Well, Jude Bellingham has joined Real Madrid. As Freddie Mercury might say, another one bites the dust.
But does anyone really care?
It’s interesting. I’ve seen a lot of big names depart the Westfalenstadion. Many of you reading have as well. You may recall back when Jadon Sancho left, I wrote up a very heartfelt letter to Jadon about the time we met in Charlotte, NC and how his kindness to me and love for BVB created a special place for him in my heart. But he’s not the only BVB player I have loved and lost, and one could argue that Jude Bellingham’s love for the club was even bigger, his kindness even greater.
Jude adored the fans, and made no secret of his awe and inspiration by the BVB crowd in our incredible stadium. But as Jude makes his long coveted move to a “top European side”, BVB fans are not crying over spilled milk; we moved on months ago. Years ago even.
Currently looking for my sombrero— BVB Newsblog (@bvbnewsblog) June 14, 2023
Pundits and blogs often talk about the selling philosophy of the Borussia Dortmund, developing young starlets and moving them on for outrageous fees. The focus of these discussions is typically framed around domestic and European success, as well as the financial coffers of the BVB back room. Naturally, the selling philosophy starves the former and enriches the latter. Rarely have these conversations drifted to the fans, however, who fill the seats and fall in love with the players the organization sells. From this writer’s perspective, the impact could be described as numbing. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Let me explain.
Looking at Dortmund’s last few high profile transfers, there is a downward trend in the severity of the fan reaction. Jadon Sancho became something of a cult hero for BVB, and his departure stung many fans. Dortmunders had grown attached to the English star, who felt undervalued in his home country and departed for a place that saw his potential. In Erling Haaland, an exciting player arrived with great expectation, but in the background, an expectation of departure. When Sancho left BVB, fans already knew Haaland wouldn’t be far behind. His agent, his contract, and his ceiling all indicated so. Many BVB fans are still very fond of Haaland, because we had grown too self aware to become attached. One feels that with Bellingham, the love and passion we felt for Jadon Sancho had been tempered by recent wounds, meaning Bellingham has not received the same reaction. Maybe even less than Haaland. Another transfer saga, another departure. It’s just not interesting anymore. We’re becoming numb to it.
Let’s ask ourselves though, is that a bad thing? Maybe, maybe not.
If Dortmund maintain their current selling philosophy, more players will be sold. We’re not idiots. There are indications that the trend may be finding a natural end, but nothing serious enough to bet your house on. If the fans cannot invest ourselves in the players, maybe it’s time to work on investing ourselves in the club. Many of the readers of this blog (or at least the writers) do not live in Dortmund. We do not have season tickets. There is a difference between the local Dortmund fan and the international fan, and sometimes our separation makes it easy to forget the club values. Dortmund is a juggernaut of German football because of its stadium, its fans, and its ethos. If we focus on investing ourselves in the pride we feel for our team, the individuals on the field become less important. Maybe becoming numb to the stars helps the fans put their focus in other places. If someone asks you tomorrow, “when are you planning to start supporting a different team?” most of you would likely respond, “Never! I’ll support Dortmund until I die!” Any number of high-profile players transfers are realistically not likely to change that. We follow the team, not the individuals.
Still, Dortmund needs to strike a balance. It’s important for BVB fans to care about BVB players. The relationship is symbiotic. 80,000 people don’t show up on Saturday to cheer for the seats and the grass. Jude Bellingham is gone, and someone will take his place. But there will be no heartfelt letter this time, no outpouring of support. Jude came, Jude grew, and Jude left. As a fan, I appreciate everything he did for this club, every tackle he threw himself into, and every passion-filled plea to the stands for more noise. But I am a Dortmund fan. Dortmund are moving on like always, so I am as well.