Haaland Sancho Borussia Dortmund GFXGetty/Goal

Haaland, Sancho and the cost of Dortmund failing to qualify for the Champions League

Borussia Dortmund's reputation as the finest finishing school anywhere in Europe is almost unmatched.

The way in which the likes of Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho and Christian Pulisic have proven their class at Signal Iduna Park in recent years has ensured that the Bundesliga giants pretty much have their pick of the world's top young talents hoping to make their mark at the highest level.

Gio Reyna and Jude Bellingham are part of the next generation of stars already showing off their skills in the first team, while the recent signings of 16-year-olds Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and Julian Rijkhoff from Manchester City and Ajax, respectively, underline the Dortmund's pull even when compared to some of Europe's other great academy structures.

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Part of their allure is rooted in regular participation in the Champions League. Dortmund are not scared to use youngsters as soon as they are deemed ready for the men's game and, as such, those players tend to gain experience of playing in Europe's premier club competition earlier than their peers.

But what happens if Dortmund cannot offer Champions League football?

That is the threat facing the Black and Yellows over the coming months, with Dortmund currently finding themselves fifth in the Bundesliga table ahead of Saturday's clash with leaders Bayern Munich.

Defeat in Der Klassiker at the Allianz Arena could leave them as many as six points adrift of the top four heading into the final 10 games of the campaign, and staring a place in next season's Europa League square in the face.

That is not a position befitting a club of Dortmund's ever-growing stature, and one that would likely leave them reeling both on and off the field.

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With Covid-19 having already hit the club's finances hard, failure to land the large windfall that comes with Champions League qualification would be a crushing blow.

Dortmund would stand to lose between €30-40 million (£26-35m/$36-48m) if they do not make next season's group stages; a weighty sum if you consider they closed the 2019-20 financial year with losses of €44m (£38m/$53m), and are expected to lose up to a further €75m (£65m/$91m) over the course of 2020-21.

"It forces you to take a step back, maybe two," CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke told Kicker in January when discussing the possibility of failing to finish in the top four. "If the income from the Champions League is no longer there, you can’t afford a squad of the size and quality we have.

"Then, you have to use the red pencil and make cuts.”

Such an admission will not have gone unnoticed in boardrooms around Europe, with Dortmund possessing a squad full of players who are coveted by the world's richest clubs, who are acutely aware of the potential to sign top talents at a reduced price in the current economy.

Of course, one name is dominating newspaper back pages and website home pages more than any other right now: Haaland.

The Norway sensation has been linked with almost every major European club over the past six months because, with 71 goals in 67 club games since the start of last season, there is not a more exciting prospect under the age of 21 anywhere in the world.

Haaland Watzke Borussia Dortmund quote GFXGetty/Goal

Haaland's reputation has been built in the Champions League, a competition in which he has broken countless records on his way to scoring 18 goals in his first 13 appearances.

The 20-year-old has recently spoken of his desire to play in the Champions League in every season of his career, an aspiration which would be put to the test should Dortmund fail to qualify for next season's edition.

That, combined with interest from elsewhere, means that a potential sale could be on the cards, though it is understood that, for now, the striker would not push for a move even if Dortmund do finish outside the top four.

Haaland and his agent, Mino Raiola, reached an agreement with sporting director Michael Zorc upon his signing in January 2020 that they would remain with the club until the summer of 2022, and though they could, of course, go back on their word, the club remain confident he will be with them next term.

The same, however, cannot be said of Sancho, particularly if there is no Champions League football on offer for the England international.

The former Manchester City starlet would be the player that Dortmund are most likely to sacrifice should they need to raise funds this summer, and it is probable that Sancho would be keen to leave too if the worst-case scenario plays out over the spring.

Last summer, the 20-year-old was valued at €120m (£105m/$145m) – a fee that Manchester United did not want to pay despite Sancho being their primary target during the transfer window.

Given the economic crisis, though, Dortmund will be lucky to find a buyer if they maintain a similar asking price this time around, particularly if clubs know that they need to sell in order to balance the books.

Jadon Sancho Borussia Dortmund GFXGetty/Goal

To his credit, Sancho is doing all he can to both boost his own price-tag and push the club back into the top four places after a superb run of form since the turn of the year.

The winger did not score his first Bundesliga goal of the season until January 3, but that strike against Wolfsburg began a sequence that has seen him bag eight goals and lay on seven assists in his last 13 games in all competitions.

That kind of output should ensure Dortmund get a fair price for one of their prized assets this summer, though whether United will still be at the front of the queue remains unknown, given they have since begun to prioritise signing a new centre-back.

Of course, Dortmund might not have to worry about a lack of Champions League football if they are able to enjoy a strong end to the season under interim coach Edin Terzic.

They still have to play all four teams currently above them in the table – Bayern, RB Leipzig, Wolfsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt – while there is the remote chance that they could qualify for the Champions League again by winning this season's tournament, having already taken control of their last-16 tie against Sevilla with a 3-2 win in Spain.

They also find themselves in the semi-finals of the DFB-Pokal – a competition that Bayern have already been eliminated from – meaning that their season is far from lost despite the poor run over the winter which led to Lucien Favre's sacking.

With Borussia Monchengladbach boss Marco Rose poised to take over at the start of next season, there is hope that this season's domestic struggles merely represent a blip for Dortmund's talented young squad.

But if they are to keep hold of the best of those new superstars, ensuring they do not miss out on the Champions League's millions is a must.