Maximilian Philipp ready to fill Michy Batshuayi’s boots at Borussia Dortmund
Philipp is a winger by trade, but was deployed as a central striker in the final few games of 2017/18 following an injury to Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi and has played as the focal point of the attack in pre-season.
Although Dortmund have yet to bring in a recognised striker to fill Batshuayi’s boots, sporting director Michael Zorc said as recently as last month that Philipp is more than capable of doing the job and “scoring 15-18 goals” in the coming campaign.
“It’s a great compliment,” Philipp told media on Saturday at Dortmund’s summer training camp in Bad Ragaz, Switzerland. “I have to agree with him: I think I can do it. I know I can score goals, but I also know that I have plenty of room for improvement. I’ll have to prove him right.”
Watch: Maximilian Philipp’s top 5 Bundesliga goals
Philipp finished the 2017/18 season as Dortmund’s leading goalscorer in the Bundesliga with nine goals, despite missing 11 league matches through injury. The 24-year-old also produced five assists in all competitions. His previous single-season goal hauls for former club Freiburg read nine, eight and one.
“My last few seasons have shown that I’m not completely harmless in front of goal,” Philipp said. “I need to be more clinical, though, then I’ll be able to improve my return. But my main focus is to help the team and have more of a say in matches. I’m working on it.”
It shows. Philipp recently struck a brace against Benfica in the International Champions Cup, moonlighting as a No.9 before being replaced by 18-year-old Swede Alexander Isak. Dortmund lost the game on penalties, but remain unbeaten over 90 minutes in their six pre-season friendlies to date under new coach Favre.
“We’re still finding our feet, but it’s going well for us,” Philipp explained. “Lucien has a lot to say. He’s meticulous, obsessed with the details. He talks to us in detail about our mistakes. He gives explicit instructions about what we should be doing defensively and in attack. We haven’t talked about my role, but he knows I’m flexible, so I’m not given it much thought. The mood in the camp is really good.”
Dortmund – fourth-placed finishers behind champions Bayern Munich, Schalke and Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga last season – face further tests against Italian duo Napoli and Lazio on 7 and 12 August respectively. The Black-Yellows travel to second-tier Greuther Fürth in the DFB Cup first round on 20 August, before kicking off their league campaign at home to RB Leipzig six days later.