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Borussia Dortmund: Is It Now or Never for Klopp & Co?

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Borussia Dortmund: Is It Now or Never for Klopp & Co?
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Last Tuesday, just over 24 hours before the first leg of Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid, German outlet Bild dropped a bombshell.

Gotze to Bavaria!” read the headline, after which came the news that Mario Gotze—Dortmund’s star playmaker—had agreed to join Bayern Munich in the summer.

David Ramos/Getty Images
Mario Gotze will be joining Bayern Munich at the end of the season.

Shorlty after the story was published, Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp met with reporters for his pre-match press conference and, not surprisingly, expressed irritation, if not with the move itself, then certainly with its timing.

“It could have been timed better,” he said, adding, “This news is not good for us. The timing of it is not ideal. Anybody can make their own minds up as to why it’s come out now, but it is out.” (Sky)

Anticipating supporters’ backlash (even Bayern legend Lothar Matthaus claimed Dortmund fans had a right to “feel betrayed”), Dortmund requested police presence at their afternoon training session, and other reports had Gotze’s younger brother sent home from school after being subjected to “traitor” taunts.

As it turned out, news of the transfer released a wave of speculation that soon engulfed Robert Lewandowski, who against Madrid would score all four goals in Dortmund’s emphatic, 4-1 win. Bayern, again, were thought to be the striker’s preferred destination, although Manchester United—long linked with the Poland international—continued to be mentioned as well.

Jurgen Klopp reacts to Mario Gotze's Bayern Munich move.

When asked about the 24-year-old, United manager Sir Alex Ferguson did not rule out a summer bid, telling reporters, “I am not sure Lewandowski will be sold to Bayern now. The Dortmund fans are not going to be happy and I don’t think they will sell to their main rivals. I think they will either let his contract run out or sell him somewhere else.” (Guardian)

Gotze, it seems, was the first domino to fall. And with Lewandowski possibly following him out the door, the next few weeks could represent something of a “now or never” scenario for Dortmund in the Champions League.

 

Now or never

“It was only 16 years ago!”

Another Bild headline.

In the spring of 1997, Bayern Munich, like they did earlier this month, regained the Bundesliga title from previous champions Borussia Dortmund. But on May 28 at Munich’s old Olympiastadion, Dortmund won the European Cup after beating Juventus in the Champions League final. This season could see a similar distribution of the major honours.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Shinji Kagawa joined Manchester United from Dortmund last June.

Which would be terrific for Dortmund, because they may not find themselves in a similar situation for some time.

The group of attackers Klopp put together between 2009 and 2010 has already almost completely dispersed, although while they were together Gotze, Lewandowski, Shinji Kagawa, Lucas Barrios and Kevin Grosskreutz combined to form the most lethal strike-force in Germany, powering Dortmund to back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012.

Robert Lewandowski's quad against Real Madrid.

Barrios, the Paraguay international, became the first to depart after joining Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande for €8.5 million last May, and a month later Kagawa moved to Manchester United in a deal worth £17 million.

Gotze’s exit (Bayern triggered his €37 million release clause, making him the most expensive German footballer ever) means three of the five will be playing elsewhere next season, and if Lewandowski departs only Grosskreutz, who has been used sparingly this season, will remain.

Nevertheless, a trophy haul of two titles and a league cup is nothing to sniff at, and if Dortmund could win the Champions League at Wembley next month it would cap off their most famous era perfectly.

Another contender

None of this is to say Borussia Dortmund will suddenly cease to be a force in German football.

Quite the contrary.

Klopp’s contract runs until 2016 and he has never expressed an interest in leaving the Westfalenstadion, despite being linked to the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Real Madrid. And with his “Class of 2009-2010” graduating to bigger payrolls he may well enjoy the challenge of assembling another contender at Dortmund.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Marco Reus, shown here on international duty with Germany, has arguably been Dortmund's best player this season.

In fact, he has already begun the process.

Perhaps Dortmund’s best player this season has been Marco Reus, unveiled last summer after agreeing a pre-contract move from Borussia Monchengladbach in January 2012.

The €17 million Klopp shelled out for the then-22-year-old showed Dortmund had the ability to pay competitive transfer fees, and with Gotze leaving and Lewandowski likely following him out the door it would hardly be surprising if the 45-year-old made one or two impact signings over the next few months.

Kevin De Bruyne could well be one of them.

The 21-year-old Chelsea playmaker has been on loan at Werder Bremen this season and has so far scored six goals and contributed 10 assists in 31 matches. With Chelsea closing in on a deal for Andre Schurrle, De Bruyne could be available for €15 million and Bild have already reported a five-year contract with Dortmund is likely.

Stefan Kiessling is also rumoured to be on his way as Klopp pursues a direct replacement for Lewandowski. (Sky)

Martin Stoever/Getty Images
Dortmund may bring in Kevin De Bruyne to replace Mario Gotze.

Kiessling, 29, has scored 22 Bundesliga goals so far this season, putting him just one off league-leader Lewandowski and seven ahead of Bayern’s top marksman, Mario Mandzukic. Bayern’s Mario Gomez is also available after losing his place in the starting XI to Mandzukic.

And then there is Grosskreutz—an integral part of Dortmund’s 2012 championship—and Jakub Blaszczykowski who, at 27, is playing some of the best football of his career. Both will see a lot of minutes next season, and the players Klopp brings in should keep the team in contention for years to come.

It may be now or never for the current crop of Dortmund stars, but it’s hardly the end of the road for a club that has become synonymous with both entertainment and winning. Not while Klopp runs the show.

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