidence.
“It is a clear and obvious strategy not to buy superstars but to create them.
“Ousmane Dembele and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang weren’t superstars when they came to Dortmund. We developed them to become superstars. It is very important for the club.”
Dortmund managed to sign 19-year-old Norwegian striker Erling Haaland from Red Bull Salzburg in January for a mere £17 million (£22m), and they also added American midfielder Giovanni Reyna, 17, to their ranks from New York City FC back in July.
Ricken says those are the kind of players that attract supporters to Westfalenstadion in droves on a weekly basis, and he also went on to outline exactly what the club’s recruitment staff look for when they identify new targets.
“The reason the atmosphere in our stadium is so good is because there is a great identification between the players and the fans,” Ricken added. “The supporters see it is a gift for them to play in our stadium.
“We have signed some really good players but we also have young ones – Haaland is 19, Gio is 17. They are very light on their feet. It is great to see.
“Technical skills are very important. And the quickness and speed of action. Players in our first team are all so fast. It is unbelievable.
“A few months ago, we had a player from a foreign country who was playing for our Under-17s and he wasn’t fast enough, so we decided not to make the transfer. It made no sense.
“The other thing is the mentality. The loads we put on the players are very high. School, football, national teams. This can all take 70 or 80 hours a week. These boys have to be grown-up, focused and disciplined at a very young age.”