Borussia Dortmund – 2023/24 Season Review

Borussia Dortmund entered this season with a baggage of emotional trauma after the heartbreaking loss of the Bundesliga title on the final day of 2022/23 when they already had one hand on the trophy. The tag of being the ‘almost’ club thus continued, with the added wound of losing their best player in Jude Bellingham to Real Madrid in the summer.


Over the years, this team has always had a superstar name amongst their ranks heading into August. Whether it has been Robert Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele, Erling Haaland, Jadon Sancho or Jude Bellingham… yet this season, there was none.



Marcel Sabitzer, Ramy Bensebaini, Niklas Fullkrug and Felix Nmecha were brought in – and later Ian Maatsen and Jadon Sancho’s arrivals from the British Shores in January catapulted the team into a strong position on all fronts. Here I will look at the season in review from all angles, including one final game at Wembley in the Champions League final…


Bundesliga Review


In isolation, the numbers speak for themselves. Last season, Dortmund finished agonisingly close to the title. This season, they finished in 5th place and 27 points behind champions Bayer Leverkusen. Even by comparison to their own tally, they were 8 points worse off than 2022/23 and often played a distasteful style of football. Many of the problems are rooted in not being able to penetrate low-block teams, often in the bottom end of the table.


Early on, there were draws against newly promoted sides VfL Bochum and Heidenheim. After the winter break, things started to stop looking so bleak for the team as results picked up, including almost beating Leverkusen, beating Bayern for the first time in Munich since 2014 and generally getting their knack back for winning games that they were expected to.



Dortmund can count themselves lucky at the misfortune of Spanish, Italian and English clubs in European competitions as Germany secured a 5th spot in next season’s revamped Champions League competition.  


Champions League Review


It can be best described as a fever dream or likened to an underdog sports movie. Nobody thought that Dortmund would qualify from the Group of Death, yet they came away unscathed and as group winners. PSV have been undefeated for much of this campaign, but the German side tucked Arne Slot’s side away to progress into a tricky quarter-final tie.



Many figured that Atletico Madrid and Diego Simeone’s side would be too hot to handle – especially defensively – for BVB. When the tie looked done and dusted in the first leg, Sebastian Haller scored an important consolation goal that would build the foundations for a triumph against the Spanish giants.


Next came Paris Saint-Germain, where Dortmund arguably pulled two of their finest performances to make it into their first Champions League Final since the days of Jurgen Klopp. Whatever happens against Real Madrid in the final, it has been a fairytale run that has seen the team thrive with the underdog label. Can they do it one more time?


DFB-Pokal Review


Some of the flattest results for Dortmund in 23/24 came against VfB Stuttgart, both in a 2-1 loss in the Bundesliga but perhaps more so in a 2-0 defeat that dumped the Black and Yellow out of the Pokal before the winter break. The performance was dull, uninspiring, and abject.



However, the bigger disappointment was that the Pokal exit came just three weeks after the loss to Stuttgart in the league. There was hope for a bounce back, to take a different approach against Sebastian Hoeness’ side – yet the approach to the game was telling when both Emre Can and Salih Ozcan were playing, clearly indicating the defeatist attitude that Terzic brought to the game.


It was a really tiresome match where the injury curse struck as well, just months after Dortmund fans correctly predicted that the squad was too thin to compete on all four fronts. This match takes the award for Worst Performance.


Best Performance

Champions League – 1 May 2024: 1-0 (W) vs Paris Saint-Germain


This night will be remembered fondly for the hope it gave Dortmund fans that they can do it. It came off the back of a 4-1 loss against RB Leipzig just a few days prior and a difficult run of Bundesliga fixtures sandwiched in with the Champions League games.



The name on the sheet was Niclas Fullkrug’s, but it was Jadon Sancho and Karim Adeyemi who terrorised their respective opposing fullbacks on the night to create a memorable night at Signal Iduna Park in the first leg of the semi-final. This team can best be summarised a bunch of displaced misfits who came together as one. To do it against the big-dollar team in PSG was a fulfilling victory by itself.


Worst Performance


DFB-Pokal – 6 December 2023: 2-0 (L) vs VfB Stuttgart



Best Player


Mats Hummels has played some of the best football of his life this season. This is why it was an actual case of robbery for the defender to be left out of Julian Nagelsmann’s Euro 2024 squad. How is it so easy to not take one of the best defenders in the world this season to a major football tournament?



The 35-year-old has rolled back the years, with an influence of Rio Ferdinand’s Rolls Royce years about him. His reading of the game has been splendid alongside Nico Schlotterbeck and has kept Niklas Sule out of the team for much of the season. Going into a season with just three centre-backs required something exceptional and Hummels’ availability and ability has played an integral role in proving that he is one of the great modern-day centre-backs.


Biggest Flop


Emre Can took on the role of captaincy after an impressive second half of the season in 2022/23, succeeding Marco Reus with the armband. At times, it has felt like that burden has taken its toll on the midfielder, who has frequently looked anything but a Yellow Wall as a protection for the back four at times.



Despite plenty of criticism being aimed at him this campaign, he will be the one that proudly leads the team out on June 1 against Real Madrid in the Champions League Final. That is a far memory from being told in 2019 that he would not be a part of Juventus’ Champions League squad, which consequently led to him initially joining Borussia Dortmund on loan.


Terzic In or Out?


With this fairytale run to the Champions League Final, Edin Terzic may have secured himself enough goodwill to last another season at the helm. Judging purely on the football that happened on German soil, Terzic would have been packing his bags and saying his goodbyes. Not only have the results often turned sour, but the style of football has too. Yet those double encounters against AC Milan, Newcastle United, PSV, Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint Germain gave the fans something to believe in.



Managerial merry-go-rounds seem to be at the forefront in Europe this summer, but Dortmund are unlikely to let Terzic go… for now at least. Count the Champions League dream run as an amazing anomaly, but the reality may well sink in at some point during next season should results and performances stay the same. Could Jurgen Klopp sensationally return after his sabbatical? Could Nuri Sahin become numero uno in the dugout?

Conclusion and Goodbye to Marco Reus


There aren’t enough superlatives or love letters to write that can truly reflect Marco Reus as a footballer in the modern game. So many in his position would have followed suit and left the club years ago, using Westfalenstadion as a stepping stone for ‘greener pastures’. Yet it cannot be understated just how resilient and loyal you would have to be in Reus’ shoes to only say goodbye in 2024 when he has seen so many high, lows and friends come and go.



And yet, that time has come, and Signal Iduna Park had its fair share of tears and mosaics in the German’s final Bundesliga game against Darmstadt, where he signed off in fashionable style with a goal and assist. The Black and Yellow will be hoping to finish off this season with a Champions League medal wrapped around their necks as they bid auf wiedersehen to a club legend and an emotional rollercoaster of a season.


By: Abdullah Mamaniyat / @mxmnyt

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / DeFodi Images