As the referee blew the final whistle to signal the end of the match, Signal Iduna Park resounded with chants hailing Dortmund. The entire legion of yellow-clad fans erupted in joy after the young team brought home their second Bundesliga title in two years. Borussia Dortmund had firmly established control over German football.
It is always boring when a single team dominates a entire league for like decades at a stretch. The results become as predictable as day follows night and night follows day. The weaker team bowing down in submission, allowing them to pass the ball around and score goals at will. That was the case in Germany until last season. Bayern Munich reigned supreme for nearly a decade. There were no other serious challengers for the title, with the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg ( Werder Bremen occasionally) dutifully filling up the top three spots. FC Hollywood, as Bayern were often referred as, snapped up all the top players, made all the big-name signings, whereas the others had to be content with lesser-known players and develop them. Now that Dortmund has arrived on the scene, they have usurped Bayern from their throne.
Dortmund are the torch bearers of German football, where youth takes precedence over experience, and the pragmatic approach is replaced by a vibrant free-flowing attacking style. Juergen Klopp has moulded his young budding starlets into creative players, who have raised eyebrows around the football world with some wonderful displays, and are no doubt on the wishlist of most major European clubs. Several players, like Mario Gotze and Shinji Kagawa are already household names at such tender age. So how did they achieve such resounding success?
Undoubtedly, most of the credit must go to the coach. Klopp has transformed the club’s fortunes almost single-handedly. And what’s more, he did not have the luxury of sheiks and oil moguls backing him and supplying him millions of dollars. He made the most of what he had, in this case the club’s youth academy and an excellent scouting system.
Usually, when a club wins a league title for the first time in decades, the next thing a club does is buy reinforcements for defending their title. This involves big-money signings, loads of transfer rumours, disposing of the deadwood from the squad (old players, young players being farmed out on loan). But Klopp did was, he kept the nucleus of the squad intact. In fact when Nuri Sahin, a key member in their squad departed for Real Madrid, Klopp did not panic. He did not buy an experienced playmaker for humongous fees like 35-40 million! Instead, he looked towards unfashionable Nuremberg for the solution. He bought a unknown Ilkay Gundogan for a measly fee. Experts at that time pointed the deal to have a detrimental effect on the team, as the relatively unproven Gundogan would find it hard to handle the pressure of playing for a title-defending club. But he has coped very well with the pressure, and is now a key cog in Dortmund’s wheel.
Shinji Kagawa was bought for a minimum fee of 350,000$ from a Japanese 2nd division side Cerezo Osaka. Not your idea of a great bargain. But the same Kagawa, after two years at Dortmund is worth 20 million$ today.
The likes of Gotze, Grobkreutz, Bender etc were part of the illustrious Dortmund youth academy. When they made their seamless transition into the first team, their chemistry continued to thrive after their graduation since they were accustomed to playing together. They have now played key roles in Dortmund’s rise to fame, and were rewarded with call-ups to the German national squad. Klopp has also revitalized the flagging careers of Subotic and Mats Hummels, who are now considered one of the best centre-back pairings in the world.
Klopp has instilled a fearless mindset into his team, leading them into battle with a positive frame of mind. Even at the start of this season, when Dortmund were performing poorly, the young brigade did not lose hope. They continued to display their flamboyant style of football, continued to play as though losing was not an option. They overcame the early-season jitters to reassert their supremacy over the German clubs. In fact, Dortmund are the first club in many years to achieve a league double over Bayern Munich, which is no mean feat.
Although they had a bad European outing, in which they finished bottom of their group, the consistency in league results continued. Hence now they have been proclaimed German champions for the second time in a row with two matches remaining.