The Journeyman | BVB: Part 2 – Title Challenge

After 10 games in Germany, things were looking relatively positive. Borussia Dortmund sat 2nd in Bundesliga, just one point behind Bayern Munich, against whom we’d sealed a 0-0 away draw in the last game of the previous post.

We continued our strong start to the campaign with narrow wins over Augsburg and Freiburg then a 5-0 thumping of Fortuna Dusseldorf led by a hat-trick from Liverpool loanee Juan Carlos Juan. But that came to an end with an unlucky 1-0 loss at Hoffenheim, followed by two more five-goal hauls.

January transfer window

January 2034 saw more of the Dortmund deadwood depart. This included winger Muzaffer Karakovan going to Benfica for £19.5 million, left-back Sebastian Rahmig joining Southampton for £23.5 million and 28-year-old keeper James Emeka moving to Wolfsburg for £9.25 million.

However, some ridiculous minimum fee clauses implemented by the former regime came back to haunt us. First, centre-back Jhon Mina was snapped up by Inter, who met his £30 million fee, then star player Salvatore Palumbo’s £65 million clause was triggered by Juventus.

In replacing them, we really needed more German players. And we set about that by snapping up attacking midfielder Gen Uchida from Leverkusen for £26.5 million. He looks fantastic!

Other arrivals included 18-year-old striker Morten Hansen, who looks like a superstar in the making, for £13.75 million from FC Midtjylland and left-back Djordje Stankov, who arrived for £25 million from Red Bull Salzburg. And finally we snapped up a replacement for Palumbo in 22-year-old Brazilian Jajá, who only cost £15 million and is immediately worth £43.5 million.

These deals took our total sales this season to £323 million compared to spending of £164 million, which takes the club’s bank balance to £150 million. We also massively reduced the wage expenditure from £2.2 million-per-week to £1.9 million.

Winter break return

2034 began with the rise of midfielder Matías Sarue, who scored 5 goals in 6 matches including the only goal at home to Stuttgart. We also had a great game at Wolfsburg in which we went down to 10 men after 37 minutes and Juan nicked a 92nd minute winner. The same weekend Bayern, who’d only conceded 10 goals all season, lost 7-2 at Schalke! The goals continued to flow as we thumped Hamburg 4-0, with Japanese left-winger Hitoshi Nakajima running the show with a goal and an assist.

Then a ridiculous match at Bochum saw us go from 1-0 up after 76 minutes and 2-1 up after 81 to winning 4-2 – including 3 injury-time goals! The most pleasing thing about this game was that Nigerian right-winger Emmanuel Opara, who stepped up to replace Palumbo, scored 2 and assisted another.

That left us 3 points clear of Bayer Leverkusen at the top, and we maintained that gap with a 1-1 draw at home to them then a 5-0 thrashing of struggling Heidenheim, in which Opara bagged another brace.

Champions League progression

We made it through a tough Champions League group by beating CSKA Moscow away then a Daniel Braganca-inspired defeat of AC Milan 2-0 at home.

We drew Manchester City in the first knockout round and got off to a great start with Sarue scoring the only goal in the home first leg. But they dominated us 3-0 in the return leg.

Rival clashes

We then had a period of four huge games against rivals and title rivals, which began with a 1-0 win at 4th-placed Hertha BSC decided by Goncalo Ramos’ scrappy early goal. Then 5th-placed Leipzig came to town with Bundesliga top scorer Erling Haaland up front, but we kept him quiet in a straightforward 2-0 success courtesy of Nakajima and Goncalo Ramos.

Next was the Revier Derby at 6th-placed Schalke. Juan gave us an early lead, they levelled up 5 minutes into the second half, but Juan doubled his tally to win it with 10 minutes remaining. That took us to 12 games unbeaten and teed up a title showdown at home to Bayern with the two sides tied on points.

And Der Klassiker Derby served up a real classic. We raced into a 2-0 lead through Ramos and a trademark Braganca free-kick, only for striker Renato to score twice in 5 minutes to drag Bayern level. However, two late substitutes combined as winger Martyn Talbot slid in midfielder Elsin Karabulut to score his first goal of the season with a 96th minute winner.

That left us three points clear of Bayern and Leverkusen and with a substantial goal difference with 7 games remaining, all of which were against teams in the bottom half of the table.

7 games for the title

The run-in began at Augsburg, where we dominated but sneaked a 1-0 win courtesy of Juan’s second half goal. We then walked all over Freiburg 4-0 with Jajá scoring his first league goal and creating two on his first league start, which secured our aim of finishing in the Champions League places.

Jajá was at it again then Braganca curled in a free-kick in a 2-1 win at Fortuna Dusseldorf. And the Brazilian scored in a third successive game in a 3-0 win at home to Hoffenheim. The day before, Bayern lost 1-0 at Monchengladbach, which moved us 6 points clear with 3 games remaining! And we all but wrapped up the title with a dominant 4-0 win at Mainz, in which Jajá and Juan scored again, Sarue bagged a brace and Nakajima claimed a hat-trick of assists.

We therefore only needed a point from the last 2 matches to wrap-up the title and did so in style at home to Holstein Kiel. Nakajima and another Jajá goal gave us a 2-0 lead inside 11 minutes before another Braganca free-kick and Juan’s 20th of the campaign wrapped up a 4-0 success.

That wrapped up a first Bundesliga title in 3 years and the 13th in Dortmund’s history. It also earned us a massive £92.88 million in prize money! This also sees me win my 9th league title as a manager, which is a huge 9 behind the ridiculous 18 domestic titles of Pep Guardiola.

We closed the season at Stuttgart and, despite playing a few of our young prospects, we still won 1-0 thanks to another Juan goal. That ensured we finished the campaign by winning our last 12 league games and on a 20 match unbeaten streak going all the way back to 4 December!

Bayern lost 3 of their final 4 games, which eventually saw us run away with the league with a 12-point winning margin.

Excitingly, the season ended with the Dortmund board announcing proposals to build a new stadium for which they are now in the process of finding a site and investors.

Join us next time as we reflect on a fantastic first season in Germany with Borussia Dortmund. And… stay tuned for a couple of special World Cup qualifying blogs with England tomorrow!


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