In the modern game, success is often bought just as much as it is earned. To challenge on all fronts, the common view is that you need massive financial backing. As unromantic a viewpoint as this is, in the past decade or so, it has been very much the case.
But, every now and then, a team will buck the trend and triumph against the odds. On occasions, it has been Barcelona. But in the here and now, it’s Borussia Dortmund (BVB).
Under the enigmatic Jurgen Klopp, they have implemented years of sensible but ambitious development, a clear philosophy and a focus on promoting young, talented players. Now, somewhat remarkably, BVB are one game away from the ultimate prize. For this weekend, they will take on their domestic rivals and German Champions Bayern Munich in the Champions League final.
The average football fan has fallen in love with Dortmund after their recent resurgence. For in many respects, they are the antithesis of the modern game that has alienated so many supporters.
They aren’t reliant on a wealthy backer, they trust their youngsters and they charge relative pennies for their ticket prices. This all accumulates in a genuine affection existing between the players, fans and manager. The results have been astounding, as two German titles and a German Cup have followed.
For the football romantic, a Dortmund team winning the Champions League final would really be one in the eye for modern football. They will be the neutrals pick when both teams take to the pitch at Wembley.
But you get the impression that this weekend’s clash is do or die for BVB. If Dortmund and Jurgen Klopp are going to together write their names in European football history, then Saturday’s final represents their biggest and potentially last chance for many a year.
It may seem misguided to be predicting the decline of a club that has been on the up for the past eight years. But Dortmund are relative paupers in comparison to other European juggernauts. Unfortunately for them, when a team of their comparatively humble stature has such high-profile success, vultures begin to circle.
We’ve seen it before. Porto and Monaco were unexpected finalists in this competition in 2004. But both teams were subsequently broken up, as the more illustrious names came in and pinched almost all of their prize assets.
Even in the past couple of seasons, absorbing, eye-catching sides like Napoli and Athletic Bilbao have made a remarkable impression in European competitions; that before the inevitable transfer sagas ensued and shunted the development of both sides.