HomeBorussia Dortmund

The View From Germany: Raphael Honigstein On Dortmund’s Journey To The Champions League Final

The View From Germany: Raphael Honigstein On Dortmund’s Journey To The Champions League Final

Callum McFadden speaks to German football expert Raphael Honigstein ahead of this weekend’s Champions League final between Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid.

Heading into the Champions League final at Wembley this weekend, how would you sum up Dortmund’s season in the Bundesliga as a whole?

“Domestically, it has been a poor season for Dortmund because they always target the top four as a bare minimum and they like to really go out to win the German Cup.

“That didn’t work this season and they were rescued by the fact that their own performances in the Champions League were so good that not only is fifth spot now enough for direct qualification, but they now have a chance to win the Champions League final and to make it a truly historic season for the club.”

To reach the Champions League final, Dortmund have beaten a number of strong sides along the way to get there. Did you or any of the wider German media ever think it was realistic to expect Dortmund to get this far?

“Getting through the so-called group of death – with Milan, PSG and Newcastle – as winners was already a huge achievement and an unexpected one.

“They played really well, especially at home and defensively, they were very strong.

“They played with a good mentality and resilience, all of the things that have often been missing from their domestic performances over the last few years.

“It was an unexpected show of strength from them, in many ways, but the further that they got along in the Champions League, I think the more people realised that this underdog approach really suited them.

“At times, they really rode their luck, against Atletico who have a very strong defensive team and also against PSG in both legs, to keep a clean sheet against what felt like tonnes of chances for the Parisians in both games.

“It will be the same story at Wembley because Dortmund will be a huge underdog once more against Real Madrid.”

In recent years, the UK media have paid closer attention than usual to Dortmund due to the fact Jude Bellingham was at the club and Jadon Sancho has returned to the club on loan. Outwith Sancho, what would you say are the key strengths of this Dortmund team overall?

“Well, this is not a Dortmund team with a superstar, Jadon Sancho has come back but he’s not quite at the level that he was before he left for Manchester United, there’s no player of the level of a Bellingham or Haaland so the kind of players that have made Dortmund a little bit special in years gone by are not quite there yet.

“Sure, there is decent quality in the team especially going forward with Julian Brandt when he’s fit, Niclas Füllkrug is doing a job even as a striker even though he’s a little bit limited and Sancho is playing relatively well since his return so there is quality in their ranks.

“But this is a team that has succeeded on togetherness with a lot of the traditional German footballing values of fighting, defending and then taking their chances by being very efficient.

“Even though, it is not this is not a vintage Dortmund side, if they win the Champions League nobody will remember that in the years to come.”

The manager of this Dortmund side is Edin Terzić who has won the German Cup with the club but has not yet been able to win the Bundesliga title despite coming close last season. What is the perception of him as a manager from your perspective?

“It’s been funny because he has been under pressure all season and there were rumours that he might get sacked earlier in the season.

“It has been quite noisy in the background surrounding him and not everyone in the dressing room and in the club has full confidence in him.

“That might still be true for next season, but of course, if you’re in the Champions League final these things tend to be forgotten.

“However, after a season in which the club finished 5th in the Bundesliga, it is plausible that if it wasn’t for the Champions League, we might have seen him sacked already because he was under so much pressure.”

Marco Reus is 90 minutes away from calling an end to a decade-long association with Borussia Dortmund. How would you sum up his legacy as a Dortmund player?

“He has been a wonderful player for Dortmund who has found his way into the history books of the club even though of course he has not won a league title or European trophy for them, yet which is the big regret, albeit he has won the German Cup.

“Now, he has got a chance to make amends for that.

“It is actually quite ironic that he moved to Dortmund from Gladbach in 2012 at a time when it felt as if the momentum had shifted from Bayern towards Dortmund.

“Bayern were very much interested in him at that time, but he chose Dortmund for that reason.

“Since then, we have seen the total dominance by Bayern in the Bundesliga – up until this season – and Marco could have had the option of moving on from Dortmund in that time but in the end, he has spent more than a decade in Dortmund and will go down as a total fan favourite whatever happens on Saturday.

“Of course, the romantic story would be that he would finish off his Dortmund career on a real high but Edin Terzić has managed his game time quite carefully this season, so he is no longer a starter in the team so now is probably a good time to call it a day in regards to his Dortmund career.”

Finally, Raphael, Dortmund showed real fight and battling spirit up until now, so do you give them any hope of being able to defeat Real Madrid at Wembley or could it be a case of one game too far in the competition for them?

“If it wasn’t Real Madrid then, I would say they have got a decent chance but Madrid have a habit of giving teams false hope and then killing them off in games.

“I hope that it will be different, but I do not see that much of a chance for Dortmund.

“I think 9 out of 10 times, Madrid will win this type of game unless they have an uncharacteristic off day and Dortmund are super efficient in front of goal.

“Winning is not totally beyond them, but Dortmund are, without doubt, the underdogs. So far in this competition, that has really suited them up so let’s see if they can defy the odds once more.”