FC Bayern München confirmed the inevitable on Tuesday with the news that Borussia Dortmund captain Mats Hummels will be joining the Bavarians at the end of the season.
Hummels’ exit leaves a gaping hole in the centre of Dortmund’s defence, never mind the loss of their captain’s leadership skills. A defender with the passing skills of Hummels will be hard to find, and Thomas Tuchel faces a tough task in replacing the German international.
Here are five players that Tuchel could turn to:
1. Jonathan Tah (Bayer 04 Leverkusen)
Tah may be just 20, but he already has 35 Bundesliga appearances under his belt, having made his league debut in September 2013. Tah was loaned out to Hamburger SV before returning to Leverkusen where he has developed into a consistent performer.
At 6 ft 4 in, Tah has a physical presence that (literally) puts him a head above the rest. That the defender already has Champions League experience will be seen as an added bonus.
2. Niklas Sule (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim)
Another youngster, the 20-year-old has played every minute of Hoffenheim’s 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign – about as sure a sign as any of his importance to the side. Sule made his debut aged just 17 and has shown great development in the years that have followed, brushing off some early troubles.
The German is comfortable on and off the ball and has demonstrated great composure. Sule has been lauded for his work ethic after overcoming a serious knee injury to return to the highest level.
3. Omer Toprak (Bayer 04 Leverkusen)
Leverkusen vice-captain Toprak has also been linked with a move to the Westfalenstadion. The 26-year-old comes with great experience, having turned out for the Rhinelanders since 2011 after making his professional debut with SC Freiburg.
The Turkey international’s strengths are viewed to be his positioning and intelligence, while he is renowned for his leadership qualities – an extra string in his bow that could prove crucial as Dortmund look to replace their captain. Reports in Germany suggest that Toprak may be BVB’s first choice.
4. Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia)
The German international, a World Cup winner in 2014, has put in some strong showings this season despite Los Che’s struggles. The 24-year-old is strong in the air and is able to dominate opponents physically.
Former Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp is rumoured to have his eye on the centre back, and Klopp is unlikely to be the only manager interested in Mustafi.
5. Matthias Ginter (Borussia Dortmund)
The answer to Dortmund’s problem may already be at the club. Ginter was considered the heir apparent to Hummels’ throne when he arrived in 2014, but the 22-year-old’s development hasn’t gone completely according to plan.
Ginter has been used regularly by Tuchel this season – he’s made 23 Bundesliga appearances (scoring three goals and registering seven assists), and has also featured in the Europa League, but in all competitions he’s started just three times in the centre of defence.
It would be a risk not to bring in reinforcements and back Ginter to step up, but the early potential shown by the former Freiburg defender could be enough to convince Tuchel to give Ginter a chance to prove his worth.