What next for heartbroken Dortmund?

What next for heartbroken Dortmund?

Bundesliga and ‘title race’ are two terms that haven’t often gone together over the past decade.

But the 2022-23 season saw the world football spotlight firmly fixed on Germany.

‘der Klassiker’ rivals Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund locked horns in an enthralling, neck and neck title battle, which went right down to the wire.

Until approximately 16:19 (BST) on the afternoon of Saturday 27 May, the ‘Meisterschale’ was Dortmund-bound, as Bayern were being held to a 1-1 draw at Cologne.

However, a late Jamal Musiala goal ensured that the Bavarian giants would win an 11th successive title, after BVB had failed to beat Mainz at Signal Iduna Park.

That brought a spectacular 2022-23 campaign for Dortmund to a heart-breaking end.

The sell-out crowd made up of 81,365 ‘Borussen’ in attendance stayed beyond the full-time whistle to appreciate the immense efforts of Edin Terzic and his team.

Falling short at the final hurdle, after being the closest they’d been to winning that Bundesliga crown for the first time since 2012 – the whole city is in mourning.

But what next for ‘die Schwarzgelben’? What does the immediate future hold for this team?

Building for the future

2022 saw mass change for the club – young coach and self-proclaimed boyhood fan Terzic was reappointed as manager, this time permanently, while there was also plenty of activity in the transfer market.

Erling Haaland was the major departure, Manuel Akanji joined him at Manchester City, and Axel Witsel, Dan-Axel Zagadou and Roman Bürki all left North Rhine-Westphalia on free transfers.

Inbound were several top German talents: Karim Adeyemi and Nico Schlotterbeck were joined by Salih Özcan in black and yellow – three of the country’s best prospects for reasonably cheap deals.

Prolific frontman Sébastien Haller made the switch from Ajax to fill Haaland’s boots.

But one transfer stood out, sending shockwaves throughout German football.

Where many BVB players in the past have moved on elsewhere, sending the club back to square one, most often joining the dominant force that is Bayern, Niklas Süle broke the mould.

A five-time Bundesliga winner with the side from the Allianz Arena and an established German international, the defender swapped Munich for Dortmund at the end of his contract.

These were indications that the club was making the necessary steps to become a serious force again.

But it would take a while before that was shown on the pitch.

Story of the season

Despite some enjoyable wins in the early stages of the season, defeats to Werder Bremen, RB Leipzig and Cologne left familiar feelings for the Yellow Wall.

Such inconsistency had cost ‘die Borussen’ in ‘title races’ of years gone by.

Nine points in the UEFA Champions League group stage was by no means an impressive total but saw them reach the knockouts.

However, successive defeats before the World Cup break left ‘die Schwarzgelben’ in sixth place, nine points from top spot.

Nobody could’ve anticipated what was to come.

Coming into form

Eight straight league wins and ten in all competitions – Edin Terzic’s men had clicked and were fighting on all fronts.

But defeat at Chelsea to knock them out of Europe saw the start of a decline.

After throwing away the lead twice in the ‘Revierderby’ at Schalke, Dortmund responded by demolishing Cologne, meaning they headed to the Allianz a point clear at the top of the table.

But a damaging 4-2 defeat was followed up by a lacklustre performance at Leipzig, which saw the club crash out of the DFB-Pokal, as the season was falling apart.

Then came the twists and turns. 

With seven games to go, BVB failed to capitalise on a Bayern draw, collapsing in a 3-3 draw at Stuttgart.

The next match: Bayern lose to Mainz and Dortmund thrash Frankfurt, sending them back on top.

But the next week, Dortmund draw at Bochum and Bayern beat Hertha, and they swapped back around.

The reds of Munich, now under former Black and Yellows manager Thomas Tuchel, couldn’t slip again, could they?

With two games to go, they fell to defeat against Leipzig while Dortmund’s win at Augsburg put the fate of the ‘Meisterschale’ in their hands ahead of the final day.

11 straight wins at home. Just one loss there all season. All they had to do was beat ninth placed Mainz to win that elusive title.

Sadly the players couldn’t live up to the pressure of such an occasion – a heartbreaking day at Signal Iduna Park.

That Haller penalty miss at 1-0 proved to be a haunting moment.

What it means

There’s no denying that Borussia Dortmund should’ve won the Bundesliga title and they wasted a golden opportunity to do so on Saturday.

However, ahead of the term, nobody saw the team coming so far.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. If what is currently being built at Signal Iduna Park by Sebastian Kehl, Edin Terzic and co. is a project, then this was a fast track in the process.

For a team that young to get so close is a fantastic achievement and that feeling of heartbreak will motivate them years down the line.

With several players having so many years ahead of them still, this team has so much more growing to do and the sky is the limit.

Now, with the right recruitment, perhaps another challenge can be mounted.

Granted, Bayern will likely improve next year and be tougher to beat, but there is hope once again at BVB and this year’s experience will go a long way to helping them potentially go the distance in future years.

Summer steps

Last summer was an important one for Dortmund, bringing in a new crop of players to start a new era in North Rhine-Westphalia.

But it already appears as though the summer transfer window of 2023 will also see some big changes too.

Raphael Guerreiro, Dortmund’s top assister this season, allowed his contract to expire; he looks set to make the infamous Bayern switch.

Mahmoud Dahoud was also released, with Brighton and Hove Albion his favoured destination.

Anthony Modeste, scorer of that famous equaliser in ‘der Klassiker’ back in October, has also been let go after just one season.

That leaves the BVB squad a little bare, particularly in the full-back positions.

But the club have already taken action, announcing yesterday the arrival of Algerian left-back Ramy Bensebaini from Borussia Mönchengladbach on a free.

His Bundesliga experience and quality will be a big asset for the club next season, providing competition for Julian Ryerson at left-back.

Future signings

This season saw Terzic operate with three midfielders. Jude Bellingham, of course, was a standout performer again for ‘die Schwarzgelben’.

Reports suggest that the Englishman is bound for Real Madrid after so much speculation.

Salih Özcan, despite the promise shown at Cologne, is yet to really adapt to life in black and yellow and never seemed to fit into the system last term, meaning Emre Can saw plenty of football in the defensive midfield role.

With Dahoud gone too, along with Guerreiro who saw significant midfield minutes towards the end of the campaign, the club are rumoured to understandably be in the market for a new midfielder.

Lorient’s Enzo Le Fée has been on the shortlist of several major European clubs already this summer.

Borussia Dortmund were apparently a keen suitor.

However, latest reports suggest that the 23-year-old, who was involved in 10 goals in the 2022-23 Ligue 1 season, has opted to stay in France with Rennes.

Another name on Terzic’s shortlist is Edson Alvarez of Ajax.

The Mexican has reportedly agreed personal terms with the club, according to Ruhr Nachrichten.

A fee between €35-40million may be enough to see the defensive midfielder swap the red and white of Ajax for black and yellow.

A player of such passion may be what Dortmund need at the heart of that midfield.

But if Bellingham is to leave, the rumoured fee of €150m could be very well invested by Kehl and the board to bring in a new creative force to partner Alvarez.

With that, it’s likely there would still be money left over to potentially reinforce the defence, particularly at right-back.

Next season

There is a long way to go in this summer transfer window so anything could happen, but if the club can recruit two or three key first team players, another title challenge may be mounted.

Of course they would need to be the correct additions, but the likes of Karim Adeyemi are yet to really explode and could also feel like new players.

And with Bayern still in something of disarray at the top, Dortmund really need to believe they can capitalise this time.

Hope is restored. But true success? Only time will tell.