Stalteri enjoyed his time in Germany.
“Everything’s state of the art for soccer,” he said. “The closeness to the fans is amazing. You go to the AGM [annual general meeting] of the team, and you’ll hear from them. In most countries, training is closed. In Germany, the fans are there every day except for the day before the game. That just changed around the first time I left; until then the fans could go every day. They were not happy with the change.
“Dortmund’s fans are from the area. They’re from the city, and they are extremely loyal. Bayern travels well. They’re the Bavarian team, in some ways a national team.”
Bayern has rebounded with a vengeance from the ignominy of a 2011-12 season in which they finished eight points behind Dortmund in the Bundesliga table and were demolished 5-2 by Jurgen Klopp’s team, in the final of the DFB-Pokal, the German domestic cup, before their Champions League loss to Chelsea. Bayern won the Bundesliga by 25 points, setting or tying 17 league records including the earliest-ever date for wrapping up the title (April 6) and advanced to Saturday’s final with an aggregate 7-0 humiliation of Barcelona in a two-legged semi-final.
Dortmund stunned Real Madrid 4-1 in the first leg of their semi-finals and advanced despite a 2-0 loss in the second leg, but it was their two goals in stoppage time to beat Spanish side Malaga 3-2 in the second leg of their quarter-final that is most memorable. It was after that win that Klopp, their 45-year-old coach, gave a post-game interview in English that became a YouTube sensation, all hair askew and glasses, giggling at times like a school-boy and unabashedly amazed at what he’d just witnessed.
For German soccer fans, amazement is just one of the sentiments that will be on display today.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINALISTS
FC BAYERN MUNICH
Club motto: “Mia san mia” (“We are who we are.”)
Founded: Feb. 27, 1900
Titles: UEFA Champions League (4, last 2001); Cup Winners Cup (1); UEFA Cup (1); FIFA Intercontinental Cup (2); Domestic league (23, 22 of which have come since the formation of the Bundesliga); DFB-Pokal (German Cup) (15)
Champions League finals: 10
2012 revenues: $477.3-million (all currency U.S.; source: Bayern Munich AGM)
Ranking: Fourth-most valuable soccer club in the world; Forbes estimated value at $1.23-billion, making Bayern the 11th most valuable sports club in the world.
Coach: Jupp Heynckes, 68, is the third-highest scorer in Bundesliga history with 220 goals in 368 matches and has managed nine different teams since 1979. He appeared in 39 international games for Germany, scoring 14 goals and winning the 1972 European Championship and 1974 World Cup. This is his third stint at Bayern Munich (one was on an interim basis) and he is rumoured to be the lead candidate to replace Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid. It was announced earlier this season that former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola will replace Heynckes at Bayern Munich at the end of the season.
Players to watch: Bayern Munich’s engine room is its central midfield duo of German national team mainstay Bastian Schweinsteiger and Spanish international Javi Martinez. Ball possession is the focal point of Bayern Munich’s game.
Club motto: “Echte Liebe” (“True Love.”)
Founded: Dec. 19, 1909
Titles: UEFA Champions League (1, 1997); UEFA Cup Winners Cup (1); UEFA Cup (10); German Domestic titles (8, 5 in Bundesliga); DFB-Pokal (German Cup) (3)
Champions League finals: 2
2012 revenues: $240-million (source: Forbes)
Ranking: Thirteenth most valuable soccer club in the world; Forbes estimated value at $456-million.
Coach: One of the game’s ascendant figures, Jurgen Klopp, 45, scored 52 goals in 338 games with FC Mainz of the second division of German domestic soccer. Klopp coached Mainz into promotion to the Bundesliga in 2003-04. He joined Borussia-Dortmund in 2008, leading the team to a sixth-place finish and a win over Bayern Munich in the DFB-Supercup and in 2012 he led the team to its first domestic double: winning the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal. Klopp, who is something of a cult figure in Germany and has had several songs written about him, looks at times as though he outfits himself at a sporting goods store when he prowls the sidelines in wind-resistant running gear. He was quoted in a recent interview as saying he is a soccer coach “because there’s nothing else I’m any good at,” but when he isn’t managing Dortmund, he has won awards for his media commentary in Germany.
Players to watch: Klopp’s teams can play a frighteningly high-tempo. They will press early in games and are dangerous in transition and that will put an onus on their defenders, especially if German international Mats Hummels is hampered by a sprained ankle. But Polish international Robert Lewandowski’s 10 goals in Champions League play were second only to Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid and if he can make the best of what might be limited opportunities, Dortmund has a chance.