Dortmund Dream Season…And What it All Means

5-2…I still cannot quite believe it…5-2. With the dominating performance last Saturday, where Borussia Dortmund out played (and out managed) the powerhouse Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal final, Dortmund ended its greatest domestic campaign in club history with an emphatic and entirely deserved victory. For the first time in 103 years of existence, the black and yellow won both the league and the cup; the much vaunted “double.” The question though does remain as to how this season stacks up against the previous 100 plus?

 The final in Berlin against the most successful German club best demonstrates where this season ranks among all those preceding it. In a nutshell, it’s the best. Even when comparing it to the Champions League winning season of 1997. That year, despite being crowned kings of Europe, Dortmund only finished third and the complete restructuring of the club began. So where that might rank very highly with every Dortmund supporter, the winning of both major domestic competitions outshines it by far. The reasons for this are simple. The squads and where they came from could not be compared. The team from the mid-90’s had German World Cup winners and veterans at its core such as Andreas Möller, Jürgen Kohler, Stefan Reuter, Karl-Heinz Riedle, etc. Even the 2002 squad that won the Bundesliga title and almost won the Uefa Cup was a group of high paid stars like Jan Koller, Tomas Rosicky, and Marcio Amoroso. Plus, this squad was truly only able to shine for one season where it barely beat out Bayer Leverkusen for the title.

 

This new Dortmund is one that has grown mostly organically and where the team, not the individual players, is the star. Over the last two seasons no team in the Bundesliga has dominated most of its major competition more so than Dortmund has. For the first time ever a team has defeated Bayern Munich five times in a row, and none of the victories was as emphatic as the last one (a great coincidence that the fifth victory saw them score five goals). In the last two seasons Dortmund has clinched the title early both times and the fantastic display from Saturday was the crowning and befitting final achievement.

The squad itself is mainly comprised of young, talented, technically thrilling and high paced players. Most are in their early twenties (or even younger) and have yet to see the peak of their development. They grew from within, many of them coming for comparatively low transfer fees, especially when you see the quality and note the achievements. At its core though stands a brilliant manager. Much like Ottmar Hitzfeld knew how to manage stars, Jürgen Klopp knows how to get the most out of his young players and is equally as savvy tactically as the arguably greatest Dortmund manager.

 

It is very difficult to draw comparisons to the era prior to the formation of the Bundesliga, but the back-to-back title winning teams of 1956 and 1957 had many similarities to today’s team. Many young players (e.g. Aki Schmidt), but also a core that stayed together long enough to grow together and, for two seasons, dominate the domestic competition. The next great team was that of 1966. A year removed from winning the DFB Pokal for the first time, Dortmund narrowly missed winning the Bundesliga that season (due to a second to last match day loss to the eventual champions 1860 Munich), but did pull off the great upset over Liverpool in the European Cup Winners Cup, thanks to the great Stan Libuda. But again, none of these achievements can compare, since in the era of high spending (Bayern paid more for Jerome Boateng this season than Dortmund did for all its new players combined) such clubs as Dortmund (or Montpellier in France, who beat out PSG and spent 104 million Euros less than the Parisian club) should not be winning.

 

Borussia Dortmund has had many great seasons and accomplishments since rising to domestic fame in the 1950’s, but none has been as dominant as this one and especially with this squad of tirelessly working and entirely unselfish players. Many have now advanced to the point where Dortmund will most certainly sell them off (e.g. Shinji Kagawa) to bigger clubs, but the core should still remain intact and be strengthened for still quite a few seasons to come.

 

I could not help but chuckle when I saw Jerome Boateng’s comments after the debacle in Berlin, where he said that Bayern had gifted the cup to Dortmund and they had not truly earned it by playing better. Of course these statements are ludicrous, especially if you actually watched the match and saw how Boateng got out played time and again. But this statement (and Mario Gomez made a similarly weak one) encapsulates where this Dortmund squad ranks. They clearly have Bayern rattled and worried, and if you can boast that achievement, then you can only say that this truly is the greatest season in Dortmund’s long and illustrious history.

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