Fearless Schlotterbeck embodies brave new Borussia Dortmund

football31 May 2024 03:26| © AFP
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Nico Schlotterbeck © Gallo Images

Built on grit and graft but with a hint of flair, few players embody coach Edin Terzic's Borussia Dortmund more than centre-back Nico Schlotterbeck.

Known in the past for attacking brilliance, Dortmund's run to Saturday's Champions League final, where they will face 14-time winners Real Madrid, was built on the back of a resolute defence.

Playing his second season in Dortmund, Schlotterbeck has established himself at the heart of defence alongside veteran Mats Hummels, pushing Niklas Suele – a 2020 Champions League final winner with Bayern Munich – to a bit part role.

Schlotterbeck and Hummels helped keep Paris Saint-Germain at bay in the semifinals with back-to-back clean sheets.

Dortmund conceded just nine goals this Champions League campaign despite facing PSG four times and having home-and-away legs against Newcastle, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and PSV Eindhoven.

Their opponents, Real Madrid, have conceded 15 goals this campaign.

While the 24-year-old had showcased his speed and athleticism during stints with Union Berlin and Freiburg, his decision-making and game understanding have improved rapidly this season.

Schlotterbeck's form has been so strong as Dortmund stormed to Wembley that he was recalled to Germany's Euro 2024 squad, having been left out by coach Julian Nagelsmann in March.

Few tipped Dortmund to get out of the group stage, let alone going all the way to just their third Champions League final.

Runners-up in 2013, Dortmund can draw inspiration from lifting the 1997 title against a heavily fancied Juventus, who they beat 3-1 in Munich.


A win on Saturday would mean Dortmund – a member-run club with a budget dwarfed by other European heavyweights – join the likes of Juventus, Benfica and Chelsea with two Champions League titles.

The German club first lifted the trophy in 1997.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Schlotterbeck was chomping at the bit to take on the Spanish giants and said Dortmund should relish their underdog status.

"I've always wanted to play against Real, for me they're the biggest club in the world.

"But we shouldn't be afraid, we shouldn't be in awe. It has to be a completely normal game for us.

"We were often the underdogs in the Champions League this season, and that has suited us us quite well."

The defender said Dortmund should focus on their own game against Real.

"For us, it means getting into our game quickly, moving the ball quickly, and imposing our game on Real Madrid a bit.

"If we can do that, then I'm optimistic that we can make it."

Ahead of the final match of the club season before joining Germany's Euros camp, Schlotterbeck drew parallels with Dortmund's final league match of the previous campaign.

With their 82 000-seat strong Westfalenstadion at full boil, Dortmund needed to beat mid-table Mainz to win the league for the first time in a decade.

Dortmund were however down 2-0 after 25 minutes and despite fighting back for a 2-2 draw, would watch as the title went to arch rivals Bayern Munich for an 11th straight time.

Fifth in the league this season and 27 points behind champions Bayer Leverkusen, last season still weighs heavily on Dortmund.

"Perhaps we thought too much about it back then. But we know what happens here in the city when we win a title and what it means to people."

The defender however said the tables have turned, with few favouring Dortmund against the might of Madrid.

"Last season we had something to lose against Mainz, now we have something to win. We have to seize this opportunity."