Jurgen Klopp’s face as it so often does; said it all. Gone was the jester, gone was the manic joker-like grin that stretches to his eyes. The Borussia Dortmund coach stood still, silent and expressionless save for the shadow of a rueful smile trying to force its way to his lips. It was full time. Bayern had won, the shit result he called it after had happened. “The most interesting football project in the world” as he described his Dortmund side had come up short at the final hurdle and the odds are they will never be back.
The end was brutal in its simplicity. A free kick lofted from afar fell to the feet of Franck Ribery in the 88th minute. His flick fortunately found its way to Arjen Robben who scampered through in that imitable jack russell style of his and rolled the ball past Roman Weidenfeller. Robben had set off in ecstatic celebration before the ball had tumbled over the line. The demons of two lost finals, one at home were banished yet it was hard to revel in Bayern and Robben’s redemption. Everest had been scaled after two failures yet in football terms Bayern had to climb the mountain again from just below the death zone. Dortmund were rooted at base camp with one shot.
There are numerous reasons to like Dortmund from the immensely charismatic Klopp to the way their stadium bounces but it is the primal nature of their football that has made them the darlings of the football cognoscenti. At the moment of that new-fangled football word transition they attack as one. A swarm of luminous yellow converging on the opposition half. It is not tiki taka, it is fencing with one stroke for the throat. It often leaves them exposed but Klopp and Dortmund embrace being proactive, of setting a tone despite who they play and the gulf in resources.
Last night felt like the one shot for the fairy tale. Dortmund are about to be garroted and it is Bayern holding the knife. Mario Gotze is already on his way and as Jupp Heyneckes bluntly remarked last night; Robert Lewandowski will soon follow. The status quo is Germany remains unchanged. The picture taken after of Uli Hoeness and Lewandowski as the Pole accepts his loser medal is a gross demonstration of power.
Of course it is churlish and childish to paint the picture of Bayern as the evil empire. Their model is one to be embraced and cherished in a lot of ways. Their resources are vast yet they are garnered from pitches not oil fields. Their money is on the field, it is flesh and blood not dividends and yields and certainly not interest payments. Yet the fact they cherry picked Gotze and Lewandowski and the time they did it was a brutal slapping down of any resistance in Germany and reminded us that the Bundesliga is not the utopia of European leagues that we so often hear about. The unfair game that spreads across England Spain and Italy applies there too.
Pep Guardiola arrives this summer to build on supposed perfection but that will not be as hard as it seems. Bayern still have some weakness particularly in the center of defence and the fact they have the hottest coach in the world coming in might just be the fillip they need to compensate for the inevitable sating of hunger that success brings.
Dortmund must start again. They will do well to hang onto the likes of Ilkay Gundogan and Sven Bender and the vultures may even swoop for more of their jewels. In a week where a team just promoted to the French Ligue 1 spent more on two players than Klopp did on the entire Dortmund side that played last night, it is perhaps foolishly romantic to wail that a dream died with one touch of Arjen Robben’s left foot. Yet the feeling lingers. Dortmund are back at base camp and Jurgen Klopp may never smile the same again.