Champions League Reaction: Is This the End for Borussia Dortmund?
As Arjen Robben latched onto Franck Ribery's clever flick, surged through the heart of Borussia Dortmund's defence and guided the ball past a helpless Roman Weidenfeller, you knew that was it.
An enthralling encounter had found its decisive moment. And the heart of that collective yellow wall of noise, which had been so vocal in support of their side, had been broken.
A tremendous all-German encounter, the 2-1 victory for Bayern Munich was probably the correct result. The strongest side in Europe, certainly over the last 12 months, were in the end deserving winners.
Certainly Bayern had to overcome an opening 25-minute salvo where Dortmund swarmed around the pitch, not allowing them to get into any kind of rhythm, one where Manuel Neuer proved his value to the now five-time European champions.
Yet in the end, Die Bayern were that little bit too strong, too clever and too good for Jurgen Klopp's wonderful young side. Robben, a player with tremendous pedigree, having previously played for clubs such as Chelsea, PSV Eindhoven and Real Madrid, was the difference-maker with a goal and an assist.
Nevertheless, Die Borussen can hold their heads high. But even after such an exhilarating campaign where they have seemingly become every neutral's second team, there is a feeling that this was it for BVB.
Perhaps it is too soon to write a definitive epitaph for a side that last season celebrated a second successive Bundesliga title, but there is certainly a feeling that this was their greatest opportunity for success on such a grand scale.
For whilst it is easy to suggest that Bayern will go from strength to strength after this success and will be amongst the favourites to reach the 2014 final in Portugal's Estadio da Luz, it would appear highly unlikely that Dortmund can do likewise.
An outstanding young side though they have proven to be during the current campaign—one capable of some of the most jaw-droppingly brilliant one-touch play that you are likely to see anywhere across the footballing landscape right now, they face a long and potentially tumultuous summer.
Already, Mario Gotze has agreed to a deal with Bayern, a move which not only weakens their own chances of success but strengthens their biggest rivals.
Indications suggest Robert Lewandowski will also be heading through the Westfalenstadion's exit door. The Polish international striker, who has been an integral member of Klopp's side these past three years, has one year left on his contract and, according to John Edwards of the Daily Mail, has declared that he would like a summer move—with the Allianz Arena his preferred destination.
Heynckes: "We know Goetze will be joining us and I don't think Lewandowski will be hanging about too much either."— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) May 25, 2013
Defender Felipe Santana, a useful backup to Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic, has agreed to join Schalke in search of regular first-team football.
And what of others? German international defender Hummels sees his reputation continue to grow; likewise the midfield general Ilkay Gundogan. Marco Reus (although a boyhood Dortmund fan) is a player of great movement and versatility and certainly wouldn't be lacking suitors, either.
Of course, losing key players is something they have dealt with before, most notably in the case of Shinji Kagawa, who moved to pastures new last summer.
But there is only so long a side can continually rebuild before it has a notable effect on the pitch.
Additionally, how long can BVB continue with Klopp's high-intensity game plan before wear and tear shows its effects?
The high pressure strategy, very Bielsista in its implementation, can surely only continue for so long. A number of sides who employ similar styles—most notably Marcelo Bielsa's Athletic Bilbao, 2011 Copa Sudamericana winners Universidad de Chile and even Spanish champions Barcelona— have all shown signs of the strain that consistent high-tempo play over a sustained period can cause.
The right-back Lukasz Piszczek has already succumbed: A hip operation planned for the summer will keep him out of action for up to five months. Will he be the only one or just the first?
Also, let us remember that this stretch has seen them run their luck awfully close on occasion. Malaga were two injury-time minutes and an offside goal away from knocking them out at the quarter-final stage. Real Madrid certainly had chances in the semi-final second leg to break up the final's German duopoly.
That same luck is unlikely to be prevalent in the next campaign, and it certainly didn't go their way at Wembley, with both Ribery and Dante arguably lucky to not be sent off.
Throw into the equation that the likes of vanquished semi-finalists Real Madrid and Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain, returning Italian champions Juventus, the two Manchester clubs and Europa League winners Chelsea will all likely enhance themselves over the summer, and Dortmund's chances of taking Europe by storm once more surely decrease.
And that list doesn't include the newly crowned champions, with Messrs. Guardiola and Gotze in tow.
On the other hand, there is no denying the managerial brilliance of the man known as "Kloppo." Hopefully, his bewitching side oozing with personality can come back stronger next season, buoyed by their tremendous European run and replenished with new gems, whether signed from elsewhere or unearthed from within (Moritz Leitner, perhaps).
But defeat at Wembley just feels like the end of something rather special. Like viewing a shooting star, their magnificence has been awe-inspiring.
Let's just hope that unlike that particular phenomenon, Borussia Dortmund can show far greater longevity and continue challenging European football's elite in the years to come.
However, it may well prove nearly impossible for BVB to return to such a high point in the immediate future.
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