Richard Buxton: BVB recover from scars of bomb attack
Dortmund CEO Watzke tells TNP how the club bounced back from the debilitating 2017 incident
Something had to change in the wake of Borussia Dortmund's darkest hour.
One of football's most likeable clubs has endured its fair share of struggles over the years, but a fateful evening, 20 months ago, gave the subject a new and chilling definition.
April 11, 2017 is a date which will remain ingrained on the club after the team bus was targeted with a series of roadside bombs as it made its way to a Champions League quarter-final clash with Monaco.
The culprit Sergej Wenergold, who had intended to cause the club's share price to plummet by harming the players, was recently sentenced to 14 years' jail.
Far more than the broken wrist sustained by defender Marc Bartra in the attack left Dortmund counting the cost of the attempted sabotage.
Within the next year, they changed their coach three times, while 12 players, including Bartra, also left Signal Iduna Park.
"We needed a new environment, we needed new players we needed to be able to deal with this whole incident," Hans-Joachim Watzke, Dortmund's CEO, told The New Paper in an exclusive interview.
"With the new coach that arrived in the summer, Lucien Favre, which the club wanted to get already a year before, and installing other people like (former players) Sebastian Kehl (head of licensed player division) and Matthias Sammer (consultant).
"Under the guidance of (director of football) Michel Zorc, we managed to build a new team around it and get a new start."
Dortmund's fresh start is already producing tangible results with a seven-point lead atop the Bundesliga consolidated by Saturday's 2-1 Revierderby win over local rivals Schalke 04.
Central to that renaissance has been Favre, whose meticulous attention to detail has blended seamlessly with the club's recruitment policy and provided a winning combination that bears similarities to the tenures of illustrious predecessors like Juergen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel.
"We have a great team but after what happened, they didn't manage to show it on the pitch," admitted Watzke.
"Now with Favre, they finally manage to show the performances and you can name him along with the coaches that we had before. He's a heavyweight like Klopp and Tuchel.
"We have a great coach, great players, we have a good mix in the team. We have four, five young talented players and other players like (Axel) Witsel and (Thomas) Delaney who lead the whole group and that's what makes it successful.
"We didn't have players like Witsel or Delaney in the last season who could hold up the team. Without those players, the team kind of broke down. With these new players, they have leaders and are a lot stronger with their guidance."
Dortmund's ascendancy this season has dovetailed with Bayern Munich's decline.
But Watzke does not believe that the fate of their arch-rivals can detract from the seismic strides undertaken in Favre's first seven months at the helm.
"There are only 14 matches played and others think that we are at the top because Bayern are doing so badly," he said.
"They will fight back this season, for sure, but if you look at our team, the average age is pretty young. So there will be setbacks sooner or later in the season, but we've managed to win 36 points in 14 matches - that tells it all.
"It's not because Bayern have started badly to the season. It's us winning the points."
A fear of Dortmund's latest prospects being lured away invariably hangs in the air.
Over the years, they have lost their star players to European giants, with Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Ilkay Guendogan (Mancheester City) and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) among those who have left most recently.
However, the club have almost always been able to rejuvenate. The likes of Jadon Sancho, Jacob Bruun Larsen and Christian Pulisic all form part of the next generation, while there are high hopes for teenage winger Sergio Gomez, signed from Barcelona this year.
"There are other clubs that are financially doing a lot better. There are clubs owned by countries, even. They have lots of money and the risks are always there that we might lose a younger player sooner or later," admitted Watzke.
"But we will find new young players... Players who come here, they know the club and they know that they can achieve something here with good development for their future career.
"There will always be young players who are keen on coming to BVB. "