Nick Bidwell’s Notes from Germany: Roman Bürki Key To Dortmund’s Title Push

If an award existed for the most-improved Bundesliga pro of 2018-19, Dortmund’s Swiss keeper Roman Bürki would be sure to be one of the nominees.

Once regarded as the weak link in the Schwarz-Gelben ranks, the former Grasshopper Zurich and Freiburg custodian has been a player reborn this term, cutting out the costly, intermittent errors, radiating authority and earning top marks for his displays week in and week out.

An incredible turnaround indeed. The talented but erratic goalie who suddenly embraces consistency and dependability, so much so that Kicker magazine recently rated him the best goalkeeper in the German top-flight. Goodbye Clark Kent. Hello Superman.

Burki’s emergence as an outstanding last-line-of-defence and key component in Dortmund’s title push, is largely based on two factors, not least a change in attitude. He is far calmer and composed than he used to be, no longer puts himself under excessive pressure and as he admits himself, is much more ready to take constructive criticism on board.

Just 12 months ago, he was crotchety enough to hit out at Dortmund fans when they jeered the team during a disappointing home draw with Freiburg. “These people have no idea about football,” roared Burki afterwards.

Another key influence is the special relationship he enjoys with Dortmund goalkeeping coach Matthias Kleinsteiber. Thanks to countless hours on the training ground, most of his biggest flaws – especially a certain hesitancy in one-on-one situations and discomfort with the ball at his feet – are now not nearly so problematic.

Burki, a Dortmunder since the summer of 2015, very much has become Dortmund’s emotional leader. Not only is he the commander of their youthful back-line; he also is an excellent public spokesman for the club, never afraid to face the press in difficult moments.

Refreshingly, he makes a point of telling it as it is. ” It was frustrating for me to watch, ” he admitted following a goalless draw at struggling Nurnberg in February. ” We lack penetrative power. Now it’s up to us to find the answers. ”

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What We Learned This Week

1. Grindel gone.
After three controversial years as president of the DFB (the German federation), Reinhard Grindel has announced his resignation. Already a divisive figure in the wake of the Nationalmannschaft’s disastrous World Cup 2018 campaign and a string of PR gaffes, Grindel ultimately was brought down by a double whammy of revelations: Der Spiegel claiming that he had kept quiet about a 78,000 euro income stream from a DFB subsidiary and Bild alleging that he once accepted a luxury watch from the Ukraine FA.

2. Hecking forced to dismount.
Borussia Monchengladbach coach Dieter Hecking is to step down at the end of the season. The 54-year-old had been in charge of Gladbach since December 2016. The Foals have spent much of this term in the Bundesliga top-three, but have fallen away badly of late, winning just once in seven matches. The last straw, it seems, was a 3-1 Rhineland derby defeat to Fortuna Dusseldorf, a game in which Gladbach were three-down after only 16 minutes.

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