Money talks in Champions League to leave Borussia Dortmund stranded

The prospect they could afford was instead Jude Bellingham and this, surely, was his last Champions League game in a Dortmund shirt. Terzic rued the chance the teenager poked wide from six yards; Bellingham’s European career in their colours ended with a mistimed lunge at Reece James that brought an injury-time booking. He probably deserved a better end but, such is Dortmund’s place in football’s food chain, he will have better chances to win this competition with a host of wealthier suitors.

Dortmund’s recent record now stands at one quarter-final appearance in six years; since Klopp’s foray to the final, the only teams they have beaten in the Champions League knockout stages are Zenit St Petersburg, Sevilla and Benfica. Chelsea would have been a bigger scalp. “I think both teams deserve to go through to the next round but tonight Chelsea score twice and we don’t,” Terzic said.

“Both legs were very tight and in both inches and moments decide if you go to the next round or not. Today there are some moments where we were a bit unlucky.” The most obvious felt the retaken penalty. Terzic was too diplomatic to dispute the decision after Ben Chilwell encroached the most as Kai Havertz initially missed. Bellingham, who branded the decision to allow the German to have a second go “a joke”, was more outspoken.

But there are different forms of misfortune. If Julian Ryerson, who has a 100 per cent winning record in his brief Dortmund career, was absent through suspension, injury deprived them of goalkeeper Gregor Kobel, Chelsea’s first-leg nemesis, and Karim Adeyemi, whose searing speed brought them victory at the Signal Iduna Park. With five minutes gone, Julian Brandt limped off. “Julian Brandt and Kobel andAdeyemi were three key players in the last weeks,” Terzic said. Sebastian Haller lasted rather longer but last summer’s biggest buy is, understandably, not back to his best after testicular cancer.

Chelsea could win without the absent Mason Mount, N’Golo Kante, Thiago Silva and Benoit Badiashile. They had such riches that Marc Cucurella, named man of the match, had not even been on the bench for their previous three games and Mykhailo Mudryk, the £88 million man, stayed there as an unused substitute while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, scorer of 141 goals for Dortmund, was not even in the Champions League squad. Terzic lacked such luxuries.


Dortmund almost cancelled out the gulf in resources, but they needed everything to go right. It is a recurring theme. A team with 10 straight wins were beaten by a team in 10th. It is overachievement for Dortmund, underachievement for Chelsea. Terzic’s immaculate record in 2023, until his side arrived in England and suffered a first setback since before the World Cup, has taken them level on points with Bayern at the Bundesliga summit.

They have not pipped Germany’s resident superpower to the Bundesliga title since Klopp’s heyday. Once again, as the rich have become richer, the odds feel stacked against them. “We don’t want to compete with Chelsea in the transfer market. We want to do it on the pitch,” added Terzic. Over 180 minutes, they did a fine job of it. But it will be still harder when Bellingham goes and when even Dortmund are such underdogs on the balance sheet, it is scarcely healthy for football.

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