Home > Football > ‘You’ll win nothing with kids.’ Stimmt nicht.

‘You’ll win nothing with kids.’ Stimmt nicht.

When BBC football pundit Alan Hansen boldly proclaimed ‘you’ll win nothing with kids’ back in 1995, little did he know just how wrong he was. As everybody is aware, the ‘kids’ of whom he spoke (Beckham, Neville, Scholes etc) proved the former Liverpool defender spectacularly wrong as they powered their way to a league and cup double. Less well publicised however, has been the inexorable rise of Jürgen Klopp’s young Borussia Dortmund team, the newly crowned champions of Germany.

Die Schwarzgelben have unquestionably been the best team in the Bundesliga this term, sealing the club’s first title in nine years with two games to spare and eventually winning by a comfortable margin of seven points. Rather than assembling a squad of costly superstars, the club’s leadership opted (partly out of financial necessity) to place great faith in youth and how it has paid dividends. A look at Dortmund’s regular starters shows just how young this team is. Star man Mario Götze is only 18 years old, whilst Nuri Şahin, Sven Bender, Kevin Großkreutz, Shinji Kagawa, Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski are all aged just 22. Add in 23 year old Marcel Schmelzer and it quickly becomes apparent why Dortmund’s title winning team is the youngest in Bundesliga history with an average age of just 24 years and 2 months. Even those considered to be the more experienced members of the team, such as Lucas Barrios (25), Lukasz Piszczek (25) and Florian Kringe (28) are relatively young. At the age of 33, Dede (who is leaving the club this summer) is a full two years older than the next oldest player.

Jürgen Klopp (left) and Michael Zorc's (right) faith in youth has paid dividends in the form of Borussia Dortmund's seventh league title (This image is the property of Maxppp)

The club has assembled such a team by both bringing youngsters through its own academy (Nuri Şahin, Mario Götze) and acquiring top young talent from elsewhere (Shinji Kagawa- Cerezo Osaka, Neven Subotic- FSV Mainz 05, Sven Bender- 1860 Munich). Particularly impressive is the fact that the club’s title victory has been a genuine team effort; there are no passengers in the team. Whilst Götze takes the plaudits and Barrios the glory of goal scoring, their league triumph owes much to a rock solid defence which has conceded 17 fewer goals than the next best backline. Much credit must also go to manager Jürgen Klopp, a 43 year old former Mainz player with a penchant for baseball caps. Much like Sir Alex Ferguson did in the mid-90s, he has demonstrated an unwavering confidence in his collection of starlets, refusing to enter the transfer market and replace them with expensive, established stars. Although the club itself is the obvious beneficiary of this policy, it is not alone. Germany’s national coach Joachim Löw has undoubtedly looked on with glee as Klopp has given his young charges experience at the highest level and all of a sudden, German football finds itself awash with top quality young players. Götze, Hummels, Schmelzer, Bender and Großkreutz have all made their debuts for the senior national team in the last year, and the likes of Şahin (Turkey), Subotic (Serbia) and Kagawa are all regulars for their respective national sides.

Having won many admirers and the club’s seventh Bundesliga title, Dortmund are now faced with a number of significant challenges. The likes of Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen are already working on strengthening their squads as they look to wrest the title from Klopp’s men and potential matches against the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United and Barcelona in the Champions League will be a test of the youngsters’ quality and mental fortitude. However the biggest challenge facing Klopp and General Manager Michael Zorc is the need to ward off the interest of more glamorous clubs and keep this highly gifted team together.

They have in fact already failed to do so on one count as Nuri Şahin has been snapped up by Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid for what looks like a bargain fee of €10 million* and big clubs in England and Italy continue to be linked with 18 year old wunderkind Mario Götze on a daily basis. If Dortmund are to really make the most of the young talent they have developed to this point and build a team capable of delivering trophies for years to come, it is imperative that they are able to resist offers and convince the players to stay at the Signal Iduna Park. If they can, Dortmund could very well become the powerhouse of German football for the next decade and perhaps even launch a serious bid to emulate Ottmar Hitzfeld’s 1997 Champions League winning side. If Zorc, Klopp and the rest of the club’s hierarchy are unable to keep the team together, they will be remembered as one of the most talented teams in Bundesliga history but also as a dynasty which was prematurely overthrown. Either way, it is unlikely that German football will see a team as good and as young as the current Dortmund one for quite some time.

*Transfer fee according to transfermarkt.de. Other sources quote fees of between €6 million and €16 million.

Final Bundesliga table: Bundesliga – official website

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