Borussia Dortmund own an 11-point lead over Bayer Leverkusen and are 14 points up on reigning and record champions Bayern Munich in the race for the 2010-11 German Bundesliga title. With a title all but locked up with 14 game days remaining, Dortmund management continue their task of locking up their top young talents – or at least those few who are left without long term deals.
Rarely has a club changed their fortunes as drastically as Dortmund have – going from nearly 120 million euro in debt at the end of 2004 to the top of the table on their way to their seventh Bundesliga crown and first since 2002.
Start of the new era
The beginning of the new era began in February 2005 when Gerd Niebaum stepped down from his post as managing director of the club after having given up his long-time presidency in November 2004. Leaving with him was manager Michael Meier. Coming in were Reinhard Rauball as president for a third time and Hans-Joachim Watzke as managing director and chairman of management.
The major goal for Dortmund was balancing their books with solid sponsoring, focusing on young German players, and making good investments in low-priced players who would eventually command much more than they cost to bring in. One example of which was Ebi Smolarek who was signed for 750,000 euro in 2005 and sold for 4.5 million euro.
One of the few holdovers from the previous Dortmund regime was former long-time Black-Yellow midfielder Michael Zorc, who played for BVB from 1981 to 1998 after which time he took over as director of sports. Before the 2009-10 season, Zorc was given a two-year contract extension until 2012 on August 10, 2009.
The biggest key to Dortmund’s rise on the pitch was the hiring of head coach Jürgen Klopp before the 2008-09 season. Klopp had played and coached at Mainz from 1990 to 2008 and said he would not extend his contract with Mainz if they failed to earn promotion for the 2008-09 season, leaving the door open for Dortmund to swoop in and snatch Klopp.
“Jürgen Klopp was my best transfer. He and BVB looked for and found one another,” Zorc told spox.com on January 7, 2011.
Klopp’s initial two-year contract until June 30, 2010 was extended another two years to June 30, 2012 just two-thirds into his first season in Dortmund on March 19, 2009.
“We want to continue our way with young players. We are still at the beginning of the development,” Zorc was quoted in the German Press Agency dpa on the day of Klopp’s initial contract extension.
“It was clear to us pretty quickly that Klopp and BVB just fit together. But it was not to be expected that the coach would get a hold of the team so quickly and fundamentally change the game style of Borussia within one year,” said Watzke in an interview with Fussball.de on August 3, 2009.
The next move was to lock up Watzke, which was taken care of on January 26, 2010 with a 2.5-year contract extension until summer 2014.
And the financially stability was guaranteed on July 2, 2010 when the Signal Iduna Group announced a five-year extension, securing the name of Germany’s largest football stadium – Signal Iduna Park – until at least 2016.
Locking up young talents
Now it was time to lock up long-term the young super talents who would help lead Borussia Dortmund back to the glory of Bundesliga titles.
Mario Götze had played for Dortmund since 2001 and helped guide German U17 national team to the European championship in 2009 as captain and won the Fritz Walter Medal in 2008 and 2009 as the best German youth player of his age level. Despite the 18-year-old Götze already having a contract which ran until summer 2012, Dortmund management were impressed enough with Götze’s superb start to the 2010-11 season that on October 8, 2010 they extended his contract two years to June 30, 2014. “We are happy that we can plan the sporting future with Mario,” Zorc said on the club’s website.
In the meantime, Dortmund decided it was time to commit even further with Klopp and on November 25, 2011, extended by two years the coach’s contract until 2014.
“Something is developing here. I would like to continue to develop what I began. And I am certain that it will not be torn apart,” Klopp told a press conference that day.
“We broke out in celebrations at home as well. And that was not so tough, we would have signed almost everything,” Klopp added. “This kind of consistency is not usual in football. There is complete calm in our work here. I had that one time in Mainz and did not believe I would experience it again.”
The next move came at the club’s yearly general assembly on November 28, 2010, when president Rauball was confirmed unanimously for another three years. After running the club from 1979-1982 and 1984-1986, the 63-year-old Rauball took over the publicly-traded club in 2004 from Niebaum when Dortmund was deep in debt and facing bankruptcy.
It was also announced at the general assembly that German international Kevin Grosskreutz, a 22-year-old Dortmund native who came to BVB from Rot Weiss Ahlen in 2009, extended his contract two years until 2014 – with a 100 percent raise in salary to 1.2 million euro.
The Dortmund bosses took another step towards solidifying the future on December 13, 2010 by extended the contract of 21-year-old Sven Bender for three years until 2016.
“We have a clear picture of Bender. He is one of the building blocks for a successful future for Dortmund,” said Zorc in Ruhr Nachrichten on December 13, 2010.
The Black-Yellows also renewed their faith in veteran keeper Roman Weidenfeller on January 10, 2011, extending his expiring contract for three years until 2014. The 30-year-old Weidenfeller has guarded Dortmund’s goal since 2002.
Dortmund are still holding talks to secure long-term deals with other emerging young stars.
The Ruhr Nachrichten and kicker online both reported on January 21, 2011 that Dortmund had agreed to an additional two years with German international defender Marcel Schmelzer until 2014. But the club has yet to announce the move.
Hummels will choose Dortmund over Bayern
There is one crucial player who Dortmund could lose as the Munich daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on December 16, 2010 that there is a clause in the contract of Mats Hummels that says Bayern Munich can bring back the defender in 2012 for an 8 million euro transfer fee. Bayern sold Hummels and his contract until 2013 to Dortmund in 2008 for 4.5 million euro.
But Hummels told the Bild daily on December 16, 2010: “I am a Borusse through and through and see Bayern as an opponent. I know what I have to thank Dortmund for and am not thinking about a transfer.” He was even clearer on January 21, 2011, telling Bild: “I do not want to return to Bayern.”
Dortmund’s leadership tried to calm down their fans as Zorc said the team is fully committed to signing Hummels to an extension. “In principle Mats can play with us until 2020,” Zorc was quoted in kicker on December 24, 2010 though the German sports magazine suggested a contract until 2015 is more realistic.
And Watzke added in the Süddeutsche Zeitung on January 14, 2011: “Maybe I am somewhat bold, but I am very certain that Mats Hummels will not only be with Borussia Dortmund until 2013 but much longer. Mats knows where he become an international and he knows where someone didn’t have faith in him. Some very intelligent young men play for us.”
Dortmund were not only interested in locking up their own youth but even looked to other clubs for youngsters and were interested in bringing in Schalke youngster Julian Draxler, according to the Bild daily on January 11, 2011. Just days later, Draxler would sign a professional contract with Schalke and then score a goal in the 119th minute of Schalke’s German Cup quarterfinal against Nuremberg to send them to the semifinals.
Dortmund: Barrios, Kagawa not for sale!
As is the case with any successful club, a number of powerful European clubs have expressed an interest in some of Dortmund’s players.
On December 16, 2010, Watzke defiantly addressed reports from Spain that La Liga giants Real Madrid were willing to pay 20 million euro for striker Lucas Barrios, who has a contract until 2014. “Real can forget about that. Lucas has a contract with us. And we have no interest in letting him go,” Watzke told Bild. “For all who don’t want to understand: He belongs to us and is not for sale. Regardless of what sum is being offered!”
Watzke also spent much of January fending off the European powerhouses who wanted to snatch up Japanese star midfielder Shinji Kagawa and his contract until 2013. Mega clubs Manchester United and Barcelona have both expressed interest in the 21-year-old, who arrived in Dortmund in summer 2010 for 350,000 euros – especially after Kagawa guided Japan to the semi-finals of the Asian Cup. But a broken foot kept Kawaga out of the final in Qatar and may keep him out for the rest of the season for Dortmund – making him quite a bit cheaper for an extension for Watzke and company.
Still Watzke pronounced Kagawa as not for sale as well – not even for 18 million euro from Manchester United as reported.
“They can stop tinkering now. Kagawa will not be let go, definitely not,” Watzke said in an interview with stern.de on January 14, 2011. When asked not even in the summer, he said: “No!”
“A Kagawa or a Barrios can give us more this year than a one-time transfer fee which must then be re-invested. It’s more about keeping this team with all its automatisms together,” Watzke added in the stern.de interview.
In general, Watzke is not worried about other clubs coming in to swoop up their players.
“When someone signs with us until 2016 like Sven Bender recently or until 2014 like Neven Subotic or Mario Götze, then the guys know that they are getting from us the entire package of personal treatment and a very passionate football environment,” Watzke said in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung on January 14, 2011.
“But they also know that they also must stay until their contract ends. We are not the department store of the West.”
Staying within financial limits
With a spot in the Champions League almost already locked up, Watzke has also reiterated that the club will not go overboard with new expensive signings with a spot in next year’s Champions League. “We will not go all out economically, we will definitely not take on any new debt,” Watzke said in an interview with the Westdeutschen Allegemeinen Zeitung an January 29, 2011.
Watzke, in the interview, believed the current Dortmund group – operating on a budget of 35 million euro – could hold their own in the Champions League, saying: “We have a very, very high individual quality without being at the limit and a team that functions as a team. A fine-tuning of the roster is possible but not necessary. Many clubs have blown their loads on the way to the Champions League and had to refinance that with the money from the competition. That is not the case with BVB. The earnings will be completely available to us.”
Dortmund’s huge rise to the top of the Bundesliga also had a financial impact as the BVB stocks jumped nearly 150 percent during the 2010 calendar year. On New Year’s Eve 2009, the Dortmund stock reported at 1.04 euro. And on December 30, 2010, it was sold at 2.53 euro. The stock rose in coordination with the club’s success and reached a seven-year high of 3.72 euro before returning to the year end mark. The stock, which cost 11 euro at its initial start in October 2000 had dipped to an all-time low of 0.84 euro in 2009.
Even though Klopp is already signed to a contract until 2014, Watzke says he could imagine working together with Klopp even longer.
“I am very, very certain that we our work together will not end in 2014,” Watzke told kicker magazine on December 27, 2010.
And on January 14, 2011, Watzke added: “Jürgen Klopp is an optimal coach for us. It is impossible that he leaves us again before the end of his contract or that I sack him.”
Watzke also addressed an interviewer’s question about Klopp’s style fitting very well in with a club like Barcelona if he was scared that Klopp could be pried way.
“Because he’s my friend I know that there will not be any need to discuss things until the end of his contract until 2014. We talked about that already. Barcelona can come knocking. Or the (German) national team. Nothing will happen,” Watzke told stern.de on January 14, 2011.
“Let’s stay together”
To break it down, signed until 2012 are Schmelzer, Mohamed Zidan and Sebastian Kehl; while Lukasz Piszczek, Nuri Sahin, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Kawaga and Hummels are all locked up until 2013.
Götze, Grosskreutz, Barrios, Subotic, Robert Lewandowski and Weidenfeller all have deals until 2014 with Bender signed until 2016.
And the team has discussed sticking around.
When asked about not knowing if team would stay together, Hummels said in an interview with Bild on January 26, 2011: “We talked about it once in the changing room. We all agreed: ‘We have a really awesome team here. Let’s keep it going, let’s stay together.’
“Of course if Barca come and ask Nuri or Mario if one of them want to play there for four years none of us can expect them to say: ‘Go away!’ If the team stays together three, four, five years, then we can have a great time together. I see no reason why we should be worse. We are making our own film and not watching others.”
Other clubs will be well served to take a look at what Dortmund are doing and implement parts of their plan as well.