Football

Dortmund boss relieved Aubameyang saga is over

Stoeger glad that they can finally focus on football

Borussia Dortmund coach Peter Stoeger can finally breathe easy now.

For the past weeks, there was uncertainty in the air as the Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang transfer saga threatened to overshadow the club's preparations.

COLOGNE DORTMUND

But, now that the Gabon international has joined Arsenal, his side can refocus on their football as they prepare to face resurgent Cologne tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

"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 (S$104.4m) to sign the 28-year-old yesterday morning (Singapore time), ending weeks of speculation.

Stoeger, who took charge two months ago, dropped Aubameyang for Dortmund's first two Bundesliga matches of the year, but also spoke up for 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.

Aubameyang was part of a three-way transfer involving Arsenal, Dortmund and Chelsea.

His departure to the Emirates paved the way for Olivier Giroud to join Chelsea, who allowed Michy Batshuayi to join Dortmund on loan.

Giroud said he signed for Chelsea because he wanted to stay in London , and was drawn to the prospect of playing in the Champions League.

Said the French international, who cost the Blues £17.5 million: "The Champions League is massive for a football player. There is nothing above it when you're playing for a club.

"There will be two nice games against Barcelona. We know their qualities and I think everybody will need to be 100 per cent to go through."

Batshuayi has joined Dortmund but is unlikely to start at Cologne, although 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 being 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 turnaround as their first win this season came only on Dec 16 - shortly after sacking Stoeger, who joined Dortmund a week later.

Ahead of tomorrow'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, pinning the club's injury woes on Stoeger. - AFP

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