When Borussia Dortmund claimed that they were refusing to sell ace striker Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich this summer, the big clubs of the world went on high alert. After all, Lewandowski would be able to leave on a free at the end of next season if he wasn't sold. Surely BVB would want to cash in while they had the chance? Not so much, actually:
Robert will definitely be playing for Borussia Dortmund next season. We need this security to be able to plan (for the season).
-BVB general manager Hans-Joachim Watzke. Source: Suddeutsche Zeitung via Sky Sports.
Through the lens of standard football economics, this seems like an immensely silly move. Unfortunately for most would-be experts, the standard analysis is in some cases woefully lacking, assuming, for one thing, complete player fungibility. For Dortmund, the value that they can extract from Lewandowski over the course of next season before he leaves on a free transfer could very well match whatever offer Chelsea (or Manchester United or Bayern Munich) could offer.
This is being framed as a principles-over-money decision, but the real economics aren't as clear cut. Lewandowski is one of very few elite centre forwards on the market right now, and replacing him straight up is essentially impossible for a club of Dortmund's stature, despite the cash they have on hand for their Champions League run and the forced sale of Mario Gotze this summer. Keep Lewandowski, and they maintain some of the edge over their rivals lower down in the table and in Europe. Having a player of his calibre on the field for a season is immensely valuable.
The economics discussion is perhaps a moot point in light of Lewandowski's clear desire to move to Bayern Munich, but it does imply that BVB's need to offload him to crab a quick €20 million has been more than a little overstated. Regardless, Chelsea almost certainly aren't landing him, now or in the future. We can probably close the book on this one.