Back in January 2012, there was a transfer deal that pointed towards somewhat of a power-shift in German football. One of Germany’s hottest prospects, Marco Reus, penned a deal with Borussia Dortmund, remarkably shunning the advances of Bayern Munich in the process.
It was certainly a new experience for Bayern. For in the past, “FC Hollywood” had picked up all of Germany’s best young talent almost as and when they pleased. Evidently, this wasn’t going to be the case anymore.
So for German football, Reus choosing the yellow and black was a pretty significant development. After all, Dortmund were romping to another league title (their second in a row) and went on to take Bayern to pieces in the German Cup final. Bayern, it seemed, were not going to have things their own way anymore.
Fifteen months on, with Bayern 20 points clear atop of the Bundesliga and Mario Gotze's signature in the bag, things don’t look quite as grand for BVB. The announcement of Gotze's transfer has rocked the foundation of German football and left many neutral observers (this writer included) with that sinking feeling.
Why? Because everyone seems to absolutely love Borussia Dortmund. And you would be hard-pressed to deny them this affection, such is the remarkable rejuvenation they have undergone.
The club has battled through some harsh times in the past decade or so. They were a whisker away from bankruptcy in 2005. But they regrouped, learnt from those mistakes and came roaring back. Even now, under the stewardship of the marvelous Jurgen Klopp, there is a sense that those dark days remain pertinent in the mind of all of those at the club.
They back their young players, spend wisely and play the game in a vibrant, exciting style. The fans, the players and the manager seem to adore everything about the game and most importantly, being involved with Dortmund. This attitude and these admirable principles have brought them a host of success.
Klopp and his players have been hoisted up as examples to all. “This is how you should run a football club” we’ve often heard. Perhaps you don’t need to spend big to have success after-all?
Perhaps. Although those in high places at Bayern Munich do things somewhat differently. Especially as the signings of Javi Martinez, Dante, Mario Mandzukic and Xherdan Shaqiri have thrust them to the fore-front of European football. Dortmund, resultantly, have been left in their wake. Now, with the Gotze deal confirmed, the harsh realities of a game dominated by the rich and the illustrious have come back to bite Klopp and his troops.
For the German league, it is a real shame. In keeping with the Dortmund revival, the Bundesliga has been touted around as Europe’s best domestic competition. The fan experience, the tickets pricing and (dare I say) the excellent beers that come part and parcel of the Bundesliga package has always made it an attractive proposition.
But the battles between Bayern and Dortmund in the last few years have given the league an edge. Their tussles and the developing rivalry have inspired both sides to improve; their respective places in the last-four of the Champions League remain testament to that.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to see that continuing. Bayern have blown everyone out of the water this season and casting a gaze towards next year, look set to do so again.
They’ve signed their main competitors best player and will be under the rule of one of European football’s most decorated managers. Mix in the current playing squad, who are arguably the best set of players in Europe (they are absolutely trouncing Barcelona as I write this), they will dominate the domestic and possibly European landscapes for many years to come.
So, where does this leave Dortmund? A season that looked set to end in an enthralling climax has had a bit of a dampener put on in. The leaking of this deal has come at the worst possible time for them, just one day before a Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid.
But looking towards the summer and even beyond, the Gotze transfer could ruin the remarkable dynamic that is currently in place at the club. Murmurings about the future of Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels and even Reus remain prominent and you can bet that BVB will have more big-money offers to consider before the inception of the new season.
After all, if they can’t keep hold of Gotze, you have to wonder if the rest of the playing staff are fair game too.
As for Klopp, he is capable of re-building Dortmund with the money from the sales of Gotze, as well as any other potential sales. But it is something he has already done. BVB have become a major European force on his watch and as a result Klopp is one of the most highly regarded managers in the game. If the transfer of his prize asset does trigger a flurry of departures, he might consider going the same way as those players he has turned into household names.
In a recent interview with FourFourTwo magazine, Dortmund Chief Executive Hans Joachim Watzke said:
“Our aim is that the German game will have two lighthouses by the year 2020, and that the second one will not be red and white, like lighthouses usually are, but black and yellow”.
Dortmund have big ambitions. Ambitions which they obviously felt would match those of Gotze and the clubs other high profile names.
But despite all of their accomplishments, the player that is synonymous with the Dortmund renaissance can’t resist the lure of Guardiola and Bayern Munich. As Klopp said himself:
“He is the player Pep Guardiola really wanted. He didn't want to pass up on the chance to work together with this extraordinary coach.”
Dortmund have a pretty extraordinary coach of their own and the clubs activities in the coming months will be crucial in determining whether or not they keep hold of him and what would be fair to call "his" Dortmund side.
But with Guardiola and Gotze on board for Bayern, I suspect the red and white lighthouse might continue to outshine the yellow and black for quite a while yet.
Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball