Stylish Dortmund can become number one in Germany

Over the last few years, Borussia Dortmund have once again become quite a force in European football, and are now considered as Germany’s second team behind fierce rivals Bayern Munich.

Dortmund, 11/1 to reach the final of Europe’s elite competition this term, produced a shock Champions League victory in 1997 against Juventus, and narrowly lost in the 2013 final to Bayern; however, if they stick by the model they have been working on over the past decade, their time will come.

Since taking over in 2008, boss Jurgen Klopp has built a talented crop of players, widely regarded as one of the best clusters with potential in world football. Forever courted by some of Europe’s top teams, Klopp has instead been loyal to the hilt.

Noboody could blame Borussia’s boss for venting his frustration after the club sold superstar Mario Gotze to Bayern, and then agreeing to let Robert Lewandowski follow a year later on a free transfer. He has, however, applied a slight tweak to his philosophy of recruiting home-grown talent.

In the last two years, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan have both come to the Westfalenstadion, with the latter a replacement for Gotze, and the Armenian has proved to be a shrewd purchase. Rather than replace Lewandowski, in a like-for-like vein, Klopp identified different types of strikers.

Colombian Adrian Ramos was brought in from Hertha Berlin, and provides experience of the Bundesliga, while talented 24-year-old Italian Ciro Immobile could prove, in time, to be world class.

The stand-out feature for Dortmund over the last few years has undoubtedly been their spine. Roman Weidenfeller has been a constant presence in goal, while Mats Hummels has developed into one of the best centre backs in the world. His understanding with partner Neven Subotic has been fundamental to how Dortmund play, and provides them with a firm foundation.

Further forward, gifted home-grown pair Sven Bender and Ilkay Gundogan can probe the meanest of defences when fit, while the same applies to Marco Reus and Shinji Kagawa, who flourished in his first game since a move back to the club from Manchester United. Throw Gotze and Lewandowski into the mix and, at full strength a couple of years ago, they were a formidable outfit, tearing teams apart on the counter-attack.

Dortmund, 13/2 to win the Bundesliga this season, are a club that will continue to promote from within, and Klopp recruiting fellow German players from elsewhere when needed, though rivals Bayern have key personnel in their squad that are approaching the latter stages of their career.

Under Pep Guardiola, they appear to have lost part of the identity that the team had under previous boss Jupp Heynckes, with a change in system, while Frank Ribery and Arjen Robben are in danger of becoming shadows of their former selves.

The next couple of years could see Dortmund on an upward curve overtaking Bayern as the number one German club, if their strategy for spending becomes gradually non-existent. For a team with the prestige of the Bundesliga champions, they should be winning the Champions League every other year at a minimum when considering the amount that they spend.

A failure to bring much top talent through at the Allianz in recent years, compared to Dortmund could have an effect, with Klopp’s men waiting in the wings to take control and dominate the Bundesliga for years to come.