As Raphael Guerreiro collapsed onto the pitch, head in hands, it felt like the end of another era. Another era in which the Bundesliga title slipped from Borussia Dortmund’s grasp. The Yellow Wall will rebuild, pick up the pieces of another ill-fated project and go again, as they always do. But, without the talismanic talents of Jude Bellingham and Bayern-bound Guerreiro, this restart feels more monumental than those that have gone before it.
Bellingham is a once-in-a-generation player destined for the annuals of football’s illustrious history. Whilst Guerreiro has grown from a boy to a man in seven years at the Westfalenstadion, all the while becoming one of Europe’s best full-backs. A bastion of loyalty at a club where star names are frequently nurtured with the promise of moving on to bigger and better things, Guerreiro deserves his shot at success. With Bellingham, that always felt inevitable.
Though Guerreiro’s move to domestic rivals Bayern, the team who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat on the final day to steer the title away from Dortmund could be seen by some as a betrayal, it doesn’t feel that way for many. Loyal to the end, the Portuguese left-back has always had opportunities to move away, and in the aftermath of last season’s crushing title defeat, who could begrudge a man for seeking pastures new?
Ultimately Guerreiro stands out like a sore thumb in a market where top-level left-backs are few and far between. His aggressive attacking style left him in esteemed company last season – the 29-year-old’s 12 Bundesliga assists were only bettered by Lionel Messi and Kevin De Bruyne. A technical Swiss Army knife, Thomas Tuchel will be looking to get the ball into Guerrerio’s feet whilst minimising his defensive output.
A player of marked inconsistency during his time at Dortmund, it was Edin Terzic’s decision to move Guerreiro into central midfield that completely transformed his and Dortmund’s season. In relieving him of some of his more pressing defensive duties, Guerreiro’s ability on the ball was able to shine through. Former Portugal coach Fernando Santos also noted Guerreiro’s technical ability in an interview with Bild earlier this week, stating that:
“Technically, Raphaël Guerreiro is almost a perfect player. But his biggest strength is his incredible understanding of the game. If his team has a problem, you just have to give him the ball – he always knows what to do tactically.”
And it was Guerreiro’s understanding of the game and composure under pressure that so nearly paid dividends for Dortmund, as he dragged his team back into the title race with a goal against Mainz on the final day to halve the deficit and give Dortmund a fighting chance of winning their first Bundesliga title in 11 years. Dortmund’s players may not have gone on to write their names into the history books, but Guerreiro’s contribution that day spoke a lot to the strength of his character.
There is a lot to like about Guerreiro. He doesn’t shy away from the ball, receiving 6.34 progressive passes per90, according to FBref, and once in possession, he looks forward. Either driving with the ball or playing through the lines – he produces 3.19 progressive carries per90 and a staggering 6.92 progressive passes. That said, there are drawbacks to his combative style, not least in his defensive work. He rarely looks to engage attackers and dispossess them, whilst he struggles aerially against more physically adept players.
Bayern, however, will be aware of this, having seen Guerreiro develop immensely during his time in Germany. Whilst he may not offer all the answers, there is certainly a place in Bayern’s squad for a player of Guerreiro’s experience and technical prowess. Having picked up two DFB-Pokals and a DFL SuperCup during his seven years in Dortmund, Guerreiro will be looking to win his first major trophy since claiming the 2016 Euros with Portugal and prove once again: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
By: Sam Tabuteau / @TabuteauS
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Alexandre Simoes / Borussia Dortmund