Edin Terzic salvages Dortmund’s season to leave a yellow legacy

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·7-min read
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<span>Photograph: Martin Rose/EPA</span>
Photograph: Martin Rose/EPA

If you’re not into schmaltzy Instagram moments, look away now. In the aftermath of the DfB Pokal final, Edin Terzic published a then-and-now photo. The first was from 2012, of him in the stands of Berlin’s Olympiastadion at the equivalent showpiece back then with his fellow supporters – casual cap fashionably perched, scarf tucked up tight and wearing zip-up BVB casual wear. The second was – as the caption pointed out – nine years on, with Terzic on the Olympiastadion’s pitch, cradling the bejewelled Pokal trophy and wearing a satisfied smile.

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It would take a hard heart not to feel something or at least to appreciate the journey, especially in the context of a gruelling season. A lot of fluctuating emotions have been packed into this extraordinary and uncomfortable campaign for a whole lot of clubs for a whole lot of reasons, but Borussia Dortmund and their coach have been through the wringer as much as any.

This week, it all came good. Perhaps fittingly in a German season that has belonged to Robert Lewandowski, the dessert came before the main for his old club. On Thursday night, BVB dismantled RB Leipzig 4-1 in the Pokal final and then, on Sunday, improbably secured a top four place and a return to the Champions League with victory at in-form Mainz. They needed an assist – and just when Schalke fans thought their miserable season couldn’t get any worse, their uncharacteristically flamboyant 4-3 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday opened the way for their bitter rivals to take advantage – but were able to take advantage in a way that barely seemed possible a few weeks ago.

Six weeks, ago, to be precise. That was when André Silva (and for all Lewandowski and the current Dortmund number nine Erling Haaland’s brilliance, it’s been his season too) hit a late winner at Signal Iduna Park to spark big Eintracht celebrations and leave BVB contemplating an uncertain sporting – and, to some extent – financial future. This was no 2005 meltdown, of course, but losing out on the financial bounty of the Champions League in this of all years was going to hurt.

It didn’t just look difficult, but borderline impossible. After that costly loss in the first weekend of April, BVB were seven points off the top four. Just as bad was the way that the team were playing – disorganised, unfocussed and as fractious as any anything shown in the dog days of Lucien Favre’s reign. Any escape route from this bind of the team’s own making looked theoretical rather than realistic.

Talking of escape routes, Mino Raiola’s European tour of prospective suitors was an interesting flex in a pandemic-hit transfer market, but carefully timed. It said to Dortmund that we know your plan is to keep Haaland for a year until the summer of 2022, but we are in control of this. Raiola speaks for himself but the subtext from Haaland’s perspective was that another conversation would be had if Dortmund didn’t make the Champions League, a competition the player has never hidden his adoration for.

The waters are a lot a calmer now, and the recent words of sporting director Michael Zorc reiterating that Haaland will be a Dortmund player next season don’t seem like window dressing any more. The original plan of a prospective 2022 exit now looks realistic again, with Haaland’s sporting needs more likely to be sated in the short-term. There is no doubting Haaland’s own hand in shaping his fate and the team’s, with his two goals in a Pokal final in which he bullied the soon-to-be-Bayern centre-back Dayot Upamecano and with his season overall, with 25 goals in the Bundesliga alone.

It’s not too simplistic to say either that the return of Jadon Sancho has done an enormous amount to close the gap. The England winger has been excellent in 2021, going the extra mile to step up a level from dietary adjustments to 5am late winter solo runs through the city centre, and he came up big in this last week. After scoring a brace, including the late winner, in the vital Bundesliga win over Leipzig last weekend, he was then the standout in the Pokal final, opening the scoring with a rasping finish and adding a second. The only moment in which Sancho erred in Berlin was when he took too long to finish a good chance for a hat-trick, though it seems churlish to complain.

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Yet while the contributions of Haaland and Sancho deserve recognition, it all comes back to Terzic. Few blamed him when it looked as if the season was going to hell in a handcart after the Frankfurt defeat – the 38-year-old had been thrown in at the deep end and been asked to get on with it. His experiences at the club’s youth levels under Jürgen Klopp, and his work with Slaven Bilić at Besiktas and West Ham had been useful, but didn’t look like preparation for this, taming a Bundesliga behemoth in a state of panic.

As recently as February there was suggestion that maybe Terzic would have to be replaced to salvage the season. Yet he was smart enough to seek the advice of a man suggested as an improbable replacement. “The big advantage,” Terzic said in March, “is that Matthias Sammer is not there every day, but has a view from outside and from the stands.”

Terzic was liked and admired for his history, his fandom and “his black and yellow heart and soul,” as Ruhr Nachrichten’s Jürgen Koers put it, but his sang froid under huge pressure has been considerable. It helped BVB finally find consistency, ithelped Jude Bellingham complete a highly productive first season and even helped skipper Marco Reus look more like his old self in recent weeks, rather than the forlorn figure of earlier in the season.

Whether Terzic will stay on under Marco Rose is open to debate – the sense now is that his coaching talent is too great to be kept on ice. He has already written his name in Borussia Dortmund history, however, and that will mean so much.

Sat: Arminia Bielefeld 1-1 Hoffenheim, Augsburg 2-0 Werder Bremen, Freiburg 2-2 Bayern Munich, Hertha Berlin 0-0 Cologne, Leverkusen 1-1 Union Berlin, Mönchengladbach 1-2 Stuttgart, Schalke 4-3 Eintracht Frankfurt. Sun: Leipzig 2-2 Wolfsburg, Mainz 1-3 Dortmund

Talking points

  • Lewandowski himself matched Gerd Müller’s 40-goal season record at Freiburg, paid tribute to him via a T-shirt, received a guard of honour and then missed a seemingly unmissable chance to break the record in the second half. “I never though this could happen,” Lewandowski said to Sky. “I’m very proud to share the record.”

  • Wolfsburg clinched their top four spot with a draw at Leipzig on Sunday night, though it looks doubtful that coach Oliver Glasner will stay to lead them into the Champions League, “We’re going to have a big party and then later there’s time to talk about me,” he told Sky.

  • Werder Bremen finally lost patience with Florian Kohfeldt, replacing him with club legend Thomas Schaaf after the damaging 2-0 defeat at Augsburg which leaves them in the relegation playoff place, again. They need to beat Borussia Mönchengladbach on the final day with automatic relegation, the play-off spot or safety all possibilities – the three scenarios also open to Köln and Arminia Bielefeld.

Pos

Team

P

GD

Pts

1

Bayern Munich

33

52

75

2

RB Leipzig

33

29

65

3

Borussia Dortmund

33

27

61

4

Wolfsburg

33

25

61

5

Eintracht Frankfurt

33

14

57

6

Bayer Leverkusen

33

16

52

7

Union Berlin

33

6

47

8

Borussia M'gladbach

33

6

46

9

Stuttgart

33

3

45

10

Freiburg

33

2

45

11

Hoffenheim

33

-3

40

12

Augsburg

33

-15

36

13

Mainz

33

-18

36

14

Hertha Berlin

33

-10

35

15

Arminia Bielefeld

33

-28

32

16

Werder Bremen

33

-19

31

17

Cologne

33

-27

30

18

Schalke 04

33

-60

16

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