Europe European Leagues

Borussia Dortmund. The football factory where superstars are made (Part 1)

There is magic in the water at Borussia Dortmund.

The formidable Bundesliga club has rapidly established a reputation for discovering and fostering impeccable world-class talent and taking young players with potential and further developing them into classy world-beating superstars.

Its record speaks clearly for itself.

To kick off, the likes of Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembélé have all, at different stages, walked through Dortmund’s revered halls and then left to play at the very highest levels in Europe’s most prestigious football leagues, justifiably making the club handsome profits in return.

The current squad now boasts prodigious talents such as Jadon Sancho from the Manchester City youth academy and Erling Haaland who are already in serious contention as two of the best players in the highest echelons of world football and who wil no doubt soon be commanding eye-watering transfer fees. In fact, Sancho is already reputed to command a staggering fee, with juggernauts like Manchester United dead keen on signing this incredible world talent.

But these aren’t just mere fortuitous coincidences but are all part of a very deliberate strategy that has successfully transformed Dortmund into real contenders – both domestically and in the Champions League – despite it not being able to compete financially with some of the continent’s biggest teams.

Dortmund’s enviable philosophy was the fabled phoenix rising from the ashes of its near bankruptcy in 2005, leaving the club with no alternatives but to do business differently from its more affluent major rivals in the highly competitive Bundesliga.

“I think we at Dortmund have a clear idea, a clear philosophy and we give these players experience and playing time,” Lars Ricken, Dortmund’s youth academy director, told CNN Sport.

“I think that is the difference to some other clubs and our unique characteristic. That is the reason why a lot of young promising players find their way to Dortmund.”

Needless to say, scouting young players globally with the potential to become future superstars is no mean feat and the club relies on its impressive, proven scouting system to unearth football’s next big gems.

This demanding operation is run by Markus Pilawa, who has only a small team at his disposal who compile an in-depth, comprehensive analysis of every player they monitor and scrutinise on their screens, speaking regularly with the first-team management to confirm a potential young player’s suitability.

Pilawa is tasked with signing both established professionals and new talents so as to achieve the right, precise balance in the squad.

“I think it’s very, very important to have a good mix,” he told CNN Sport, referring to the likes of Mats Hummels and Axel Witsel as the experienced heads in the current team.

“In recent years, we had maybe a squad that was too young. There were no leaders inside to lead the young guys. All of these guys here are top, top talented, but they are still still young.”

Now, because of the soaring prices demanded for the best footballers, Dortmund focuses much of its attention on young talent, the scouting process of which can start with prodigies as young as 14.

Pilawa ideally monitors a youngster for up to two years before making a move, ensuring the player has not only the prerequisit of physical talents but also the attendent personality, heart and soul to cope with the club’s huge demands.

“We are a Champions League club and we are competing with Bayern Munich, so we need a top level of talent and there are not that many guys on the planet,” he said.

Credit: Football Tribe Malaysia