On a wet, windy night at Berlin's Olympic Stadium, Wolfsburg claimed their first piece of silverware in six years when they overcame Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the DFB-Pokal final. It was a match that offered plenty of intrigue for fans and neutrals alike, least of all the concluding 90 minutes of Jurgen Klopp's tenure at Dortmund.
For many of the dominating Black and Yellow crowd, this was going to be their magical night of success and a special goodbye to a manager who helped transform this club from mid-table obscurity to worldwide appeal in just a few short years.
Although Dortmund were never considered favourites going in to the tie—they finished 23 points behind the Wolves in the Bundesliga this season and failed to beat them—there was a sense of hope that transcended any real reason when Klopp's team came flying out of the gates and blitzed Wolfsburg for the first 20 minutes of the match.
After the opening stages of the game, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had already scored to put Dortmund in the lead and Marco Reus had just missed a sitter. Everything was going to plan and the dream of Klopp's perfect last game looked as though it was within touching distance.
Then came along Kevin De Bruyne.
To describe the 23-year-old Belgium international as an "excellent player" would be no more than a grave underestimation of his true talent. This attacking midfielder, despite his young age, has already transcended the mere tags of "prodigy" and "youthful talent" with 20 assists and 10 goals this season, according to Whoscored.com, and he already looks like the best player in German football by quite some distance.
Luis Gustavo's goal in the 23rd minute to even the scores may have had very little to do with the red-haired midfielder, yet the manner in which De Bruyne drifted around the middle of the pitch with inch-perfect finesse and skill quickly turned the game on its head in Wolfsburg's favour.
This was perhaps most evident when Dieter Hecking's side took the lead 10 minutes later. Through a series of tackles and loose balls, Wolfsburg managed to tumble through Dortmund's right flank before the ball bounced to De Bruyne in the middle of the pitch, 10 or so yards outside Mitch Langerak's box.
The midfielder looked up and, without taking a touch or trapping the ball, smashed a half-volley into the bottom-left corner despite the best efforts of Dortmund's Australian shot-stopper. It was a truly wonderful goal from an exceptional player.
Looking at the WhoScored.com graphic above, which depicts where De Bruyne made his 31 passes on Saturday night, we can see just how much influence the young star had across the field. Not limited by a position or particular role, the Belgian was able to drift and find pockets of space in which to thrive.
It was through the sheer confidence and bravado on show from the attacking midfielder that Wolfsburg were able to pull themselves back up after conceding an early goal and ultimately, after Bas Dost headed home to make it three in the 38th minute, prove to Dortmund and the whole of Germany why they deserved the title of the country's second club.
Reus, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan huffed and puffed throughout the match and cursed their misfortune while De Bruyne glided through the park, toward inevitable success. This wasn't just a cup win—it was a changing of the guard within German football's hierarchy.
It was perhaps Reus' substitution in the 79th minute that best characterised the difference between the two stars and the clubs. Klopp's own boy wonder simply wasn't up to the task of claiming the final as his own and was taken off while De Bruyne played the full 90 minutes with relative ease.
In one way or another, Klopp's Dortmund are certainly no more. But this Wolfsburg side, coached ferociously by Hecking and driven to perfection by De Bruyne, are just getting started.