Champions League: Borussia Dortmund Success Is Victory for Economic Sense
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Jurgen Klopp has guided the Westfalenstadion side to two successive Bundesliga titles as part of a mightily impressive tenure with the club.
It is all a far cry from just seven years ago when the 1997 Champions League winners were facing the possibility of bankruptcy (BBC News). Even their intense rivalry with Bayern Munich was put to one side as the Bavarian club donated 2 million euros (£1.7 million) to help the club pay wages from two years earlier (Goal.com).
Financial worries eased when the Westfalenstadion was officially renamed Signal Iduna Park after a German insurance company under a sponsorship deal.
On the field, things were little better as costs were cut significantly and Dortmund only just survived relegation in 2007, a season in which they had three managers, but reached the German Cup final in 2008 to qualify for the Europa League despite a poor Bundesliga campaign.
However, Dortmund's fortunes began to change on one key decision in the wake of Thomas Doll's exit in the summer of 2008.
Jurgen Klopp was appointed to succeed Doll and immediately set about recruiting and grooming stars for an assault on Bayern Munich's dominance of the game in Germany.
With finances tight, the former Mainz coach turned to youth and frugal spending. He built his defence around the central partnership of Serbian Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels, who joined from Bayern after an initial loan period.
The real steal of those initial days under Klopp was Shinji Kagawa, who was plundered from the Japanese second tier for just £300,000. Manchester United signed the midfielder for £17 million last summer.
Klopp took Dortmund from mid-table obscurity to successive Bundesliga titles in the space of three seasons. But such success comes with a price.
With financial problems still relatively fresh in their minds, Dortmund are unable to compete with the cash on offer at major clubs across Europe.
But there must be a fear that the exodus of star names which occurred after the 1997 Champions League Final triumph over Juventus in 1997 may be about to repeat itself.
Players such as goalkeeper Stefan Klos, Jorg Heinrich, Paulo Sousa, Karl-Heinz Riedle and Paul Lambert, who had performed such a fine job stopping Zinedine Zidane in the final, all left within a year of that triumph.
But the vultures are circling the current crop of Dortmund stars, with Klopp the most coveted figure of them all.
However, with Bayern punishing Dortmund with a 20-point advantage at the top of the Bundesliga this season, the Champions League is Klopp's main chance of silverware and a hugely significant notch on the CV.
The arrival of Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich in the summer may prove to be an interesting challenge for Klopp, but the inevitable managerial spin-the-bottle game is certain to point toward the German at the end of the current campaign.
Klopp insisted in February he will see out his contract at Dortmund (Evening Standard), but Hummels (Daily Express) and Lewandowski (Daily Telegraph) appear poised to leave Dortmund, leaving more holes to fill with less finance than many other teams to do so.
What Klopp has achieved at Dortmund is nothing short of miraculous, and any success in UEFA's elite tournament will be a triumph of spirit and togetherness over the power of money.
Dortmund and Klopp are at the forefront of a new economic model within the game, where coaches look to homegrown talent as a substitute to the millions spent and gambled on bigger names.
No matter what the future brings for Dortmund and Klopp, their progress in the tournament should be welcomed as an antidote to the moneyed ideals which have governed the upper echelons of the game for too long.
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