Three minutes before the final whistle, the match was already decided. Borussia Dortmund were sitting comfortably in their 3-0 lead over SC Paderborn. The whole Westfalenstadion rose and fans started to chant Jurgen Klopp’s name.
The standing ovations were for the coach, who brought the club back to the limelight. They wanted to honour the man, who brought them seven highly emotional years and a lot of joy, but the man in question was reluctant to chime in.
After the match Klopp lifted three fingers in the air in front of the steep yellow wall at the south end of the Westfalenstadion, but he didn’t mean the three points his side just secured to end all relegation worries, while lifting hopes for a European finish. “Three home games left” was the message, and that it would be way too early for any farewell chants from his point of view. But Klopp admitted on camera that he is wearing “emotional armor” in order to not let the situation get the better of him.
That’s who Klopp is. Always 100 percent authentic, but always putting his professionalism ahead of his undoubted affections for Borussia Dortmund. Saying farewell will be everything but easy for the Dortmund coach.
“The people have to calm down, there are still plenty of games to play and nobody wants to see a 47-year-old man tear up every week,” the manager said. Whatever Klopp says after the matches, however, he won’t prevent big “Thank you”-banners and other gestures to to show gratitude and appreciation. It’s the way BVB ticks and Klopp will just have to deal with it.
Asked about his future Klopp said: “Me and my coaching staff are completely focused on getting the maximum out of this season, there isn’t any room left for other thoughts. I don’t have any time to think about my future, currently it’s completely irrelevant. Everything is possible, even that we’ll [Klopp and his staff] take a break.”
The match against SC Paderborn was a good first step in getting the maximum out of the season. The 3-0 win was never in danger. Roman Weidenfeller didn’t have to make a single save as Paderborn failed to produce a single shot on target.
BVB again had to start without Marco Reus, who is still plagued by muscular problems since the match against Bayern Munich. But Reus wasn’t the only prominent absentee. Neven Subotic, Sebastian Kehl, Nuri Sahin and Sven Bender also had to watch the match from the stands. It turned out to be a good opportunity for Matthias Ginter to once again show his qualities in defensive midfield.
The centre-back was purchased for €10 million before the season from SC Freiburg and is yet to impress in the backline. In defensive midfield he is looking comfortable though. He is winning the tackles in midfield he is supposed to win, giving the backline a good cover, and has enough oversight on the ball to stay calm under pressure. Having in mind that Kehl is hanging up his football boots after this campaign, Ginter is making a case to be the successor from within the squad.
Ginter wasn’t the only one who impressed. Shinji Kagawa and Henrikh Mkhitaryan finally displayed their qualities in a manner that they should have done over the whole season. Both played a role in taking Paderborn apart like in BVB’s best days, as both playmakers were involved in almost every promising situation.
Mkhitaryan scored the “can-opener”, heading in a cross from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the near post. It was a much deserved goal for the Armenian whose brilliance sparked up once again. One-touch football, quick thinking and technique translated the intended into reality. Finally Mkhitaryan picked up his first league assist of the season — he might had two more assists to his name in this match, if it wasn’t for poor finishing by his colleagues.
Similar stuff can be said about Kagawa, who thrived in space he was granted. He rewarded himself by scoring Dortmund’s third. Games like these yield hope that things will work out for BVB eventually. With 21 points gained in the second half of the season, Dortmund would be ranked fifth if only games in 2015 were counted.
But as Dortmund will finish the weekend in eighth place at best, it’s too little too late on matchday 29. Whether BVB can gain strength from the circumstance — that Klopp will leave at the end of the season and the emotional atmosphere — that has been created around the club remains to be seen. “You always look as good, as your opponent lets you,” is a wise saying in sports and it’s doubtful that Eintracht Frankfurt will let Dortmund shine as bright next weekend as Paderborn allowed them to on Saturday.