Plucky Little Dortmund. They're the team who has done it right. Suitably chastised by their early 2000s financial misadventures, BVB have made it to the Champions League final with that combination of poorness and good football so beloved by the neutral. And they're up against one of Europe's superpowers in Bayern Munich, who they've given a bloody nose over the past few years.
On top of that, they make virtually no money from ticket sales. Unlike the powerhouses of the Premier League, who can make close to €100 million in match-day income per year, Borussia Dortmund ensure that the experience of the Westfalenstadion is available to all. The 2011 and 2012 Bundesliga champions make less than a quarter of what Manchester United does from match-going fans.
This is the German model, and with Germany ascending, it's not surprising that it's being trumpeted as what football should be. After all, we have an all-Bundesliga final. If clubs can be successful without gouging the fans, what's not to like?
Meanwhile, one of the most pervasive narratives leading up to the final is the impending defection of Mario Götze. He's a key cog in BVB's attack and has for years been one of the world's most sought-after talents. Losing him would be a devastating blow for Jürgen Klopp and company, which is why Bayern activated his €37 million buyout clause then leaked the information just before Dortmund's semifinal against Real Madrid.
Götze will join Bayern on July 1st. The public reason is that he wants to work under incoming manager Pep Guardiola, but the truth of the matter is that this year's champions can pay the 20-year-old significantly more that BVB can. This isn't news for Dortmund, who've seen Nuri Sahin and Shinji Kagawa move on in back-to-back seasons. Star striker Robert Lewandowski is probably next.
This is portrayed as yet another example of a big team bullying a smaller one. According to the Swiss Ramble, Bayern pulls in something on the order of €321 million a year. Dortmund? A mere €189 million. Bayern has money to spend, a core of elite talent and is, naturally, incredibly attractive to young German players. With that in mind, it's difficult to see how BVB can be anything but second-fiddle to the Bavarians.
Which means that, long term, Dortmund's recent success will probably end up being seen as a chimera of sorts -- or perhaps a provocation for Bayern to reassert their dominance over Germany. They'll never have the resources that their rivals do, and this generation of players, one that's capable of making a mark in history, looks like the exception rather than the rule.
How very sad.
The interesting thing here is that both stories are being told and retold without any comprehension that they're incompatible. Dortmund do have the money to retain the likes of Götze and Lewandowski -- they're just choosing to spend it on their supporters rather than on players. While Bayern earns €72 million a year on gate receipts, BVB make under €30 million. Closing that gap could easily cover Götze's raise and much more besides, making Dortmund a destination team rather than some sort of superpowered Udinese.
It's bizarre how a side can be praised for austerity on one hand while having their bones virtually picked over through transfer rumours on the other. Borussia Dortmund are a team that subsidises their fans at the expense of the actual football, and while that's a model that's proven itself in the short term, at longer timescales it can only lead to one thing: Bayern dominance. In sport, you can never have your cake and eat it too.