Without Michy Batshuayi's goals, Borussia Dortmund would be eight points worse off and in danger of failing to qualify for the Champions League. DW's Matt Ford says coach Peter Stöger is lucky to have him.
Last week's humiliating Europa League exit against Red Bull Salzburg was the most significant piece of evidence yet that Borussia Dortmund is a bridge too far for Peter Stöger.
But they could have been out even earlier were it not for Michy Batshuayi's two first-leg goals against Atalanta in the previous round.
In the Bundesliga, the Belgian's goals have been even more vital. Without them, Borussia Dortmund would be eight points worse off and four points outside of the Champions League places – the absolute minimum target as stated by the club.
His two debut goals helped Dortmund to a 3-2 win away at Stöger's old club, Cologne, in February while his late heroics spared BVB's blushes against Frankfurt last week.
Against Hannover, one moment of brilliance from the Belgian was all it took to maintain Stöger's unbeaten Bundesliga record – and keep him in a job.
While their German Cup defeat to Bayern in Stöger's second game was understandable, going out of the Europa League with a meek goalless draw against the Austrian champions was less forgivable. The Europa League was an eminently winnable competition for a team of Dortmund's quality – and remains the only major honor the storied club hasn't won.
Were they at risk of failing to qualify for the Champions League too, it's difficult to see how Stöger could have retained the support of the Dortmund hierarchy, even at such an early stage.
Batshuayi - in a class of his own
Ironically, the player the Austrian has to thank is a player who doesn't belong to the club.
"It simply wasn't possible to get an option to buy, not for the life of us," said CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke when finalizing Batshuayi's loan deal from Chelsea. "When [Chelsea's Russian owner] Roman Abramovich says no, it means no."
The finances aren't the issue; Dortmund were ranked 12th in the 2018 Deloitte Football Money League with a total revenue of €332.6m ($409m). They have made a net profit of over €130m ($160m) this season alone - thanks in part to the sale of players of Batshuayi's caliber. They are the kind of players BVB just can't keep.
Marco Reus said he hoped his decision to sign a new contract until 2023 would send "a signal" to his teammates that they can "build something sustainable" in Dortmund. Much of that will depend upon Stöger's long-term successor.
For the time being, Stöger is fortunate to have a player of Batshuayi's quality keeping him in a job.