Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown – William Shakespeare.
Every champion has a challenge, and more often than not, it emerges from within. The drive to succeed, the burning desire to conquer and the hunger to outdo the previous success elevate ordinary champions to greatness. Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga champions for the past two seasons, look to emulate their achievements for a third season straight. After winning the title in 2011, they lost their most influential player in Nuri Sahin as Real Madrid came calling. But fortunately for them Shinji Kagawa stepped up to the plate and delivered in 2011-12, thus helping the fans forget Sahin’s loss.
A sense of deja vu enveloped the Westfalonstadion at the end of the season. This time around Dortmund won their first ever domestic double, but yet again one of the most important players had decided to move elsewhere as the Japanese midfielder signed for English giants Manchester United. Two closed seasons and two polished diamonds leave the club. Where do Die Schwarzbelgen go from here? Can they maintain their success in arguably the most competitive league, and even if they do, would it be sufficient to hold on to their star players? Here we take a look at the road ahead for the Black-Yellows and how becoming self-sustainable is the key to their success over the coming years.
Looking at the summer deals in the transfer market, Dortmund look to have done an impressive job thus far. Of the 8 players that have left the club, 2 were on loan and 3 were barely in the first team squad. The major loss is surely that of Kagawa and Barrios, two key first team players deciding to ply their trade elsewhere after a successful campaign. Of the incoming transfers ex-Gladbach hotshot Marco Reus surely seems to be the catch of the lot. After building a title winning team that cost less than 5 million GBP in 2010-11, Klopp has now spent 17 million on just one player. Other acquisitions in the close season include the purchase of wonderkid Leonardo Bittencourt, and first team additions of Kirch and Scheiber from Kaiserslautern and Stuttgart respectively.
The loss of an attacking ace in Kagawa might have been recovered with the signature of Reus, who would like to stake a greater claim in the German national team by filling the huge boots left empty by Kagawa. Julian Schieber is the more likely replacement for Barrios and would be looking to give Lewandowski a stiff competition for a starting place. So all in all Dortmund have almost an equally strong squad this season as well, and with a few signings still expected, they will surely be the team to beat.
The fitness of Mario Goetze would be vital and how they line up would be interesting to see. With Goetze out for most of the season last time around, Kuba and Grosskreutz sealed their places in the starting lineup. Now with Reus in and a fit Goetze, Klopp might have to make a tough choice or two. The team looks extremely strong in all departments and most betting firms see them favourites to retain the title.
With their rising stock and growing stature, Dortmund players are starting to catch the eye of Europe’s elite. Recently Hummels, Piszczek, Lewandowski and even Goetze have all been watched and even inquired about by Chelsea, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus. Dortmund have stood firm and rebuffed any sort of interest thus far. But if recent seasons are to be considered proof enough, a substantial bid coming in might see Dortmund up for negotiations. What must be noted is that in the sale of both Kagawa and Sahin, the player was intent on leaving and that just forced the issue. So what is the reason behind these departures, especially after having a stellar season and what must the club do in order to avoid such situations in the future?
Let’s start with the financial stability of Borussia Dortmund and their entire business model. It is no secret that Dortmund were on the verge of being bankrupt back in 2004 and have come miles since. The global economy is extremely fragile today; balancing economic growth and success is a challenge not many have stood up to. Arsenal in England, Valencia in Spain and now even the Milan clubs in Italy are struggling to strike the right balance.
The German league is immune to financial doping unlike England where Chelsea and City enjoy external monetary influx; debts are thus a big stumbling block for clubs. Back in 2005, even Dortmund tried their hand at buying success; they splashed the cash on transfers, paying the players huge wages and reached the stage where they were almost out of business. Today, the very same Dortmund are building a championship winning team majorly with home-made talents, not spending beyond their means and maintaining a tight wage structure. The last two seasons are certificates to how far the club has come, but will this success last? The powerhouses are vulturing over already and for a club with limited means, almost every player has a price. Does that mean Dortmund stand no chance of retaining their star players? Far from it.
Borussia Dortmund are a big club and experts expect them to be one of the rising forces in world football and keeping their players and manager is key to any such development. How to do it? The wage structure won’t change overnight unless some billionaire pours his hard earned cash into the club, which isn’t an option in Germany. Yet money is the key, but from where? Simple, be successful in Europe. If not this coming season, then next season surely.
Once they start being a regular in the latter stages of the Champions League, the finances will improve and big name players will like to play at the Signal Iduna Park. The talent drained away from Dortmund needs to stop and nothing could ensure that better than European success. The price of failure is unfathomable and might lead to the club’s undoing. The club is doing all it can in its power to ensure players stay put, tying them to long term deals.
Commitment isn’t the problem, as most payers and manager are very closely bonded. There was always a feeling that Sahin was meant for greater things and bigger stages, and his departure was hardly a surprise. Kagawa too decided not to extend his contract surprising quite a few fans in the process. There have been times when it has been apparent that some players have outgrown the club and there exist similar fears over poster boys, Goetze and Lewandowski.
Having said that, it’s not all doom and gloom for the German champions as they keep churning out gems of their own, and continue to strike great deals in the transfer market. Players like Reus and Hummels rejected approaches from Bayern Munich, showing the shift in the power at the tip of German football. Kehl too has been linked to various clubs but the Borussia Dortmund captain has stayed put. The significance of having the largest stadium in Germany cannot be overstated, and is a huge boost to Dortmund’s finances.
Nothing succeeds like success, and Dortmund would be hoping for the same. Progressive European success along with a stable financial model is the way forward for the club that now also boasts of a strong youth system. The Yellow Blacks are one to look out for in this year’s Champions League and the sustainable club model would ensure we see a more prolonged success in the years to come. The next two seasons will give us a better idea regarding how far they have come. As far as neutrals are concerned, it’s great to see a team openly challenge Bayern Munich’s authority in Germany and by no means is it a flash in the pan. Borussia Dortmund are here to stay.