Jurgen Klopp Leaves Dortmund a Hero Despite Season of Torment and Failure

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistMay 31, 2015

Dortmund's head coach Juergen Klopp covers his face after his team lost the German soccer cup final match between Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, May 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

Well, it has finally come to an end. A marriage of immense success that brought joy to millions has run its course. There are no more games to play, no more goals to score and no more trophies to win. Jurgen Klopp's time at Borussia Dortmund is over.

Unfortunately it was far from a fitting end. On Saturday, in a fully packed Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Klopp walked out with his team one last time in the DFB-Pokal final with high hopes of beating Wolfsburg and finishing on a high, a trophy to bookend his time at the club.

Of course, the second-best team in the Bundesliga this season had other ideas, and despite an early goal for the Black and Yellows, it was a 90 minutes of football that ultimately saw Dieter Hecking's title-hungry side run out as 3-1 winners.

The history books may well overlook such an event in years to come, yet it was a match that did a lot to portray the Dortmund side that has accompanied Klopp throughout his final year at the Westfalenstadion—a microcosm of the hope that ultimately turned to bitter defeat and anguish for fans of the side.

For many Dortmund fans this has been a season too far—a sizeable sum, bitten off in delight but ultimately too much to chew—that Klopp will undoubtedly come to regret. This was the season that Dortmund looked their worst under their charismatic leader.

If we were to take a look at the club’s Bundesliga record in 2014/15, it makes for grim reading. Two defeats to Bayern Munich, home and away, coupled with a record of just one win in six against the other three big sides this season suggests that Dortmund were routinely reminded of their new place in the hierarchy of German football throughout this campaign.

It wasn’t a run that saw silly mistakes or costly last-minute goals drag Klopp’s team down the league table. It was a year in which better teams systematically pulled the former champions apart and demonstrated how far they had fallen.

Matthias Schrader/Associated Press

Pass marks for the league season come through a turn in form that appeared almost out of the blue in early February, following a winter of true discontent that had Dortmund sitting bottom of the Bundesliga table.They eventually finished seventh with Europa League football secured.

Ultimately, it was the drive of desperation to finish seventh that perhaps sums up the state in which this team found itself this year. With continental football assured after the summer, a great sigh of relief may still be heard around the club’s famous ground, yet the bigger picture shows a failed league campaign.

It was the Champions League—the jewel in European football’s crown—that proved a welcome distraction from domestic headaches for many fans, as Klopp and his team made a fair and honest attempt at a competition they had little hope of winning.

Alas, the opening matchday 2-0 win over Arsenal in front of the famous Yellow Wall will be one of the standout memories from this season, along with comfortable wins over Anderlecht and Galatasaray. For a fleeting few weeks, Dortmund looked like the team that had marched to the Champions League final at Wembley just two years ago. But that feeling didn't last. 

Ultimately, the welcomed daydream of wishful, continental thinking came to an abrupt halt when Juventus and Carlos Tevez came to town and turned over Klopp’s side 3-0 in their own backyard. However, history and post-season newspaper columns will be kind on the result, following the Italian side’s march to this season’s final.

The Old Lady may have made Dortmund blush under the bright lights and thunderous chorus of the Champions League, but Klopp’s side certainly weren’t the only or most dramatic victims of the potent and determined Bianconeri.

Thanks to a disappointing league performance and a relatively acceptable European run, it came down to the DFB-Pokal to distinguish just what kind of season Dortmund would have.

Beating Bayern in the semi-finals was perhaps the most interesting and certainly most satisfying game during Dortmund’s impressive run to the final, but the final game of the season was one in which the club’s reputation for this entire campaign alone would be defined.

Frank Augstein/Associated Press

In a match that featured defensive blunders, trailing Sebastian Kehl tackles, a huffing and puffing Ilkay Gundogan and a dismissive Marco Reu,  we saw exactly what has troubled Dortmund over the course of the past eight months.

As Kevin De Bruyne and co. ghosted past Dortmund for each of their three goals, it was evident that a changing of the guard was taking place before our very eyes. The side that Klopp had taken to the top of German football was long gone.

This season has been a bitter pill to swallow for many fans and a solid attempt to assassinate the very beauty and success that Klopp brought to the club. This adored coach may still leave Dortmund as a hero, but the past eight months have been a burden, resting heavily on his and his team’s shoulders.

A campaign that he didn’t need. One that ultimately ended in failure.


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