Borussia Dortmund lifted back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 1995 and 1996, then
won the Champions League in 1997. But within just three years, it started down
a path of mismanagement that nearly dropped the club out of the Bundesliga.
And the lifeline in the 1999-2000 season, just five points between relegation,
was slim for Dortmund.
The following years produced even more horror for the recent European
champions, because despite Champions League play, bankruptcy loomed in 2005.
Bailed out, in part, by Bayern Munich, Dortmund began to rise from the ashes.
And just three years after its lowest Bundesliga finish in two decades, it has
won consecutive Bundesliga titles, with this season's point total of 81 points
setting a record for the most in a campaign, breaking a mark held by Bayern.
In the process, Borussia Dortmund has shown a dominance over Bayern that is
unprecedented in recent history. Dortmund beat Bayern in both league matches
this season, and won the Pokal Cup, 5-2, on Saturday in Berlin.
An exclamation point to cap its first domestic double.
Now, is the Champions League next in line?
That's the big test that awaits Jurgen Klopp, and his youthful and financially
fit Dortmund club. Klopp, the manager responsible for the quick turnaround, is
the recipient of a talented Borussia Dortmund youth system.
Instead of following the same path that nearly led to its destruction, when it
tried to compete with Europe's most well-funded clubs to sign the best players
in the world, it turned to its own youth and low-priced transfers.
Klopp was smart to sign Mats Hummels, initially on loan from Bayern, and Neven
Subotic for cut-rate prices to form a pairing in central defense that remains
intact as the club's defensive anchor to this day.
Its best coup, Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa, was signed for less than
$1 million, although he could be on his way out this summer at a significantly
higher price. Kagawa has teamed with 19-year-old German international Mario
Gotze as part of the most dynamic offense in Germany over the last two
And Gotze, for all the attention he has drawn already from clubs all over the
world, was not even used in the Pokal final. He missed a large chunk of games
due to injury this season as well, but Dortmund just continued to roll.
Dortmund showed, contrary to the current model of overspending from Manchester
City and Chelsea, not to mention its own mistakes, that money was not the only
path to success.
It has sold off wisely, such as last summer when midfielder Nuri Sahin joined
Real Madrid on a $13 million transfer, and purchased prudently, as proven by
the recent $23 million addition of German international Marco Reus.
Reus, a transfer target for Bayern also, helped Dortmund show the Munich side
is not first choice - at least for every Bundesliga star. And although Kagawa
could leave, Dortmund also has 'no intention of becoming a bank,' president
Dr. Reinhard Rauball said, referring to selling off its best talent.
'Not for all the money in the world could another club, tempt us to sell one
of our players,' said chairman Hans-Joachim Watzk.
At this point, is there any reason for players to leave?
Dortmund has gone 28 straight games without a loss to close the Bundesliga
season, as well as an unbeaten run through the Pokal Cup. Dortmund is clearly
the top team in Germany. It has defeated Bayern five consecutive times.
But, and there's always a but, Dortmund has yet to show up in Europe.
Dortmund flopped in the Champions League this season, as it managed just one
win and one draw against four losses in six matches. It finished at the foot
of a group with Arsenal, Marseille, and Olympiacos.
It was, however, its first appearance in the Champions League since 2003-04.
It was a common occurrence to see Dortmund in the event just a decade ago, and
it is a trend that seems destined to continue under the current management.
Carrying domestic success into Europe is the unanswered challenge, and it is
not unusual, as seen by the struggles of Manchester City this season. City was
also dumped out of the group stage, with some help from Bayern Munich.
And speaking of Bayern, although trumped domestically, it will play in the
Champions League final for the second time in three seasons next week against
Chelsea. Ultimately, that's the level Dortmund wants to reach again.
Only then, even if it's a deep run in the tournament, will Dortmund truly be