Munich - With seven players on the prestigious FIFA Ballon d'Or shortlist, the Bundesliga is better represented than any other league. Inevitably, the coaches that guided those stars into the global spotlight have also been nominated for their achievements, with Jupp Heynckes and Jürgen Klopp in the running for FIFA’s World Coach of the Year.
Dortmund’s Klopp, shortlisted for the third year in succession, has real justification to believe his side’s stunning displays over the last 12 months will see him improve on his sixth-place finish in 2012.
After back-to-back Bundesliga titles, Klopp’s men were dethroned domestically in the 2012/13 season by the FC Bayern juggernaut. In the face of the Bavarians’ 91 points and goal difference of plus 80, Klopp’s young troops couldn’t keep pace, ending the season 25 points behind their southern rivals. Their performance was still enough to finish second, but many felt their European exploits had distracted them.
Not that Klopp’s adoring fans had such worries - the 46-year-old masterminded an astonishing UEFA Champions League run. Klopp's assertion that “our group stage was unbelievable," was no exaggeration, as Dortmund progressed from the ‘Group of Champions’ containing Manchester City FC, Real Madrid CF and AFC Ajax with 14 points, putting in particularly impressive displays in Manchester and Madrid.
Signal Iduna fortress
Die Schwarz-Gelben were drawn against FC Shakhtar Donetsk in the last 16 and followed up a 2-2 first-leg draw with a 3-0 success in the return fixture. The Signal Iduna Park crowd then witnessed one of the most breathtaking nights in recent memory against Malaga CF in the quarter-finals as an astonishing stoppage-time comeback sealed Dortmund’s place in the last four. There, Klopp presided over a Robert Lewandowski-inspired 4-1 rout of Spanish giants Real Madrid.
Dortmund held on in the second leg in Madrid to book an all-Bundesliga Wembley final date with Bayern. Arjen Robben's last-minute winner shattered Klopp’s fairytale, but Dortmund’s run to the title-decider with the thrilling, expansive football instigated by their magnetic coach won the hearts of neutrals across the continent and, perhaps more importantly, re-established the 1997 European champions as a continental force.
Intent on reversing last season’s domestic and European disappointments, Klopp’s youthful Dortmund burst out of the blocks in 2013/14, in the DFL Supercup in July to assert their title candidcacy, before running neck and neck with Pep Guardiola’s men throughout the early part of the new season.
Klopp faces stiff competition for the world’s biggest coaching prize, but you can be sure no-one would be disappointed if the charismatic writer of Dortmund’s “incredible story” took the award home in January.
The Bundesliga's other men in contention for the Ballon d'Or 2013:
Check out more of the Dortmund versus FC Bayern rivalry on the Bundesliga's official YouTube channel: