THE EURO FILES: A Borussia Dortmund title triumph would beat ANYTHING Jude Bellingham does at Real Madrid… and forget the petty squabbles, Vinicius Junior is the real victim
- Borussia Dortmund winning the title would be a big success for Jude Bellingham
- It would be anything he might achieve if he moves to Spanish giants Real Madrid
- Here, Mail Sport columnist Pete Jenson delivers you reports from around Europe
For a long time this year, Borussia Dortmund’s last game of the season, at home against Mainz on Saturday, looked like being special because it would be Jude Bellingham’s farewell.
The football gods had other ideas and now it looks set to be special for an altogether more important reason — Dortmund are poised to win the Bundesliga.
Almost nobody believed Bayern would stumble in the race to the line. Thomas Tuchel was seen as a safe pair of hands after Julian Nagelsmann had been sacked following a mid-March defeat at Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen.
And when Bayern went 3-0 up in 23 minutes against Dortmund in Tuchel’s first game in charge, the writing was on the Westfalenstadion’s famous Yellow Wall: It’s going to be them again — for the 11th straight season.
Now with 90 minutes left to play, Dortmund just need to ‘win again’, in the words of their sporting director, Sebastian Kehl. Mainz have won just two of their past 10, but those victories came against Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig so they have shown themselves capable of finding another level against better teams.
For a long time this year, Borussia Dortmund’s last game of the season, at home against Mainz on Saturday, looked like being special because it would be farewell to Jude Bellingham (above)
But now it could be the match that wins Dortmund an unlikely Bundesliga championship title
Dortmund received more than 300,000 ticket applications for the 80,000 capacity ground
There will be no complacency from Dortmund, though, and if they win they do not even have to check the score in Bayern’s game at Cologne. They might even be boosted by the return of Bellingham. The England international missed last week’s trip to Augsburg with a knee problem but should play some part on Saturday.
The 19-year-old, with eight goals from midfield, has been one of the stars of this potentially title-winning season regardless of the part he plays on the last day, but there are so many other stories behind a remarkable campaign.
Sebastien Haller will win the league just a year after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. He was signed last summer from Ajax along with Karim Adeyemi as the club did their best to wisely reinvest the money they got from Manchester City for Erling Haaland.
Replacing the Norwegian was always going to be a two-man job and because of Haller’s health problems he missed the first half of the season.
Adeyemi has weighed in with nine goals in 19 starts but it has been the nine in 14 starts for Haller since he returned post-World Cup break that have really pushed Dortmund over the line.
Then there is head coach Edin Terzic, who is only 40 and grew up watching Dortmund as a fan. And his sporting director Kehl, who is only three years older and won the title three times with Dortmund as a player.
This is a young project that will, in part, be broken up in the summer by Bellingham’s exit.
Real Madrid have had to wait for the Bundesliga season to end before closing their negotiations for a player who came through Birmingham City’s youth sides. They have told the German club they want to pay no more than €100m (£87m).
Bellingham is poised to join Spanish giants Real Madrid this summer in a massive transfer
Dortmund’s valuation is closer to €140m (£122m) but the difference will be carved up in the form of add-ons and bonuses when negotiations resume.
Before Bellingham goes to what will be a ‘Galactico’ presentation at the Bernabeu in front of around 60,000, he will enjoy his moment at the summit in Germany first.
The club’s 80,000 Signal Iduna Park could have sold out three times over, with Dortmund receiving 300,000 applications for tickets for today’s game, and Borsigplatz, where trophies are celebrated, is ready for a party tomorrow.
The hardest triumphs are always the sweetest.
For all that he achieved afterwards, Sir Alex Ferguson’s greatest managerial feat was building an Aberdeen side that won a European final against Real Madrid.
Similarly, he won plenty of silverware afterwards but nothing will ever top Jose Mourinho winning the Champions League with Porto in 2004.
Bellingham will win a wardrobe full of medals at Real Madrid.
But what he is on the brink of doing with Borussia Dortmund will be hard to surpass during his club career.
Vinicius is the real victim, forget the petty squabbles
Vinicius Junior will not play in Real Madrid’s last away game this season, at Sevilla, having been left out of the squad with a knee problem.
It comes at the end of a week in which he has taken a level of responsibility far beyond his 22 years to stand up to racism.
He will now watch with interest, and probably some scepticism, to see what happens next. It has felt like a turning point in Spain this week but the self-interest of those who dominate the debate still slows down progress.
Valencia want to make themselves the victims after the five-game partial ground closure (already reduced to three on appeal).
While Real have used the situation to complain about referees, and other clubs have criticised Real after Vinicius’s red card was rescinded.
If tribalism wins then the fight against racism cannot.
If you really want football to be a sacred space where the prejudices that blight so many people’s lives outside of sport can never set foot, then speak up.
If you are just banging your own drum, then pipe down.
Real Madrid star Vinicius Junior (centre) is the real victim in the latest racism row in Spain
Little to celebrate at PSG’s party
PSG will win Ligue 1 tonight if they get a point at Strasbourg. And then the celebrations can begin. Only joking.
What celebrations? It is another joyless domestic triumph in the shadow of Kylian Mbappe’s likely departure in 2024 and Operation Get Rid Of Neymar.
And it will give way almost immediately to the real business of preparing for next season, starting with the sacking of coach Christophe Galtier.
Jose Mourinho remains the favourite for the job but Luis Enrique is still available, while highly rated former River Plate coach Marcelo Gallardo is also primed to begin a European managerial career.
Napoli are also looking for a new coach, with Luciano Spalletti wanting a sabbatical and Roma are expecting to lose Mourinho so also need a replacement.
Nothing stays the same very long, even at clubs where silverware has been won.
At least elsewhere the success can be enjoyed a little before the revolving door starts spinning.
In Paris, do they even have that?
While there is little to celebrate at likely future French champions Paris Saint-Germain’s party
When Spain won Euro 2012 — their third title in a row — by beating Italy 4-0 in the final, they had lined up without a No 9 and bursting into centre-forward territory to score the second goal was Jordi Alba.
The Barcelona left back announced he was quitting the club this week after 11 seasons.
He will almost certainly take the Saudi Arabia retirement package, with Sergio Busquets and Lionel Messi likely to join him.
It was Messi who was one of the first to pay tribute to him and no wonder — Alba was Messi’s greatest ally on the pitch with 23 assists.
Barca have lost their greatest ever attacking left back, although everything we have seen from 19-year-old Alejandro Balde suggests they have a more than adequate replacement.
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