Marco Reus, don't go breaking my heart
Supporters of clubs that aren't established at the very top of the footballing food chain are familiar with the tormenting fear of their star players being cherry-picked by bigger teams each summer.
Ever since Nuri Sahin started to make a hassle about his future in 2011, when he eventually left Borussia Dortmund to try to become a superstar at Real Madrid, there has always been at least one BVB star player who has distressed the fans' hearts over the course of a season.
It is when the fairytale of football fandom clashes with reality. My following of Borussia Dortmund from near bankruptcy to the establishment of a competitive team in one of Europe's elite leagues has brought immeasurable amounts of joy over the years, I must admit.
But the bubble of black and yellow football-romance bursts on a yearly basis, as reality means there remains a big financial gap to Europe's elite clubs -- and losing a star player each summer in consequence. Of course, losing only one star player per year could be viewed as a success for the club.
After Sahin, it was Shinji Kagawa, who kept BVB fans guessing during the 2011-12 campaign, just to leave for -- supposedly -- bigger and better things in the end at Manchester United. The following year was basically the same, but it took a surprising and gruesome twist with Mario Gotze leaving for Bayern Munich instead of Robert Lewandowski at the end of the 2012-13 term.
The last season at least spared fans from the pain that comes along with unfulfilled hope, as they already knew their star striker, Lewandowski, was going to leave. Then again, the same pattern as in the previous campaigns would have emerged if it wasn't for Ilkay Gundogan's long-term injury that ruled out a transfer in the end -- but the mere one-year extension only postponed that worry.
That leaves the following: Which BVB star player's looming departure will cause headaches this year?
If you didn't know the answer already, the gracious Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is here to help you out. He kicked off the annual avalanche of BVB fans' worries by pointing out the 35 million euro buyout clause belonging to Marco Reus, which activates in summer 2015. That was then accompanied by Rummenigge's opinion that the Dortmund-born starlet will make use of it.
Just to re-emphasise, Reus might leave next summer, NOT this summer, so ignore the current rumors floating about.
Despite missing out on the World Cup due to injury, Reus is already an internationally recognized star player. To put it into economical terms, the midfielder is one of the faces of the Borussia Dortmund brand.
He is not only a key player on the pitch, but he is also important for Dortmund's brand-building. BVB fans can identify with the Dortmund-born star, football fans from all over the world might be drawn to the club because of his dazzling footballing skills -- and attention translates into revenue. We are now pretty far away from heart-melting football romantics, but this is how the business works.
Binding Reus to the club -- by handing him a huge chunk of money in order to wipe the buyout clause out of his contract, which runs until 2017 -- is essential for BVB, if they want the ascent of their brand to continue.
Apart from that, establishing the club as a sustaining force in European football also needs continuity in terms of personnel. Remodelling the team each year to make up for the departure of world-class players is a tough task for manager Jurgen Klopp, and it can only work out so long.
So how can Borussia Dortmund avoid the agonizing scenario of Reus leaving at the end of the coming campaign?
Current negotiations with Reus have stalled. As his agent, Dirk Hebel, already pointed out, the midfielder certainly has all aces in his hand as the 35 million euros are nothing less than an absolute bargain, considering the ever-inflating transfer fees, which will allow him to choose any club at the highest level. The midfielder wants to focus on "fully restoring his health and coming back stronger than ever before," which indicates that the player is in no hurry to sign a new deal with his current employer.
BVB is doing the utmost to raise money quickly, an effort spearheaded by club chief Hans-Joachim Watzke. His search for "strategic partners" to buy into the club continues, as it is the only way to boost BVB's financial power.
That way Reus' salary can be improved to the required standard, but messing with the wage structure is risky, as it could result in additional claims from teammates, but for now it's the only solution.
The wage structure is Dortmund's natural weak spot, as even with strategic partners Borussia will not be able to pay the wages of the likes of Bayern Munich in the near future without creating new debt.
But narrowing the wage gap will help, as Borussia Dortmund offer plenty of soft value besides regular Champions League footy in the form of the Westfalenstadion and its fan base, the great team spirit within the squad, which is hard to find in professional football these days, along with the general excitement to be coached by Klopp.
However, all that hasn't quite been enough to keep the likes of Kagawa, Gotze and Lewandowski. Reus wants to win titles; he has stressed that over and over again in recent months. Missing the World Cup only has increased that urge, and the annual individual honors can only excite the midfielder for so long.
So Borussia Dortmund have to find a way to be in contention for silverware this season, otherwise the cruel football business will have its way once again. But until then, fans will keep their hopes up that Reus decides to stay at BVB for a bit longer.