By refusing to sell Robert Lewandowski to Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund keep their best striker and their dignity - at least for another 12 months
The defeated Champions League finalists have ruled out selling the Poland international to their rivals
The deal had seemed all but done. After the Champions League final, both Jupp Heynckes and Robert Lewandowski were quick to fuel the rumours of the latter's impending move to FC Bayern. With Heynckes having celebrated the end of his Bundesliga career and Lewandowski safely removed from the limelight, though, it is Borussia Dortmund who have had the last word.
The last word, in this case, was that the Polish striker would not be moving to Munich in the summer of 2013, regardless of how much Bayern were to offer for him. BVB chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke told Bild that "Robert will definitely not move to Bayern this year. That's final, and we've told him and his agent as much."
It is a remarkable statement of intent from the losing Champions League finalists. For the whole season, they have been one step behind Bayern, both on and off the field. The transfer of Mario Goetze was a body blow arguably just as vicious as that of losing at Wembley, and the newfound strength of the Rekordmeister ensured that Klopp's Dortmund side were unable to get their hands on even the smallest piece of silverware this season.
To have lost Lewandowski to their rivals as well was to have been the cherry on the cake. No matter how lucrative it may have been, there is no striker in the world who could have effectively replaced the Pole this summer. No other striker of his calibre could have fit with the same ease into the now notorious Klopp system. And while he will no doubt be gone in a year's time, BVB have at least bought themselves some time in looking for a suitable substitute.
Director of Sport Michael Zorc was quick to qualify the decision, stating "We are not naive, we know that Robert only ever wanted to go to Bayern." Therein lies the issue. Had a move abroad ever been on the cards, Dortmund may well have relented. But Lewandowski is not simply a wantaway. He is a want-to-Bayern. Selling to Bayern is one of the few things that could seriously harm BVB's campaign next year. And they have already been forced into doing that once.
Indeed, the difficulties the club is having replacing Götze may well have served as sufficient warning against letting Lewandowski go. Chelsea all but confirmed that they would not be letting go of Kevin De Bruyne last week, while the move for Danish star Christian Eriksen is still far from being a done deal.
There is also the slim hope that, come this time next year, Bayern's interest in Lewandowski may have waned. Both he and Götze were hoping to force their way into a Bayern side undergoing the reforms driven by new coach Pep Guardiola, but in twelve months, the Catalan should have an established side. With Mario Gómez seemingly on his way to Italy, moreover, Bayern will be looking to buy a third striker this summer, Lewandowski or no Lewandowski.
Certainly, there is little likelihood that the Pole will not be at his best again for Dortmund next season. Disgruntled at having lost his dream move he may be, but he will know that to realise it next year, he has to remain at the top level. Or, as Watzke puts it a little more romantically "He'll perhaps have a little period of disappointment now, but he'll be back to his best soon. That's what players with character do. And he has a great deal of character."
So much character, indeed, that he nearly forced his employers into selling him to their most powerful rivals. BVB, though, have resisted, and there will be many in the Bundesliga who welcome their resilience. Not only does it deny Bayern apparently total invincibility, but it also prevents Dortmund from raiding the squads of smaller sides. For all the talk of Bayern being the bullies of the Bundesliga, it was Dortmund who had six players poached from other German clubs in their starting line up at Wembley. The likes of Hamburg and Hannover will be relieved to hear that BVB are now in less drastic need of some attacking talent.
Lewandowski's transfer had the potential for a knock on effect which would have set Bayern and Dortmund even further away from the chasing pack. As it is, Lewandowski stays, Dortmund preserve their squad, and their dignity, for at least another twelve months, and next year's title race remains wide open.
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