Dortmund mean business again after last season's struggles
Dortmund great Lars Ricken hails new coach's impact in restoring team's confidence
REPORTING FROM DORTMUND
The football world remembers Lars Ricken for two things.
Who can forget that stupendous goal he scored in the 1997 Champions League final, a mere 16 seconds after coming on as a substitute?
And, of course, for being a one-club man, having spent his 15-year career at his boyhood club Borussia Dortmund.
The love affair hasn't stopped.
Ricken, now 39, still earns his keep with Dortmund as their youth coordinator.
Spending his entire career at the club equips him with the inside knowledge of what makes the Bundesliga club tick but, more importantly, it puts him in a better position to fully appreciate what Dortmund have been able to achieve despite the odds.
The club's fine start to this season has seen them claim 17 points out of a possible 21 in the German Bundesliga. They are currently second in the table, behind Bayern Munich, whom they meet in "Der Klassiker" tonight.
The magic of new coach Thomas Tuchel, said Ricken, lies in his ability to instil purpose and conviction into the team so soon after taking over.
Seated in a meeting room at the club's headquarters, with his hair immaculately coiffed and looks boyish as ever, he told The New Paper in an interview: "That's the greatest work of Thomas Tuchel in the last few weeks or maybe months.
"The team wanted to show that the poor results of last season (Dortmund finished seventh) was an accident.
"Now, Tuchel has raised the quality of the team, I won't say to a new level, but back to our old level. There is so much quality in the team.
"Every one plays for the team. Every player wants to help one another.
"You could see it (against Bayer Leverkusen)."
Ricken was referring to the 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen at the Signal Iduna Park a fortnight ago, when Dortmund displayed such fluidity and tenacity that they have to be considered serious title contenders this season.
Never mind that Dortmund were expected to suffer a dip in fortunes following the departure of Juergen Klopp at the end of last term.
They weren't even expected to still exist after financial troubles threatened to run them aground during the mid-2000s.
Ricken remembers those dark days vividly. And he was quick to identify the man who was crucial to their resurgence.
He said: "I am proud to see the transformation. In 2005, we were almost broke and, since then, we have won two German championships and one German Cup, and we were in the final of the Champions League in 2013. It was great development since then.
"Klopp changed everything at the club, the team, the philosophy and the concept of playing.
"He was very successful. In Dortmund, everybody is so grateful to him."
The club are currently on a 13-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, and they can close the gap with Bayern to one point if they can secure a win at the Allianz Arena tonight.
But Ricken said that Dortmund are not the sort of club that get carried away easily.
He said: "To catch up with Bayern Munich won't be easy, because I think they have the best squad they ever had. So, they must show weakness. It's very difficult.
"Our aim is to catch up with teams who play in the Champions League this season because we want to play in the Champions League next year again."
- Gary Lim's trip is sponsored by Turkish Airlines, the official airline partner of Borussia Dortmund. It has been voted "Best Airline in Europe" for the fifth year running, and its refurbished and expanded lounge came out tops in the "World's Best Business Class Airline Lounge" category in the 2015 Skytrax World Airline Awards.