BVB chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke talks in an interview about the German cup final in Berlin, the Bundesliga and the club’s plans for next season: “So far we have always been able to fill the void left by departing players.”
Herr Watzke, Borussia Dortmund had their final home game of the 2013/2014 season on Saturday. How would you sum up the season?
Positively! In spite of an injury crisis the like I haven’t seen before we have achieved all of the goals set out in the summer of 2013.
We would like to object because that’s not entirely true.
What do you mean?
In the Champions League, Borussia Dortmund not only lived up to but exceeded their expectations.
(laughs) That’s true. Our goal was to reach the knockout stage which, in view of being drawn into the toughest of all groups, was actually quite an ambitious one. In the end, we were once again among the best eight teams in Europe and were knocked out by Real Madrid due to some incredible bad luck after a fantastic performance. Next season, we will be drawn from pot 2 which also is a result of the attractive, intense and emotional football for which we stand.
You pointed out before the season that the next stage of development at BVB would focus on sustainability. Has this stage been reached?
We are on a good path. Borussia Dortmund have gone through a four-year phase in which we have won two titles and secured two runners-up spots in the Bundesliga. This has never been achieved in more than a hundred years of club history! We also won the double in 2012 and reached the 2013 Champions League final. And this season we still have a big goal ahead of us. Three finals in three years – that’s quite an achievement and speaks for the quality of the work done by the team, the coaching staff, officials and employees, but it also speaks for our fans who have made a positive impression around Europe. I would like to thank all who have contributed to the success this season.
You already mentioned it, there’s still the DFB Cup final in Berlin to be played. An extraordinary highlight.
Exactly. When I think of May 17, I’m getting goosebumps. 70,000, maybe even 80,000 BVB fans will turn Berlin into a sea of black and yellow once again. But we will not be favourites against Bayern Munich, who are currently probably the best team in the world. But Bayern know not only since our 5-2 final win in 2012 or the 3-0 away victory a few weeks ago that we have it in our means to beat them. We want to bring the trophy back to Dortmund for our now almost 10 million fans – there’s no doubt about it!
You are said to be a football purist, someone who lives and loves this sport like few others. Be honest, with which player would you like to swap roles with for 90 minutes on 17 May?
You cannot compare players as each one of them has different strengths and tasks in a functioning team. I have tremendous appreciation for each one of our players and what they have achieved this season littered with obstacles. But if I’m honest I would love to swap roles with Marco Reus on 17 May.
Marco is a through and through Dortmunder. He lives for this club, his entire family lives here. It must be great to go into a final with this personal background and his exceptional football skills. It’s a highly emotional affair for him.
There have been rumours of potential moves of Reus and coach Jürgen Klopp in the last couple of weeks. Are you nervous?
Not at all. Quite the opposite. It’s not a surprise that our players are moving into the focus of European top clubs in view of their performances. We know what we have in Marco. I’m quite sure that Marco likes it here with us very much and knows what he has with this extraordinary club. Otherwise he wouldn’t be able to show these performances so consistently. I’m sure Marco will celebrate more successes with BVB, and besides we are very pleased about the way Jürgen Klopp and for example Mats Hummels have expressed their commitment to BVB again and again in the last couple of weeks. That shows that we are on a path where big sporting ambitions can be realised.
Nevertheless, you have committed yourself to the primacy of economic rationality. So no more debts...
… related to sporting success, that’s correct. We know exactly where we come from. But Borussia Dortmund continues to grow in all areas. In sponsoring, for example, we will reach new summits. Among the world’s best eight teams are almost always only clubs spending between 130 and 250 million euros on their squads, so it’s all the more impressive that we’ve been able to break in this phalanx with our 70 million once again. But this growth also gives us the opportunity to spend successively more money for the squad in the future, simply because the revenues grow accordingly. No one has to worry about us. We stay healthy and highly ambitious. There will be more opportunities for us every year now.
So money isn’t everything in football?
It’s of course difficult to be successful in Europe, but it’s not hopeless. The Paris example shows that it’s possible with bucket loads of money. Hundreds of millions are spent there each year. That door is not open for us, but we will go our way. Our policy is that we don’t want a sheikh or oligarch. We want to make it on our own. If we could strengthen our squad just a tiny bit more and are not hit again by serious injury troubles, I don’t think we need to hide from anyone.
Will BVB’s philosophy be based on teamwork or also on individual quality. So, will there be star players?
A few years ago I would have said only on teamwork, but now I know that both aspects are extremely important - this cohesion, this “being a team” in the true sense. But at top European level it is of course easier to beat teams like Real Madrid if you have players at your disposal who can put their stamp on the game, who can make a difference. We already have players like that. And I also hope that Ilkay Gündogan, who will be like a new arrival when he returns, is able to regain his full health after his lengthy injury layoff and show his true potential in the 2012/2014 season. He would make us even stronger. We were very pleased about his contract extension.
Robert Lewandowski is going to leave BVB. How are you planning to make up for his departure?
I would caution against the idea that we will be able to replace him 100 percent. There are only two or three players of his quality in the world, and they are unaffordable for us. We need to find solutions to absorb his departure. So far we have always been able to fill the void left by admittedly top-quality departing players, and that’s why I’m confident that we’ll be able to do again. But I want to stress again that it was the right decision to keep Robert here in spite of all the media criticism. Robert has played and worked like a real pro for BVB at the highest level. He has been involved in more than 40 goals in all competitions and played a critical role in the achievement of our goals this season. Of course I would love to see him leave with a trophy.
BVB will have one more match to play against Hertha BSC before the big final in Berlin. With the targets in the league already met and the season’s highlight on the horizon, what are your expectations for this game?
The coach aptly described the situation after the 2-2 draw in Leverkusen. We are of course not able to go into a match as focused as teams fighting for Champions League qualification or against relegation. But it must still be rewarding enough to win a Bundesliga game. We have a chance to get 71 points, a tally that would have been good enough to win the Bundesliga title on eight of 19 occasions since the introduction of the three-points-for-a-win system. Bayern fully deserved to win the title this year, but since we are already in Berlin on May 17th, we want to bring the DFB Cup home. It would cap off a great season.