Opinion: One Champions League final, two winners | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 27.05.2013
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Opinion: One Champions League final, two winners

Bayern Munich won the all-German Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund - and that was the only conceivable outcome. Or was it? DW's Joscha Weber writes that the Wembley final had two winners.

DW's Joscha Weber. (Photo DW/Per Henriksen 09.10.2012)

DW's sports writer Joscha Weber

Imagine, briefly, that things had turned out differently on Saturday night. It's easy if you try.

Arjen Robben did not cap his slaloming 89th minute run through a disjointed Dortmund defense with a goal. Instead, extra time was played out without a decisive goal and the final went to penalties. Bastian Schweinsteiger was perhaps the villain again from the spot, black and yellow rejoiced, the reds played bridesmaids for a third year in four.

The psychological damage among a Bayern squad brimming with confidence would have been enormous, far larger than during the "hoam" (Bavarian dialect for "heim" or "home") loss to Chelsea a year ago.

After the defeats in 2010 and 2012, a tremendous generation of Bayern players might, as funnyman Thomas Müller feared before the game, have had the word "LOSERS" stamped on their foreheads. In block capitals and indelible ink.

How the unthinkable nearly came to pass

After steamrolling the Bundesliga with a 25-point advantage over Dortmund, and their dominant displays on the continent, Bayern had a long way to fall - too far, in fact, for them to lose. The fallout from a Bayern defeat could have poisoned German football: The national team, with its Bavarian spine, would have travelled to the 2014 World Cup wracked with doubts as to whether they had the "right stuff" for the biggest stage.

Germany coach Joachim Löw might well have breathed a subtle sigh of relief when Robben hit the winner for Bayern. Defeat, again, was unthinkable - albeit entirely possible on the night.

Borussia Dortmund took Bayern right to the precipice. In those combative early minutes of the game, Dortmund did everything but open the scoring. All they were missing, perhaps, was the ruthlessness that Robben - himself a squanderer of several good chances on the night - displayed when it mattered most.

Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery (R) and Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski (L) clash during their Champions League Final soccer match at Wembley Stadium in London (Photo via REUTERS/Eddie Keogh)

Ribery was perhaps lucky to play out the game, but then the same could be said of Lewandowski and others

What's more, Franck Ribery threw an arm at Robert Lewandowski in the first half, earning a ticking off and nothing more from referee Nicola Rizzoli. On another night, the Frenchman might not have been able to set the two Bayern goals in motion after the break.

An enticing hurdle still to jump

These are the sorts of scenes that Dortmund fans are liable to discuss at length during their summer break. What if Reus had scored early, if Lewandowski had beaten Manuel Neuer one against one, and what if Mats Hummels had stayed awake right to the final whistle to stop the buildup for Robben's winner? Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

One result endures from Saturday's game that was not displayed on the scoreboard at the revered Wembley stadium: Both rivals won this final.

Bayern's victory is clearly the most tangible, they have 8.5 kilos of solid silver in trophy-form and a batch of winner's medals to show for it. As for Dortmund's triumph, that comes in the form of plenty of international recognition, a wealth of experience and, most crucially, realization of their own strength.

Dortmund's Champions League story can only be one of success. They humbled Real Madrid, twice, among others, and can now count themselves among Europe's best - that's a new feeling for them after last season's disastrous continental showing.

Perhaps it was just too soon for the young and still maturing side to claim European football's most sought-after crown. It would have left them with nothing to prove, a problem when coach Jürgen Klopp is forever talking about the necessity of being "hungry for success."

And what about Klopp? Winning the Champions League might have made him ask himself whether this was the ideal moment to leave his Dortmund assignment for foreign coaching pastures. With this result, Dortmund's exciting football project can continue - with a few noteworthy alterations.

Lewandowski and the agony of choice

If this sumptuous German football feast yielded one bitter aftertaste, it came from the mouth of Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes. Rather than just basking in the glory of victory, Heynckes also told reporters how Robert Lewandowski's move to Bayern "probably wouldn't take that long."

It seems safe to assume that the usually cautious Heynckes knows what he's talking about. And with Götze's transfer already sealed, that means Bayern's back to its old ways - buying up the domestic competition. This makes a mockery of Bayern President Uli Hoeness' supposed concern over the threat of "Spanish proportions" - the dominance of just two teams - in the Bundesliga. No wonder Jürgen Klopp spoke instead of "Scottish proportions," where Celtic are in a league of one since the financial downfall of Glasgow rivals Rangers.

Götze and Lewandowski will leave huge holes at Dortmund, they can scarcely be replaced. Meanwhile, incoming coach Josep Guardiola can lick his lips in anticipation of a Bayern squad that's overflowing with talent.

One thing seems certain: Bayern's dominance is liable to continue in this new era. That "losers" badge can be reserved for others.

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