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How have Borussia Dortmund hung on?
When Shinji Kagawa left Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United in 2012, it seemed like a signal of Dortmund slowly being picked apart by the top big money European clubs. Nuri Sahin had departed for Real Madrid a year earlier, and Dortmund had one of the youngest and brightest teams across Europe. Surely, like so many before them, the top clubs would pick off their main assets? Just a month or so after their Champions League final loss to Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid were hardly the same team.
Dortmund, however, only got better. Just like Atletico, they reached the Champions League final the season after Kagawa left. And even in the year-and-a-half since, they have only lost two main assets, as both Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski left for Bayern Munich. Despite rumors of Marco Reus, Ilkay Gundogan, and even manager Jurgen Klopp departing for Manchester United at various times or other, none have left. Mats Hummels has on and off been linked with Barcelona for the past few years, but he too has stayed at Dortmund. And now that the transfer window has passed, none of their players can leave until January. In fact, Gundogan recently committed himself to Dortmund by signing a new contract. And this summer, both Kagawa and Sahin have returned to the club, to a starting lineup with largely the same backbone of players. How have Dortmund kept all their elite players; even gained more with Ciro Immobile and Henrikh Mkhitaryan joining over the past few years?
The answer is simple: reputation. Because the Bundesliga title is usually a two-horse race between Dortmund and Munich, Champions League football is almost a given for the club, and they remain right up there at the top of the Bundesliga. They will usually pick up at least one title per season – last year it was the DFB Supercup – and their reputation as a consistent presence in the knockout stages of the Champions League, makes it attractive for players to stay and join the club, and only leave for the very best with the most money. Currently, Reus is making just as much as some of the best players in England, although moving to Dortmund does involve a pay-cut for most of those at the elite clubs in England or Spain.
Definitely, being a German club is their biggest advantage. It helps them establish a reputation as a top club, with easy access to titles and the Champions League. Also, it means that their players don’t become as big of stars as they would playing against the clubs with the money week in and week out, who might potentially buy them. To some extent it keeps their best talent away from the prying eyes of the clubs, but mostly fans and media who would hype up a potential move.