Two years ago Jurgen Klopp’s side were arguably the most entertaining side in the whole of Europe. The Champions League final defeat to arch rivals Bayern Munich was devastating to take, however the general consensus was that Dortmund would come back better and stronger than ever. Looking ahead to the 2014/15 season, Klopp’s men will be keen to prove that the Champions League final appearance was no fluke and that this forthcoming year they can go one better.
Last year’s performances were very much up and down but then again luck was not on their side. When you consider the amount of long term injuries that were inflicted upon many of the big players, it was a big ask to compete in the Bundesliga and Champions League last season and unfortunately the depleted squad could not necessarily cope with these tasks. At one stage last season Piszczek, Hummels, Subotic and Schmelzer were all injured for a sustained period of time, which was a massive blow. Reinforcements were required and Klopp decided to sign Mauel Friedrich on a short term contract in an attempt to steady the tide. However, the 34 year old veteran made his debut 3 days later in a 3-0 defeat to rivals FC Bayern, with his legs being unable to keep up with the pace and power which the likes of Robben, Gotze, Muller and Ribery possess. On the other hand, one shining light to appear from the defensive nightmare was the emergence of Eric Durm, a young full back who took his chance when called upon. His performances were so impressive in fact that he actually earned him a spot in Joachim Loew’s World Cup squad.
Another big miss for Klopp’s side was the absence of Gundogan throughout the whole of last season. Gundogan has been suffering from an ongoing back problem for a long period of time and he may still be ruled out for up to 3 months of the forthcoming campaign. When Gundogan makes his eagerly anticipated return it will have been up to 18 months since his last competitive outing. There is no questioning the players ability, but being out of the game for that period of time doesn’t offer the guarantee that he will come back as the same player. I’m sure any fan of football hopes he returns to form and full fitness as soon as possible. Other long term absentees included Bender, Piszczek, Subotic and Błaszczykowski , all of whom are integral parts to Klopps jigsaw.
So far this summer Dortmund have made some very smart signings, such as youthful centre back Ginter who is only going to improve, especially if he is to mentored by the likes of Hummels and co. Furthermore, the arrivals of Immobile and Ramos are more than capable of filling the void of outgoing striker Lewandowski. Nevertheless, its pivotal to Dortmund’s chances that they keep hold of star names such as Hummels and Reus, as consistently losing big players has been a theme at Dortmund in recent years, with prime examples such as Kagawa, Gotze and Lewandowski all moving on. However, Klopp deserves credit in being able to consistently replace star names with perfectly abled bodies, but to loose either of Hummels and Reus in the same summer as Lewandowski would be detrimental to their chances for the forthcoming season.
Rumours are circulating that Reus has rejected a new contract offer and is holding out for when his release clause becomes active. If such rumours are proved correct, then it’s important that Dortmund learn from previous mistakes and do not let powerhouses such as Bayern force their hand. Loosing players with the calibre of Gotze and Lewandowski would degrade any side, but to lose them to your biggest rivals is a tough one to take, especially considering Lewandowski has gone on a bosman (free transfer). Reus’s release clause is being reported around the £27m mark and if Dortmund decided to sell this summer, with there being no reason to suggest otherwise, they could hold out for a sum around £50m.
Hummels on the other hand is a centre back that every team in the world would like to have, with rumours circulating of a big money move to the likes of Barcelona and Manchester United. Klopp is a man that is not afraid of showing his emotions and this was evident in his reaction to the rumour that Hummels was set to join Manchester United. In typical Klopp fashion, he stated that he would “eat a broomstick” if this was to happen.
Klopp seems motivated to rise to the latest Bayern Munich challenge and he is not one to shy away from a battle. He is a man that optimises character and passion, always wearing his heart on his sleeve. With such a young squad at his disposal, coupled with his ability to get the best out of his players, there is no reason why Dortmund won’t challenge on all fronts once again. It is crazy to think, but the last time Klopp had all his stars available was the memorable European final against Bayern, which feels like a very long time ago now. If Dortmund can retain their stars and have a little more luck with injuries, then their strongest eleven can arguably compete with any side in World Football. The Bayern v Dortmund and Guardiola v Klopp battle is one that the world will eagerly anticipate.