Klopp and Dortmund Bowed but not Beaten on
Wednesday October 18, 2017
   // Klopp and Dortmund Bowed but not Beaten
29
May

Borussia Dortmund players after the 2-0 DFB-Pokal final defeat against Bayern Munich on May 17th - Reuters

Borussia Dortmund players after the 2-0 DFB-Pokal final defeat to Bayern Munich, May 17th – Reuters

On April 21st, a day after Manchester United went down 2-0 to David Moyes’ former employers Everton on what must have been one of the Scotsman’s darkest days of a torrid 10 months in charge, strong rumours began circulating that Moyes was on the verge of losing his job after officially failing to achieve Champions league qualification.

On foot of this news, journalists for The Guardian approached Borussia Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp, who had been installed as one of the leading contenders to land the United job. Despite only signing a contract extension with Dortmund in October, many believed that Klopp would be drawn towards one of footballs most prestigious roles. However, bookies, journalists and United fans alike would have been disappointed to hear Klopps response when questioned on the impending vacancy in the red half of Manchester: “Man Utd is a great club and I feel very familiar with their wonderful fans. But my commitment to Borussia Dortmund and the people is not breakable.” While this quote may have surprised some, for those who have followed the former Mainz player and manager since he took the reins at Dortmund, these words didn’t come as a shock for they echo the sentiments expressed by Klopp consistently over the last three years since he guided Dortmund to the Bundesliga in 2010-2011.

After that success, the bigger European and domestic powers were drawn towards Dortmund’s young players, with promises of more money and titles. After the league title win of 2010-2011, midfielder Nuri Sahin was enticed to Real Madrid; despite Sahin being one of the team’s most impressive performers since 2009, Dortmund overcame his departure to claim a domestic double for the first time in the clubs history the following season with a 5-2 victory over Bayern Munich in the DFB-Pokal final, showcasing a superbly talented, young, attacking team capable of dominating a Munich side which went on to compete in the Champions League final a week later against Chelsea.

This performance showed Dortmund at their imperious best under Klopp, inspired by Shinji Kagawa’s creativity and Robert Lewandowski’s clinical finishing. Sadly, it represented the peak for that particular side, as Kagawa was on his way to Manchester United a few days later.

A resurgent Bayern rose from their second place finishes in all competitions in 2012 to capture a historic treble in 2013, finishing 25 points ahead of Dortmund in the Bundesliga and defeating them in the Champions League final through a late Arjen Robben goal. However, the worst news of the season for Dortmund came when the Bavarian side activated the €37m release clause of Dortmund’s highly promising young attacking midfielder Mario Götze in April last year. Having graduated from the youth system with Dortmund, Klopp had hoped to build his team around the talented Götze but was deprived of this opportunity, with the then 20 year old moving to the newly crowned champions in July 2013.

To make matters worse, after buying Götze, Bayern publicly courted Klopp’s prized striker Robert Lewandowski for the whole summer of 2013. With one year left on his contract, Dortmund were forced to make a decision between selling Lewandowski or letting him leave on a free transfer at the end of the 2013-2014 season. Ultimately, they chose the latter option and the prolific centre forward signed a pre-contract with Bayern in January this year. In a sadly ironic turn of events, his last game for Dortmund was the unfortunate 2-0 DFB-Pokal final loss against his new employers on May 17th.

Klopp with Trophy A in background - Reuters

A disappointed Jürgen Klopp after receiving his losing medal, May 17th – Reuters

Klopp has been the subject of constant media speculation since Bayern reestablished their hold over German football last year and began stripping Dortmund of their most valuable players; this despite his consistent statements clarifying his love for his current job. He currently harbours no ambition to leave: “I’m not interested because, for me, this is the most interesting football project in the world. In three or four years, if someone wants me, we can speak. But, for now, this is the best place for me.”

These are the words of a man who’s not interested in following many of his star players out of the Westfalenstadion. For all the departures from Dortmund, Klopp has used his transfer nous to secure the relatively cheap signatures of promising players such as Ilkay Gundogan (penalty scorer in the 2013 Champions league final who spent the 2013-2014 season sidelined by injury), Miloš Jojić, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and, most recently, Adrian Ramos from Hertha Berlin to replace Lewandowski.

Shortly after the DFB-Pokal final loss to Bayern on May 17th, Klopp addressed the Borussia Dortmund fans: “If one more person says to me this evening ‘What a pity’, I will smack the glass straight out of their hand… We will definitely come again, this team’s character is too strong not to. Regardless of who leaves us, we’ll get new players in; everything will be fine, don’t you worry.”

The coach remains resolute in his convictions; much like the belief fostered by Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, no player is bigger than the club and Dortmund will strike back against the Bavarian heavyweights.

Kehl, Klopp, Lahm and Guardiola - Boris Streubel

Sebastien Kehl, Jürgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Phillip Lahm a few days before the final – Boris Streubel

The duel between Klopp and Pep Guardiola for supremacy in German football is very much in the Spaniards favour at this moment, thanks largely to Munich’s legacy as Germany’s biggest club and its strong financial power, but the sentiment remains that as long as Klopp is in charge, Dortmund have the capacity to fight back against the odds. By signing the contract extension last October, he extended his stay in Nordrhein-Westfalen until 2018, by which time he will have spent 10 years at the helm.

At the official announcement of the contract extension, Dortmund’s chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke said “Because you should never separate that which belongs together, we have renewed the contract between the manager and his team”; the sense prevails that Klopp and Dortmund are the perfect fit and the only club capable of providing a sustained challenge against Bayern domesticallly; it would be brave to bet against them adding to the three trophies collected under his stewardship by 2018.

Joe Keane

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