Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich: What the Bundesliga powerhouses can learn from each otherby Matt Ford
The Bundesliga's top two are set to go head-to-head in what could be an early title-decider. In many respects, Bayern and Dortmund are in a different league, but they still have things to learn – even from each other.
Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have picked up right where they left off before the coronavirus-enforced break, continuing their winning streaks to leave them first and second in the Bundesliga.
In any season in recent years, meetings between the two have tended to be title-deciders, and Tuesday night's Klassiker at the Westfalenstadion will be no different. With Dortmund four points behind, it's a must-win if they are to prevent the Bavarians racking up an eighth consecutive championship.
By almost any measure, the two German giants are far ahead of their domestic competition. They have shared the Bundesliga title between them for the past decade and only three other clubs have won the league this century.
Indeed, both have long since shifted their focus from Germany to the wider world, striving for sporting success and commercial growth beyond Germany's borders. With the Bundesliga the only major European football league back in action, millions across the globe will tune in on Tuesday.
But they still have work to do football-wise and financially if they are to permanently bridge the gap to Europe's elite – particularly the super-rich clubs from England's Premier League. And here, despite the differences between the two, Bayern and Dortmund can still learn from each other.
Where Borussia Dortmund can learn from Bayern Munich
A winning mentality
Marco Reus might not like to hear it but Thomas Müller embodies it.
"We want to bring the title where it belongs," he said following Bayern's 5-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday: "Munich."
It's easy to be confident when you've won seven championships in a row, but the self-evidence with which Müller spoke those words was symbolic of the mentality in Munich, where a single dropped point is a crisis, where a trophy not won is a failure and where teams often seem beaten in the tunnel.
That's certainly been the case on Dortmund's last five visits to the Allianz Arena since 2015, which have ended in 5-1, 4-1, 6-0, 5-0 and 4-0 defeats . Games in Dortmund are often a much tighter affair, with the home team backed by an 83,000-crowd but they won't be there on Tuesday.
Neither will captain Reus, but other players recruited at least in part for their experience could return. Coach Lucien Favre said Mats Hummels was "99%" likely to play, while German international Emre Can is set to start. Up front, meanwhile, no-one is questioning Erling Haaland's mentality.
"We should win this game," said sporting director Michael Zorc. "And we can win."
That's more like it.
Borussia Dortmund have demonstrated their ability to blow teams away on the counterattack on many an occasion, with the pace of Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard turning defense to attack in the blink of an eye. On Saturday in Wolfsburg, it was wingbacks Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerreiro who did the damage.
It's an approach which is particularly effective against teams who like to play football themselves. Indeed, last season, no other team won more points against top six sides than Dortmund. It's against the "smaller" teams that Dortmund have struggled, especially in the first half of this season when they drew against Freiburg, Paderborn and Bremen and lost to Union Berlin.
Bayern Munich, especially since Hansi Flick took over, aren't reliant on space opening up in behind; they've collectively moved up the pitch, pressing and passing the opposition relentlessly and mercilessly into submission. With 20 assists in all competitions, Thomas Müller pulls the strings and is back to his very best.
In Julian Brandt, Dortmund have a similarly creative genius when pure pace isn't enough.
Borussia Dortmund have come a long way from their almost-insolvency in 2005 when, contrary to popular belief, Bayern Munich didn't bail them out but did loan them €2 million ($2.2 million) to tie them over for a few weeks.
The episode nevertheless demonstrated the financial gulf between the two clubs, as did the Bavarians' acquisitions of Robert Lewandowski (2014) and Mario Götze (2013), which marked a low point in relations.
All in all, it's taken 15 years for CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke to rebuild Dortmund to a point where they are no longer financially obliged to sell their best players to Bayern. Now, the strategy is to sell them abroad, with Jadon Sancho expected to be the next to join a list which already features Ousmane Dembele, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Christian Pulisic.
With revenue of €377.1 million ($367.35m), Dortmund were 12th in the most recent Deloitte Money League. But they still have a long way to go to match fourth-place Bayern on €660.1 million.
Where Bayern Munich can learn from Borussia Dortmund
As strange as it may sound, it's not all one-way traffic and there are areas where those in charge on the Säbener Strasse still cast envious glances northwards to the Ruhrgebiet. One of them is youth policy.
Partly through financial necessity, Borussia Dortmund have long since turned their attention to the discovery and development of top young talents in emerging markets. Dembele, Aubameyang and Pulisic have already gone, Sancho and Haaland will likely follow in the coming years, and Dortmund are already planning for the next generation with the promise of game time and match practise.
Youssoufa Moukoko is still only 15 but the German-Cameroonian striker has scored an incredible 34 goals in 20 games for Dortmund's under-19s this season. And 16-year-old center back Nnamdi Collins has also signed a new deal with the Black and Yellows, despite interest from England, to keep him in Dortmund until 2023.
And Bayern have taken notice. The Bavarians might have a financial advantage over the rest of the Bundesliga, but even they know they can't always compete internationally.
In August 2017, Bayern opened their new €70 million "Campus" with the aim of bringing the first generation of home-grown talent since the Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm generation. They're following Dortmund's lead abroad, too, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic having identified Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies, who has excelled on the Bayern left this season.
Borussia Dortmund's famous Südtribüne will be less "Yellow Wall” and more black hole on Tuesday night, but it remains a key element of the club's global appeal, as do the 24,000 supporters who usually stand on it.
The relationship between club and hardcore support isn't always perfect in Dortmund, but there is nevertheless an acknowledgement that both parties need each other. Affordable standing tickets costing €219 ensure that BVB remains socially inclusive in one of western Germany's poorest regions, while the ultras' spectacular choreographies often find their way into the club's marketing.
Bayern Munich's hardcore support is no less creative or loyal, but they face a tougher battle to make themselves heard at the commercialized events which are Bayern home games. The ultras are a thorn in the club's side with their public criticism of Bayern's corporate links to Qatar, while they also enraged the club hierarchy with their criticism of Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp – protests which were well-received in Dortmund.