Home News Dortmund and the idea that anything is possible

Dortmund and the idea that anything is possible


There are plenty of viable case studies in Dortmund’s squad to illustrate its patchwork nature, but as captain – leading the most unlikely Champions League finalist in 20 years at Wembley on Saturday – Emre Can is perhaps the most striking.

Less than five years ago, while he was on international duty with Germany, Can’s phone rang. On the other end was a Juventus executive, who had joined the Italian side last season. They had what could be described as a brief conversation, though both words might be overstating the matter.

Juventus officials brought good news and bad news. The bad news is that the club’s head coach Maurizio Sarri excluded Emre Can from the Champions League squad, which means that Emre Can will miss this season’s top European competition. The good news is that at least Emre Can can have a few nights of rest. (He may not have said so.)

It’s fair to say that Can is in a bad mood. When the news of his expulsion became public, he said: “I was furious.” He said he turned down the chance to leave Juventus because he believed he could play in the Champions League. Now, he’s been told he won’t play, and “the phone call didn’t even last a minute.”

That conversation marked the end of Can’s time in Italy – he joined Borussia Dortmund a few months later, initially on loan – but it seemed to mark a more significant watershed. Having been allowed to leave Liverpool as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool revolution was gaining momentum, Can is now seen as a liability in Italy as well.

The message is clear. Emre Can, 25, has been judged and scrutinised by football’s elite and has been found wanting.

So he will probably be quite pleased with his performance this weekend. Emre Can, 30, was at the heart of Dortmund’s unexpected run to the Champions League final, playing an important role in midfield, an occasional reinforcement in defence and a calm, charismatic leader.

There are many such stories among the group of wanderers who brought Dortmund to Wembley: Julian Ryerson, the Norwegian right-back who emerged from relative obscurity during an injury crisis at Union Berlin; Niklas Fulkrug, the late-blooming, hard-running striker who suddenly and unexpectedly rose to fame; Jadon Sancho, the refugee from Manchester United who found refuge in Germany.

this is not Dortmund in the popular imaginationa team sacked by one or two of the most promising players in European football – Erling Haaland, Jude Bellingham and a young Robert Lewandowski. This is a team made up of the sacked and discarded, the has-beens and the underdogs.

For the first time in a decade, or even longer, Dortmund has no home game against Waiting to be unpacked Perhaps their best player on the way to the final was Mats Hummels, who is now in the outspoken veteran phase of his career. One of their most marketable players, energetic left-back Ian Maatsen, actually On loan from Chelsea.

The team’s less-than-elite status was made clear by their performance in the Bundesliga, where they ultimately finished a disappointing fifth, 27 points behind admittedly superior Bayer Leverkusen and – perhaps worse – nine points behind a Bayern Munich side that was having its worst season in a generation.

Dortmund were beaten at home by RB Leipzig and away by Stuttgart. They were winless in two games against newly promoted Heidenheim, one of the smallest clubs in the history of the German top flight. Hummels admitted this week that he was furious with his team’s performance, at least on one occasion. Clearly expressed dissatisfaction Club coach Edin Terzic

Of course, none of this means Dortmund have a chance of winning European football’s top honours this season.

Occasionally, there are unexpected Champions League finalists. Few thought Chelsea would reach the final in 2021, six months after Thomas Tuchel’s excavation project began, or Tottenham in 2019, when Mauricio Pochettino’s side were past their prime.

The teams most similar to this Dortmund side, though, go back further: to Liverpool in 2005, when Rafael Benitez won the title with a team that featured Djimi Traore and John Arne Riise; or to Monaco, who lost in the Champions League final the previous year, then coached by Didier Deschamps and relying on Fernando Morientes’ goals.

While it was a reminder that football is elusive, fanciful and, to some extent, indeed quite arbitrary, it also seemed to undermine Saturday’s final itself.

Of course, pitting Real Madrid against Germany’s fifth-best team against the best in Europe seems an unlikely proposition. Compared to any final this century, the match seems too mismatched to reach the epic levels of a Champions League final. There will be those, either at UEFA or its broadcast partners, who think the prospect of Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona or even Atletico Madrid might be more tempting.

But the sport as a whole should rejoice that Dortmund exists. Not just because it proves once again that football cannot be reduced to a simple financial formula. Not just because it reminds us that there is more than one way to succeed. Not just because it proves once again that there are no bad players, only players in the wrong circumstances.

Above all, the sport should rejoice, because what European football desperately needs is to believe – in an era of cliff-edge, nationalisation and the elimination of elites – that anything is possible, that victory is not monopolised by the few and that the underdog can still rise one day.

Those days are fewer and fewer, of course. Next season, the Champions League will adopt a seeding system for its knockout stages, designed to increase the spoils for the few teams that treat the tournament as a playground and ensure that only the biggest and best make it all the way.

Yet, on Saturday, five years after being ostracized by Juventus, Emre Can will lead Dortmund — Germany’s fifth-best team, the closest thing European top-level football has to a ragtag group of plucky hopefuls — onto the turf at Wembley for the Champions League final. Anything is possible. It’s worth cherishing and protecting.

The line between “high-performing entrepreneur” and “crazy tyrant who appoints horses as archons” is a little finer than you might think. For example, it’s not hard to imagine a self-appointed philosopher-king in Silicon Valley declaring Caligula A bold disruptor, a leader who fearlessly challenges the people-first political status quo.

That’s worth remembering when it comes to the new regime at Manchester United, as petrochemical billionaire Jim Ratcliffe (the proud owner of a quarter of the club) and his advisor Dave Brailsford seem to issue stern edicts every 72 hours.

Some, such as Require clean officeseems reasonable. Others – No more working from home — It feels both petty and a bit hypocritical. Ratcliffe’s own living arrangements. One or two, like this week’s announcement Anyone is free to resignwhich are all sufficiently troubling that you wonder how close we are to starting carving statues of Ratcliffe’s dogs.

But strangely, that sense of urgency does not seem to be shared by the club’s head coach, Erik ten Hag, who has been in limbo for much of the past six months. There are reasons to allow him to continue for a third season. But there are even stronger reasons not to.

Regardless, it is frustrating that United’s power brokers have yet to make a decision. Granted, from the outside, radical decision-making can look a lot like indecision. But United’s so-called hard-line reforms could change due to the following factors: The result of a game It is harmful in itself.

After all, this looks a lot like what the club has done in the past, a beautiful new dawn ending with the same sun in the sky.

If we’re being completely honest with ourselves, Cristiano Ronaldo’s social media output peaked in 2017, when he asked us — as a species — the most pointed question yet: Have you ever associated steel with environmental protection? Because, you should know, he does. Of course he does. He’s Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s working with the Egyptian Steel Company.

Still, even by those modest standards, it was a bad week for Ronaldo. The basics: He is 39 years old. He is a millionaire. He is a hero to millions. He is one of the best athletes of all time and one of the most famous figures in the history of sports.

It’s hard to understand why, three years after that bubble burst, he felt the need to peddle NFTs. Apparently, he now has four collections. Even by conservative estimates, that’s at least three too many.

In a way, though, that’s not the worst of it. Ronaldo is right, it’s annoying, and he’s claiming he’s the first player in history to become Top scorer in four national leagues(As everyone knows, the previous best record was three times, tied with Romario, Van Nistelrooy and others.) He also has reason to be proud of this.

But there is an inevitable sentimentality in the way Ronaldo celebrates these achievements. The charitable reading – and we can accept it – would be that he has reached such heights that, in the twilight of his career, everything that follows feels a little faded, a little insignificant. He wants us to add this to his legacy, to make it more glamorous. He seems completely unaware that doing so has had the exact opposite effect.

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