With football being such a globalised phenomenon it is not surprising that there are a lot of mixed views in relation to the sport. But something which is perhaps less arguable in the modern day game is the respect that German side Borussia Dortmund and their manager Jurgen Klopp have gained throughout the last few seasons.
Klopp joined the club from fellow German side Mainz 05, where he led the club to their first ever promotion to the Bundesliga and also qualification for the 2005-06 UEFA Cup. Because of his excellent record, it was not a surprise when a lot of so called ‘bigger clubs’ came calling for his services. Eventually, in 2008, Klopp jumped ship to Borussia Dortmund and replaced Thomas Doll who had led the side to a disappointing 13th place finish in the Bundesliga. That season was the worst league campaign in 20 years for The Borussians and they concluded the fixtures sitting just nine points above the drop zone.
Now fast forwarding to 2013, Dortmund are the current Bundesliga title holders. Jurgen Klopp has managed to lead his side to back to back German championships, this coming after a nine year drought. It is not just in the league that the famous yellow side have impressed the footballing world, with performances in the Champions League going a long way in showing how far they have come as a team in the last few years.
The fact that Klopp has some of footballs most sought after talents goes a long way in helping the manager to creating a dynasty at the Westfalenstadion. Germans Mario Gotze and Mats Hummels, along with Polish striker Robert Lewandowski are just a few of the names associated with Dortmund these days; collectively firing the club to stardom. Klopp has managed to change the style of play to suit around players such as those mentioned, something which has allowed for more attractive play.
Many experts have quickly outlined the fact that under ex-manager Doll they played a very rigid and narrow game but since Klopp’s arrival they are a much more expansive side with a lot more pace added, something which aids into a free flowing attacking game plan. It is a style which has been labelled as ‘the German version of Arsenal.’ But with Arsenal going eight seasons now without a trophy in England, Klopp can be arguably known as a tactical genius. Dortmund CEO, Hans Joachim-Watzke stated that ‘it was clear to us pretty quickly that Klopp and BVB were the perfect fit together.’
Klopp has been known for his excellent man management as well. This attribute was proven as during the 2010/11 season he got the best out of players Nuri Sahin, Shinji Kagawa and Lukasz Piszczek. Japanese international Kagawa and Turkish superstar Sahin have since moved on to Manchester United and Real Madrid respectively. However, Sahin has returned to the club this season on loan after a thoroughly disappointing spell at Liverpool earlier in the campaign and the highly rated central midfield player will be hoping to forget that spell and look someway to rediscovering the form which originally brought about a big money move to the Santiago Bernabeu. Sahin’s final full season at Dortmund saw him score a very healthy seven goals and create a total of eight assists for fellow team members.
Jurgen Klopp has also managed to help turn the club’s finances around, owing in no small part to the profitable sales of players. Shinji Kagawa was purchased for £294,000 and his brilliant debut season saw him notch an impressive 12 goals in just 28 appearances, eventually paving the way for his £12 million move to Manchester United, whereas Nuri Sahin, who came through the club’s youth system was sold on for 10 million euros. Dortmund have also gone a long way in trying to prove that they are not a selling club with the purchases of highly rated players, Sven Bender from 1860 Munich and Marco Reus who joined from Borussia Mochengladbach.
Things have not been plain sailing for Klopp’s men this season however, but whether this is down to a distinct decline in performances or a significant resurgence from powerhouse Bayern Munich remains questionable. With just 22 games played in Germany, Bayern sit firmly on top of the Bundesliga, with Dortmund a whopping 15 points behind. Jupp Heynckes has set his side up in such a way this season that they have conceded just seven goals, an incredible record. It is perhaps this incredible record that has swayed Pep Guardiola into returning to management from next season with the club who play their home games at the Allianz Arena. A mixture of experience and youth has been the key to Bayern’s success, with players such as captain Phillip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Daniel Van Buyten and Franck Ribery have helped in bedding in the younger players. For instance, goalkeeping sensation Manuel Neuer, and midfielders Luis Gustavo and David Alaba have all contributed in a major way to the German giants, and are also improving all the time so for the time being, the sky is the limit for FC Bayern.
Former Barcelona coach Guardiola had made it public that he was not going to return to the game unless he felt the timing and the position was right. Obviously the ambition of the man known as ‘Pep’ was matched by those in the upper reaches of the Bayern Munich hierarchy; eventually meaning that Guardiola signed a long term contract. And these board members will be praying that their new man can deliver similar results and performances that he managed to get out of his players whilst at the Catalan club. But can it be done without the services of influential midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, and without the talismanic Lionel Messi? Rumours are already circulating around Bayern, with many experts believing that Liverpool striker Luis Suarez could be the man to take on the Messi-like role when he begins work as a manager again in the summer after a one year sabbatical from the game.
Whether Dortmund can rise to the obvious challenge posed by their rivals remains to be seen and it will be increasingly interesting to see the reaction to the news of Guardiola’s appointment. With Klopp being touted and linked to many jobs in both Spain and England it is the club’s priority to firstly ensure that the manager remains in his post for as long as possible before hopefully securing another season in the prestigious Champions League. The backing of the board will be a major factor in deciding how serious they are in matching Bayern in relation to strength in depth. Borussia Dortmund will be keen to go as far as they can in this year’s European club competition before reverting their sights back onto the league, and mounting a serious title challenge against whoever may lie in their path.