At the start of the decade, Borussia Dortmund were a European force. Consecutive Bundesliga titles in 2010/11 and 11/12 were followed by an appearance in the Champions League final in 2013, albeit an unsuccessful one. The team that Jurgen Klopp built was a sturdy defensive one, with the likes of Lukasz Piszczek and Mats Hummels displaying themselves to be world-class footballers, but it was the attack that truly flourished. Mario Gotze, Shinji Kagawa and Robert Lewandowski all shone and forged their way into football folklore.
However, since then, their fall from prominence has been steep and alarming. The main cause of this has been Bayern Munich. Their persistent poaching of all of Dortmund’s best players has helped to turn the Bundesliga into a dictatorship, where for 17 out of the 18 teams, finishing second is the ultimate goal, because that’s all they can realistically achieve.
Mario Gotze was the first to fly the nest, moving to the Allianz Arena after Bayern triggered his release clause. He was followed by top goalscorer Robert Lewandowski, and finally by Mats Hummels. The spine of that Dortmund team was ripped apart. While the grass was greener for Lewandowski and Hummels, they’re both among the very best in their position, Gotze finds himself back at Dortmund and struggling for form and fitness.
This path may well be followed again in the future, with the likes of Christian Pulisic and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang destined for greater things than Bundesliga mediocrity, that’s for sure. The cycle hasn’t ended, either. Ousmane Dembele was able to hold the club to ransom and force through a phenomenal deal to Barcelona. Simply put, Dortmund can’t hold onto their best players.
They’re now on a truly awful run of form. A miserable Champions League campaign has left them needing a result against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu just to ensure passage through to the knockout stages of the Europa League, having been completely outclassed by Tottenham. They started the Bundesliga well, but have badly tailed off. They led the pack at the beginning, but no win in six games has left them floundering in fifth, with only bottom-placed and winless Koln in a worse run of form.
Manager Peter Bosz looks completely out of his depth. He was lauded all over Europe last year, and I can’t frankly see why. Failure to clinch the Eredivisie title was sugar coated by a run to the final of the Europa League, in which they were shaky at best throughout. His team of youngsters was made to look like a team of children in the Stockholm final by a measured Manchester United side.
Regardless of whether they can turn their season around, Borussia Dortmund are a team in dire need of transition.
Can Dortmund recover? Can anyone battle against Bayern? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!