Arsenal spent a new club record £56m for Aubmeyang

DORTMUND: File photo taken on November 21, 2017 shows then Dortmund’s Gabonese forward Pierre- Emerick Aubameyang running with the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group H football match BVB Borussia Dortmund v Tottenham Hotspur at the BVB Stadion in Dortmund. — AFP

BERLIN: Borussia Dortmund coach Peter Stoeger says now that the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang transfer saga is finally over his side can refocus on their football as they prepare to face resurgent Cologne today. “It became a topic behind which no one could hide,” Stoeger explained. “It’s good that it’s over, because the topic attracted such an incredible amount of attention,” Stoeger told Bild. Arsenal spent a new club record £56 million ($79.2m, 63.7m euros) on Wednesday to sign the Gabon striker and end weeks of speculation. Stoeger, who took charge in December, dropped Aubameyang for Dortmund’s first two Bundesliga matches of 2018, yet has defended the star striker.

“In my time, he was never late (to training),” said Stoeger. “He once skipped a team meeting and once trained badly because he obviously wanted to send a signal, but otherwise he behaved properly. “I cannot say that the boys (team) were so upset (by his behaviour).” Nevertheless, Stoeger is delighted the saga is over-for all parties concerned.

“If we had sent him to the stands and possibly kept him until summer, the topic would have never been settled and there would have been no winner,” admitted Stoeger. With Aubameyang gone, Dortmund have signed Belgian striker Michy Batshuayi on loan from Chelsea for the rest of the season. He is unlikely to start at Cologne on Friday, but Stoeger hinted he could feature off the bench. “He is ready to go and there is no training arrears to make up,” said the Austrian of Batshuayi.

English teenager Jadon Sancho, 17, is set to make his fourth start while Dortmund’s new Swiss centre-back Manuel Akanji could make his debut after signing from Basel. Dortmund start the weekend sixth in Germany’s top flight after drawing their last three games. Despite their placing at the bottom of the table, resurgent Cologne are on a four-match unbeaten run under Stoeger’s successor Stefan Ruthenbeck. Only a late equaliser at home to Augsburg last weekend denied them four straight wins. It is a remarkable turn-around as their first win this season only came on December 16 — shortly after sacking Stoeger, who joined Dortmund just a week later. Ahead of Friday’s match, Cologne’s director of sport Armin Veh has criticised Stoeger for his training methods while at the club.

“Having 13 injured players is not a coincidence and I assume that something went wrong in our training management,” Veh told Cologne-newspaper Express in pinning the club’s injury woes on Stoeger. “As colleagues, we’ve always got on and as the manager of Cologne, it was my job to analyse the situation and make the right conclusions.” – AFP