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Opinion: Borussia Dortmund’s DFB-Pokal Final against RB Leipzig has Much at Stake

There is a hell of a lot more on the line than just the German Cup on Thursday, when Borussia Dortmund meet RB Leipzig in the domestic final.

It has been four years since Borussia Dortmund last tasted the sweet success of winning silverware. Back then, a BVB side led by Thomas Tuchel won the DFB-Pokal by defeating Eintracht Frankfurt in the 2017 final. After a long wait, Die Schwarzgelben have a chance to do it again. A very different-looking Dortmund are set to tangle with RB Leipzig, who have yet to hoist a major trophy since their re-branding back in 2009.

These are two clubs that stand for very different things. Dortmund supporters have voiced their displeasure surrounding the controversial forming of the energy drink-sponsored Saxon club.

Despite what these fans might have you believe, the two clubs do share some similarities. Both clubs shop similarly in the transfer market, often opting to purchase youth and potential over experience. Dortmund and Leipzig are competing for many of the same young talents just as they were 18 months ago when both were front runners to sign striker Erling Haaland. While BVB won the race for the Norwegian starlet last time, there is an increasing likelihood that should Leipzig defeat Dortmund in the DFB-Pokal final, young stars might begin to choose East Germany over Westphalia.

Despite losing to Dortmund for the second time this season this past weekend, Leipzig should easily finish above Die Schwarzgelben in the Bundesliga table. This would be the second time in six seasons that Die Roten Bullen have topped Dortmund in the table, a feat the BVB board won’t want to become a habit. A victory by either side in this year’s final will make a strong statement about the future of the club. Should Leipzig find a way to defeat Dortmund on Thursday, it may shift the balance of power between these two sides, not just on the pitch, but in the eyes of prospective footballing talents. A loss to RB Leipzig would see Dortmund slip further away from Bayern and could potentially see their status as the 2nd biggest club in Germany go by the wayside. While Dortmund have a rich history of winning, including eight Meisterschale’s, four DFB-Pokals, and the Champions League victory over Juventus in 1997, the globalization of the modern game sees supporters worrying more about the here and now and less about the past.

Even though Leipzig are a baby in comparison to other European top clubs, their financial clout and ability to compete at an elite level present a vast global appeal for transfer targets, regardless of any perceived lack of history. While many people may disagree about the importance of history, even staunch supporters of English football seem to have forgotten that “the beautiful game” was invented before the forming of the Premier League in 1992. With the digital age broadcasting matches and highlights to handheld devices, and social media allowing for all the pundits to focus on the latest breaking news, it is no wonder that the sport has become increasingly younger and less reliant on its rich history.

The vast sums of money that sponsors and partnerships, like Red Bull, bring to the game enhance Leipzig’s ability to purchase high-end talents and provide the best training grounds for footballers to showcase their skills. However, Leipzig are not spending like Manchester City, PSG, or Chelsea, but they rely on their vast scouting network to unearth the next footballing gem. Leipzig recruit particular players and ensure that they fit into the Red Bull high octane system of play, and they do it very well. Leipzig can already compete with Dortmund in the transfer market when it comes to wages and access to the Champions League. If they gain a reputation as a team that wins trophies as well, then they will gain a potentially damaging leg up over BVB in their ability to attract young talent.

Die Borussen have typically owned Leipzig since they moved up to the Bundesliga, having won 6 of their 10 meetings, with 2 draws, and victorious in 5 of the past 6 matches. While momentum is Dortmund’s side, none of that will matter if Leipzig lifts the trophy. If Julian Nagelsmann works a masterclass and manages to get his side to beat Dortmund, it could potentially elevate the Red Bulls above Dortmund in Germany’s hierarchy. A win for the black and yellows, however, would stamp their authority as Germany’s next best side and preserve their status as Bayern’s biggest challenger.

Captain Marco Reus deserves more for his footballing exploits than he has received, and falling short at the final hurdle would be extremely heartbreaking for he and the club. With all these factors considered, this Thursday’s cup final has a lot more on the line than just a trophy. Dortmund has to win to stay ahead of Leipzig, Dortmund needs to win for veterans like Reus and Lukasz Piszczek, and Dortmund must win for their supporters, especially the ones who haven’t been able to see their team play live in over a year. Whatever happens on Thursday, one team will be making a huge statement for their club, while the other will be left to pick up the pieces.