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Watching Bayern Munich trample over Borussia Dortmund in Saturday’s easy 4-1 victory, it was hard to believe that these two sides met in the final of the 2013 Champions League tournament less than four years ago.
While Bayern Munich have maintained their position as one of Europe’s best sides, reaching the semi-final stage of the prestigious continental tournament every year since, Borussia Dortmund have failed to push on. In fact, slowly but surely, they have been going backwards.
Despite finishing second in two of the last three seasons, they are now far from Bayern’s equals, as they once were. They have won just one of the last six meeting between the two sides in the Bundesliga, two of which were lost by three or more goal margins.
Yet, it is easy to see where the problems lie. Dortmund reemerged as a force in German football under iconic manager Jurgen Klopp back in 2009, claiming back-to-back Bundesliga league titles in 2010/11 and 2011/12 to break Bayern Munich’s dominance. Yet, they have since seen their ranks picked and pulled apart by a host of Europe’s ‘top’ teams.
The 2012/13 transfer window saw Shinji Kagawa depart for Manchester United, 2013/14 saw Mario Gotze join league rivals Bayern Munich, before Robert Lewandowski joined him in the German capital 12 months later. The start of the current season proved to be the worst, with Mats Hummels joining Bayern, Ilkay Gundogan joining Manchester City and Henrikh Mkhitaryan joining Premier League heavyweights Manchester United.
All six of those players were considered key parts of the Borussia Dortmund squad prior to their departure. While the vast sums of money that the club received in transfer fees helped to re-plug the gaps that they left, their like-for-like replacements haven’t always worked out as planned. Take Marc Bartra this season, for example, who has struggled to fill his Hummels-shaped shoes.
Dortmund aren’t a bad club - they have a good squad and are usually able to find a decent replacement when a player does leave. However, the high-turnover of key players disrupts the team, resulting in the inconsistencies that we have seen this season. The loss of ‘big’ characters causes an unsettled and unorganised dressing room and the numerous new players joining the club need a number of months to settle in, both on and off the pitch. It is this that is causing Dortmund so many problems.
As long as they remain a selling club, they will always find themselves back at square one. Unfortunately, it looks as if this summer will be business as usual in Dortmund, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang likely to depart following interest from Manchester United, Manchester City and Barcelona. The transfer fee is likely to be astronomical, if not record-breaking, but by selling their best players, Dortmund are only setting themselves up for yet more failure.