Manchester City won their first Premier League title in 44 years in 2011/12, while Dortmund won their second-consecutive Bundesliga title then. Since then, both teams have peaked and crested, struggling to find equilibrium.
As the adage goes, it is easier to get to the top than to stay there. Outside of the occasional outlier, this is true of most football clubs.
While their performances may not have dipped much — both clubs have entrenched themselves near the top of their leagues —there has been a noticeable change in results. In seasons when City had, arguably, the best squad in the league, City won 27 out of a possible 36 points against other teams in the top seven in 2011/12. The count dropped to 20 of 36 in 2012/13 when they finished second and this season, City have 18 out of 24 so far.
While losing their best player each year since their last title, Dortmund, against the rest of the top seven, have gained 25 of 36 in their league-winning season, 18 of 36 when finishing second and 0 of 18 this time round.
City and Dortmund have stated objectives of building dynasties. Dynasties are built on stability and the ability to change. As the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
One may glean from this a certain truth gained from countless hours of playing Football Manager — it gets boring to win all the time if one does not have a culture of winning serially. It takes a certain ruthlessness and an unending well of motivation to keep reinventing oneself, and stay one step ahead of the opposition.
New teams are built around the ‘Have money, will buy’ principle but it is difficult to buy trophies consistently, for a league is a season-long grind and a great marker of team culture. Money can rarely buy that. That is why, however much you may dislike them, Ferguson, Mourinho and Guardiola, among modern managers, cannot be discounted. They have found their own methods of beating the law of diminishing returns. Manuel Pellegrini and Jurgen Klopp, with their constant tinkering and infusion of players, are trying to find their own paths to put one over that same law.
Hormazd is a senior sub editor based in New Delhi.