Stoppage Time: Dortmund's revival not yet complete
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Borussia Dortmund has used a novel idea to return from the brink of extinction, and if the club continues down the same path from its most storied days, a European resurrection will soon follow.
Borussia Dortmund lifted back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 1995 and 1996, then won the Champions League in 1997. But within just three years, it started down a path of mismanagement that nearly dropped the club out of the Bundesliga.
And the lifeline in the 1999-2000 season, just five points between relegation, was slim for Dortmund.
The following years produced even more horror for the recent European champions, because despite Champions League play, bankruptcy loomed in 2005. Bailed out, in part, by Bayern Munich, Dortmund began to rise from the ashes.
And just three years after its lowest Bundesliga finish in two decades, it has won consecutive Bundesliga titles, with this season's point total of 81 points setting a record for the most in a campaign, breaking a mark held by Bayern.
In the process, Borussia Dortmund has shown a dominance over Bayern that is unprecedented in recent history. Dortmund beat Bayern in both league matches this season, and won the Pokal Cup, 5-2, on Saturday in Berlin.
An exclamation point to cap its first domestic double.
Now, is the Champions League next in line?
That's the big test that awaits Jurgen Klopp, and his youthful and financially fit Dortmund club. Klopp, the manager responsible for the quick turnaround, is the recipient of a talented Borussia Dortmund youth system.
Instead of following the same path that nearly led to its destruction, when it tried to compete with Europe's most well-funded clubs to sign the best players in the world, it turned to its own youth and low-priced transfers.
Klopp was smart to sign Mats Hummels, initially on loan from Bayern, and Neven Subotic for cut-rate prices to form a pairing in central defense that remains intact as the club's defensive anchor to this day.
Its best coup, Japanese midfielder Shinji Kagawa, was signed for less than $1 million, although he could be on his way out this summer at a significantly higher price. Kagawa has teamed with 19-year-old German international Mario Gotze as part of the most dynamic offense in Germany over the last two seasons.
And Gotze, for all the attention he has drawn already from clubs all over the world, was not even used in the Pokal final. He missed a large chunk of games due to injury this season as well, but Dortmund just continued to roll.
Dortmund showed, contrary to the current model of overspending from Manchester City and Chelsea, not to mention its own mistakes, that money was not the only path to success.
It has sold off wisely, such as last summer when midfielder Nuri Sahin joined Real Madrid on a $13 million transfer, and purchased prudently, as proven by the recent $23 million addition of German international Marco Reus.
Reus, a transfer target for Bayern also, helped Dortmund show the Munich side is not first choice - at least for every Bundesliga star. And although Kagawa could leave, Dortmund also has "no intention of becoming a bank," president Dr. Reinhard Rauball said, referring to selling off its best talent.
"Not for all the money in the world could another club, tempt us to sell one of our players," said chairman Hans-Joachim Watzk.
At this point, is there any reason for players to leave?
Dortmund has gone 28 straight games without a loss to close the Bundesliga season, as well as an unbeaten run through the Pokal Cup. Dortmund is clearly the top team in Germany. It has defeated Bayern five consecutive times.
But, and there's always a but, Dortmund has yet to show up in Europe.
Dortmund flopped in the Champions League this season, as it managed just one win and one draw against four losses in six matches. It finished at the foot of a group with Arsenal, Marseille, and Olympiacos.
It was, however, its first appearance in the Champions League since 2003-04. It was a common occurrence to see Dortmund in the event just a decade ago, and it is a trend that seems destined to continue under the current management.
Carrying domestic success into Europe is the unanswered challenge, and it is not unusual, as seen by the struggles of Manchester City this season. City was also dumped out of the group stage, with some help from Bayern Munich.
And speaking of Bayern, although trumped domestically, it will play in the Champions League final for the second time in three seasons next week against Chelsea. Ultimately, that's the level Dortmund wants to reach again.
Only then, even if it's a deep run in the tournament, will Dortmund truly be back.