Underneath Dortmund's great triumph over Madrid, lies the sad reality of the game today

The Germans ran over the Spaniards effortlessly and though it’s natural to relish their feat, there’s much to feel sad about the state of the game, laments Aditya Bajaj.
 Aditya Bajaj
 Comment | Europe
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Until Wednesday night, many believed Borussia Dortmund’s journey to the semi-finals of the Champions League was down to the easy draw they were handed out in the two knock out rounds preceding their tie against Madrid.

After all, negotiating your way against the likes of Shakhtar Donetsk and Malaga – considered to be on the same level as the Germans – was way easier than say facing a ‘big’ team like Barcelona or Juventus. Never mind the fact that Jürgen Klopp’s team had already succeeded in getting through the toughest group in this year’s competition beating the likes of Ajax, Madrid and Manchester City to carry on unscathed.

But then Madrid were not in form back then, and City were still getting accustomed to a tournament they only played for the first time last season, many speculated. Again, it was all down to things falling into place for Die Borussen. And in any case, what’s the big deal about an underdog ‘somehow’ reaching the semi-finals of the most coveted trophy in club football?

Deportivo La Coruna achieved the same back in 2004 alongside the like of AS Monaco and Chelsea (Roman Abramovich hadn’t started spending then). Hell, Porto even went on to win that championship!

PSV Eindhoven in 2005, Villarreal in 2006, Lyon in 2010 followed by Schalke in 2011 - all achieved the same feat, meaning Dortmund were one of the ‘smaller’ teams often branded as giant-killers to have followed the tradition.

The only difference is that while the others either gave up having over-achieved or fell prey to the massive experience of their bigger opposition, Klopp & co. actually managed to go one better and in some style!

Not only did they win, they literally hammered Madrid as if it were an inconsequential Bundesliga match where scoring was just the fun part with nothing to lose. Not for one second did they look like a side that wasn’t confident about what they were doing, as if they knew that what was happening on the field was very much normal, like they had gone through the plan over and over again in the dressing room against a club looking to be crowned champions of Europe for the tenth time in history.

But that’s where the difference ends. The fact is that there is every chance that this team may dismantle just like the other over-achievers in the past and there is every chance that regardless of whatever happens in the next leg and the finals, we might never witness it again.


Because just on the eve of the big night at the Signal Iduna Park, perhaps their biggest night in 15 years since winning the European crown back in 1997, the club announced that their best player would be joining their direct rivals in Munich next season while the agent of the protagonist of the 4-1 thrashing announced his client is ready to leave too, possibly headed in the same direction.

It’s like killing the child, right after birth and that’s the sad part.

The parting shot | Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski are set to leave the club this summer

Right after giving their fans the bad news, they actually proved against Madrid that winning two back-to-back titles was no fluke and neither was reaching the last four with more than a foot at Wembley  with the next leg still to be played. Maybe, they were amongst the favourites all along the season, just that it happened so silently that we never got a chance to relish the threat they possessed to the likes of Barcelona, Madrid, Juventus and Munich – all of whom were the obvious favourites.

Now that we know how great this team is we won’t be as excited as would have been next September because their best players are all set to leave. Certainly, that’s an option less for next season already and the fans have been robbed and that is what’s sad.

You can’t blame the club.

Clubs like these simply can’t compete with the financial muscle of the continental giants who treat them like talent factories. You prepare them for us, and we buy them no matter how much they cost – is the mantra that’s being followed for so long. That’s nothing new, and amidst all the big talks by Uefa about fixing the blind spending by the big clubs via the Financial Fair Play (FFP) and all the ensuing bans, perhaps protecting clubs like these is a far graver issue that needs to be pondered upon.

PSG for example, despite all the vague threats from Michel Platini, are ready to splash out and rob Napoli of Edinson Cavani. The Serie A club, which won over hearts in the Champions League last season and are currently second in the league, will have to do without their most potent threat next season. Even though they claim he is not for sale, clubs like the Parisians and Manchester City will more than willingly activate the buy-out clause to land the Uruguay international who is amongst the top strikers in the world today.

You don’t negotiate, we activate the buy-out clause – isn’t that what happened in Mario Gotze’s case too, who come July will be the most expensive German signing ever?

See you soon in Paris | Cavani could soon join Ibrahimovic at PSG despite a 63m buy-out clause

Stopping the big clubs from overspending so they don’t cripple financially is not the problem. Their fan base and revenues are so huge that nine times out of ten, they will not go down. It's clubs like Dortmund, Napoli and Valencia to name a few who year in, year out churn out talent from their academies or elsewhere and are then arm-twisted into selling their most-prized assets, that need to be saved and given a fair shot to glory because they deserve it too. Most importantly, their fans deserve it for spending so much on match day tickets every week just to support their team whether they win or not.

Maybe, introduce a salary cap and create a level field so the big teams don’t have an edge but this needs to stop because the fans of such clubs are perhaps tired of watching the same six or seven sides dominate the world of football every season and they are helpless because the current scenario just won’t let it happen.

Dortmund’s feat this season, and should they go on to lift the trophy, will be a victory for football over the nouveau riche of the game where the builders will have triumphed over the buyers. But it will be a sad victory, because chances are that it will only be a one-off instance. In all probability things will get back to ‘normal ‘once this season is over.

Jürgen Klopp on Wednesday described his team as the Robin Hood of football where they are taking from the rich and giving it to the poor.

Come to think of it, it’s actually the other way round. 

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