By Robin Bairner
When Bayern Munich defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 in the Champions League final at Wembley in May, it was a result that seemed to emphasise the Bavarians’ dominance of German football, not only this season, but for campaigns to come.
Watching on from the stands was the injured Mario Gotze, BVB’s chief playmaker who had shortly before announced a summer move to a side who had confirmed Pep Guardiola as their forthcoming coach – a fresh icon of the Bundesliga champions’ hegemony.
While Bayern seemed to be strengthening their position as Europe’s premier club, their great domestic rivals were under threat of being left in their dust.
Under the guidance of CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke, sporting director Michael Zorc and head coach Jurgen Klopp, though, Dortmund have been run impeccably and have bounced back in a manner that suggests they will not only maintain their level but perhaps even improve it.
Bayern may be insistent that they will ultimately add Robert Lewandowski to their playing pool but the deadly Polish striker will not seemingly be released by the Bundesliga runners-up until his contract expires in 2014.
The determination they showed in rebuffing the European champions has set up a quietly impressive summer transfer campaign.
Gotze’s replacement has already started to make an impression with the Germans. Henrikh Mkhitaryan, signed from Shakhtar Donetsk for €22 million, is primed to burst into the mainstream footballing consciousness after three stellar years with the Ukrainians and his debut in a friendly against Basel further proved his powers of adaption as he notched a goal and an assist.
|BVB'S SUMMER BUSINESS
Mkhitaryan, a 24-year-old Armenia international, may not be the big name that Gotze is but there are signs he could develop into a star of equal standing, with Dortmund having made a profit on the trade to boot.
Ensuring that the offensive line has pace in abundance is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who arrives from French club Saint-Etienne for a fee of €13m – a relative bargain for a player outscored in Ligue 1 last season only by Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In the world of the Bundesliga, where so much play is broken and where pace on the break is a devastating commodity, the 24-year-old Gabon star has the potential to be a magnificent outlet, even if his finishing is not always the most reliable aspect of his game.
"Our game is based on counter pressing and winning the ball early. And here it's crucial to get the ball down the pitch within a few seconds and get a shot on goal against an unorganised defence,” Zorc told the press.
"To be a threat in front of goal is important, but not the only criteria for an attacking player. He's fast, tall and strong. He will give us more options and flexibility in attack."
But Dortmund’s work has not been done exclusively offensively. Greek defender Sokratis Papastathopoulos completes a hat-trick of shrewd summer additions to date, having arrived from Werder Bremen in a deal estimated to be worth €9.5m.
The centre-back will likely provide back-up to the established and formidable pairing of Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic in the heart of the rearguard.
As a proven Bundesliga performer, it would seem a safe bet that he will be able to slot into a well-drilled defence and provide valuable additional depth after Felipe Santana was judged surplus to requirements.
Bayern may still be stealing the bulk of headlines from Dortmund, yet the Ruhr side should be quietly confident about their prospects of mustering a title challenge in the coming campaign.
Gotze may be gone but BVB should be positive about quickly forgetting him. With Mkhitaryan, Aubameyang and Papastathopoulos added to their ranks, Dortmund have more strength in depth than they concluded the previous season with and, as an added bonus, have spent just €6.6m net.
With the odds against them once more, Dortmund have played their cards astutely, yet the only surprise should be that people are continually surprised with their ability to regenerate.
Far from being a team on the wane, the 2012 Bundesliga champions are strengthening once again.
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