German Football: Dortmund not about to fall back just yet

Expect Dortmund and Robert Lewandowski to go well in the Champions League again this season

Jonathan Wilson doesn't expect Borussia Dortmund to win the Bundesliga this season, but with their star striker still in their ranks, and some exciting new signings captured, expect them to once again go well in the Champions League...

"It appears Dortmund have held on to Robert Lewandowski for a further season - although he will then join Bayern - while the signings of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang are both hugely exciting."

As two Bundesliga sides reached the Champions League final last season, much was written about the rise of German football.

There was another school of thought - to which I broadly aligned - that wondered if what we were actually witnessing was Bayern Munich's emergence as one of a small elite of superclubs that happened to have coincided with a brief moment of glory for a Borussia Dortmund riding the wave of German economic power, some intelligent transfer dealing and the inspirational management of Jurgen Klopp.

The key fact was the respective wage-bills: Borussia Dortmund spending a little under half what Bayern did on player salaries. That, I insisted, was unsustainable: yes, they'd done superbly to replace the likes of Lucas Barrios, Nuri Sahin and Shinji Kagawa, but no club could carry on selling a high-class player every summer and hope to maintain their level.

That is doubly true when the club they sell to is their main domestic rival, as has happened this season with the transfer of Mario Gotze to Bayern. Eventually the conveyor belt will stop.

It may, though, be a while before it does. It appears Dortmund have held on to Robert Lewandowski for a further season - although he will then join Bayern - while the signings of Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubemayang are both hugely exciting. Both are 24, both moving towards their peak, coming to the years that will determine if they become great players or remain very good ones.

Mkhitaryan is not Gotze, but he is a highly intelligent, mobile player with a fine range of passing, who despite being about as unselfish as they come managed to rattle in 25 goals for Shakhtar last season.

There is always a question about whether a player moving west will settle, and he will need to get used to playing at a competitive level every week, but Mkhitaryan has the humility and sharpness to adjust, and has the great advantage of being a gifted linguist (something that runs in the family; his sister is a translator for Uefa).

Aubemayang, who will presumably be used this season largely as back-up for Lewandowski, learning the Dortmund system (although it is possible he could play wide at times) is a powerful striker who, like Mkhitaryan, is highly mobile.

If anything Dortmund could become even more fluid over the coming months. Captaining Gabon in the Cup of Nations on home soil in 2012, Aubemayang proved himself a leader as well as a fine forward, playing brilliantly despite the pressure of the president's wife wearing a shirt bearing his name until missing a penalty in the shoot-out that saw them go out in the quarter-final.

None of which is quite enough to make Dortmund worth backing to win the Bundesliga at 6.611/2 - not that Bayern at 1.232/9 are any value - but it does make them attractive as a back-to-lay option for the Champions League at 29.028/1. After all, the precedents of the likes of Valencia and Bayer Leverkusen suggest that a club punching above its financial weight can sustain success for four to five years.

Dortmund, after reaching the final, will not be as disadvantaged by their seeding as they were last year and they have the experience of last season and the confidence that they can take on the best in Europe.

What really makes their value stand out is a comparison with the other contenders. PSG, under new management and without any great record in Europe, even if they did trouble Barcelona last season, are 22.021/1; Juventus, who were comprehensively beaten by Bayern last season, are 18.5; while Arsenal are 29.028/1.

Dortmund may not go all the way to the final again, but unless they are extraordinarily unlucky with the draw they will surely go far enough for the price to fall sufficiently to make it worth cashing out - with the option of hanging on if they hit a superlative run of form.

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