By IAN YEE
IN the space of a year, Borussia Dortmund have gone from German league and cup Double winners, to losing the UEFA Champions League final and three of their best players – all while failing to win a single trophy.
It is the curse of the over-achieving club. After Dortmund’s incredible 5-2 demolition of Bayern Munich in last year’s DFB-Pokal final, they lost Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United. The Japan star had been absolutely sensational that season.
And now, barely a week after that heart-breaking UCL final defeat, they are set to lose their two best players, Mario Goetze and Robert Lewandowski – both to Bayern, their biggest rivals in the Bundesliga. Talk about a kick in the teeth.
It’s a sad reality for clubs like Dortmund. Call it flying too close to the sun, if you will. Play too well, and the big boys – Bayern, United, Real Madrid, Barcelona, etc. – will always start looking at your prized assets.
Here are some other over-achievers in recent years who have paid the price:
Boasting players like Michael Ballack, Lúcio, Zé Roberto, Yıldıray Batürk and a young Dimitar Berbatov, Leverkusen were on course for a Treble during the 2001/02 season.
In the end, they missed out on the Bundesliga title by one point, capitulated in the DFB-Pokal final and Zinedine Zidane swung his magical left boot to win the Champions League final for Real Madrid. Ballack and Zé Roberto left for Bayern the next season, while other stars of that team left one by one over the next few seasons.
Unlike Dortmund and Leverkusen, Porto actually won the Champions League trophy in 2004. But the following season, they wouldn’t just lose Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira, but also manager Jose Mourinho.
The talented side would later on lose their entire midfield base – Deco, Maniche, Costinha and Pedro Mendes. It was only in 2011 that Andre Villas-Boas revived their fortunes by winning a league, cup and Europa League treble. Even then, the club would lose AVB the following season, along with star players Hulk, Radamel Falcao and Joao Moutinho in the next two seasons.
Under Martin O’Neill, Aston Villa were becoming a dark horse in the Premier League title race. They finished sixth in the league for three consecutive seasons with a talented young side that included James Milner, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing, Gareth Barry and Gabriel Agbonlahor.
The club even reached their first cup final in ten years, the 2010 League Cup final, which they lost to Manchester United.
Now, Agbonlahor is the only star left in the side, with the rest all snapped up by the big boys. The sale of James Milner to Manchester City proved the final straw for O’Neill, who resigned in 2010.
It’s unfair to call Arsenal “over-achievers”, but they have nevertheless found themselves in a similar position to Dortmund over and over since their 2006 Champions League final defeat by Barcelona.
European powerhouses have been regularly signing their stars – from Thierry Henry in 2006 to Robin van Persie last year. In between, they’ve also lost Mathieu Flamini, Alexander Hleb, Cesc Fabregas, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri and Alex Song. Imagine what they would have achieved had even half of those players stayed!