Losing in the Champions League final is always something of a body blow. It’s even worse when you’re beaten by a domestic rival. And when that team has already snaffled your best player too? Well, that’s just piling on the misery.
Of course, this unfortunate series of events occurred in the final weeks of Borussia Dortmund’s season. They lost key man Mario Gotze to Bayern Munich, just a couple of weeks prior to losing the UEFA Champions League final to their great domestic rivals too.
For a club that has experienced nothing but highs in the past eight years, all those associated with Dortmund would have been feeling unfamiliarly low as Arjen Robben poked home that late winner. Even their charismatic and innately positive boss Jurgen Klopp cut a downtrodden and dejected figure.
There were some (this writer included) who saw the Wembley final as a ‘now or never’ juncture for this particular Dortmund crop. Gotze – the crown jewel of German football and a Die Borussen lad through and through – couldn’t resist the lure of Bayern and Pep Guardiola. And with another star-man Robert Lewandowski also pushing for a move away, it left many questioning just how many members of this remarkable squad would remain at the Westfalenstadion for the next campaign.
Fast forward to the present day Dortmund sit atop of the Bundesliga with five wins from five games, and memories of last season’s heartache seem long gone. BVB have been a mightily impressive outing in this season’s domestic competition and in their most recent outing took Hamburg to the cleaners, running out comfortable 6-2 winners. It could have been more, as they recorded a staggering 32 shots on goal.
They have shown no battle scars in the wake of last season’s disappointing climax. Quite clearly not intent on wallowing in the loss of Gotze or their Champions League defeat, they swooped quickly to acquire the attacking talents of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Nuri Sahin, a player whose career has stagnated after leaving the club back in 2011, is also back on the payroll and beginning to recapture some form. Die Borussen conducted their business early in the window, and as a result the new players already look up-to-speed with their unique, cohesive, pressing style.
As for the worries that others would follow Gotze out the Westfelanstadion door? Well, Klopp has managed to keep the nexus of his squad together. Worrying for others, the heartbreak of last season has seemingly refocused the Dortmund players, for they look galvanised and hungry. Marco Reus in particular has started the season in sensational fashion. Lewandowski too, despite pining for a move to Bayern, has carried his form from the last campaign into this one. He has a flurry of early goals to his name.