Mats Hummels will move from league runners-up Dortmund to record champions Bayern Munich. The German international says he made the “hardest decision of my life” to leave BVB. He will play his last match for Borussia in Berlin on 21 May. Hummels will lead BVB out onto the pitch and hopes to captain his eleven to a win in the DFB cup final – against his new club, Bayern.
It is the fourth German cup final between Dortmund und Bayern and the duel involving easily the top two German teams will captivate the country’s football fans. The big, wide sports world will watch the action in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium as the German evergreen will be televised in almost 200 countries. And one man in particular will take centre stage: Mats Hummels, 27, born in Bergisch Gladbach near Cologne, raised in Munich. He made his Bundesliga debut in 2007 for Bayern before moving one year later to Dortmund where he played a major part in the return of former glories to “Ballspielverein Borussia 09 Dortmund”, as they are officially known.
The black and yellows were German champions in 2011 and 2012, cup winners in 2012 when beating Bayern 5-2 – with a Hummels goal. The World Cup winner was a member of the side that contested the legendary Champions League final in May 2013 when the two German teams went head to head in London’s Wembley Stadium. Though they performed brilliantly, the Westphalian club eventually lost 2-1. Hummels may have collected several titles at Dortmund but has still been enticed back to the club he first played for as a seven-year old. He is pretty certain he has a better chance of winning titles in Munich – the big dominators in German club football – than with Dortmund. However he is aiming to add another success with BVB on 21 May. It would be the fourth trophy he has won with the club from the so-called Ruhrpott area in western Germany.
For the fourth time, Hummels will face Bayern as a BVB player in the German cup final. A win in 2012 was sandwiched between two defeats in 2008 and 2014. Together with his BVB teammates, Hummels has reached the cup final for the third time in succession. Last year, Dortmund was beaten by VfL Wolfsburg 3-1 after the sensational semi-final win against Bayern for whom four penalty takers failed miserably in the shoot-out. Hummels has therefore enjoyed many great times at Dortmund and he stands for the success over the past years like no other. However, he has been drawn to new challenges.
His imminent departure has meant that Mats Hummels has been subjected to scything criticism. Many BVB supporters resented even the thought of him returning to Munich so much that he was forced to run the gauntlet in the penultimate home game of the season against Wolfsburg (5-1). At the time it was still not clear that Dortmund would pocket about 35 million euro from Munich. However the permanent loss of key players like Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski and now Hummels to, of all places, their biggest rivals in the recent past has naturally annoyed many fans.
Consequently the forums and chats were full of vicious comments directed at Hummels – as if in professional football with its all-pervading transfer business, it was not legitimate for players to move club. Even when a player returns to the club of his childhood and youth.
At Bayern, Hummels will form the central defence along with Jerome Boateng – like in the national team when they won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The duo is probably the world’s best central defensive pairing – when, that is, both parts are in good form. Hummels has signed a five-year contract at Bayern and his annual salary is rumoured to total in the region of 12 million euro.
Should nothing untoward happen, Hummels and Boateng will also team up at EURO 2016 in France. However on 21 May, they will be opponents whereby Hummels will also face other teammates in the national team like Thomas Müller and Manuel Neuer. “My aim is to win the cup once again with Dortmund,” stressed Hummels who also took centre stage in the 2014 cup final. The defender scored a goal that did not count because Dante, now at Wolfsburg, cleared the ball from behind the line in a high loop up field. Dortmund would have won but Bayern eventually again came out on top 2-0 in extra time. Hummels’ goal that was not awarded then led to the introduction of goal-line technology in (Hawk Eye) in German football.
For Hummels and Dortmund, Berlin is the only title chance they have left this season. For Bayern it is the second after winning the league championship which they wrapped up for the 26th time ahead of the best ever runner-up in the Bundesliga since it was founded in 1963. For BVB head coach Thomas Tuchel it would be his ever title in professional football. For the whole club, the cup would also crown an excellent season. For Pep Guardiola it will be all about finishing off his three-year term of office at Bayern on a high note on the national stage by winning the double. Should he end up with only one title, then the disappointment would be huge. Both teams have had to get over major setbacks in international competitions. Munich missed out on reaching the final of the Champions League against Atletico Madrid (0-1, 2-1), BVB failed to get past the quarterfinals of the Europa League after two memorable encounters against Liverpool with the former BVB coach Jürgen Klopp (1-1, 3-4). Black and yellow or red and white – only one of the two clubs will be celebrating in the night and early morning of 21 and 22 May.