HOUSTON – Andy Brassell examines the pitfalls of success in looking at Lille and Borussia Dortmund.
Hold on to what you've got
With fragments of celebratory glitter confetti still littering the ground, a pair of Europe's less-heralded league winners is already reaching for a glass of water and some aspirin, having come down to earth with a bump.
While a champion is always best off reinforcing from a position of strength, this has simply not been an option for French title winner Lille or Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund.
Both have thrilled domestic (and, to a lesser extent, European) audiences with their zesty football. Rudi Garcia's Lille has been labeled the 'mini-Barcelona' by the French media and Dortmund's Jurgen Klopp inspired a frugally assembled side - average age 22 - to overthrow mega-rich Bayern Munich with its own slick and energetic game.
It quickly became clear that we would be lucky to see these worthy sides test themselves in the Champions League in their present form.
Despite average attendances nudging 80,000, Dortmund is still recovering from the crazy spending of the Michael Meier era, which followed the previous title win in 2002.
Lille struggles to generate cash in its temporary, unloved athletics stadium, Villeneuve d'Ascq's 17,500-capacity Metropole. The scheduled 2012 opening of the state-of-the-art, 50,000 Grand Stade can't come quickly enough.
They're already calling the Lille break-up over Europe, with France pair Adil Rami and Yohan Cabaye barely having time to trouser their championship winner medals before jetting off to Valencia and Newcastle United respectively.
Arsenal is closing on a deal for flying winger Gervinho - a prolific scorer since his arrival in the north - after mounting English Premier League interest in recent months, and president Michel Seydoux's insistence that team jewel Eden Hazard is "untransferable" has not made the likes of Real Madrid and Chelsea blind to the young Belgian's abilities.
It's necessary to put the 'exodus' into perspective, however. Rami's deal to go to Spain was inked back in January, so Lille has had plenty of time to line up a replacement - which will be Lokomotiv Moscow's Marko Basa, an accomplished defender already with solid Ligue 1 experience, with Le Mans.
Cabaye will be replaced by the highly able and experienced Auxerre captain Benoit Pedretti. Gervinho had already been given the green light to go in the instance of a suitable offer emanating from the EPL, and Garcia's pursuit of Saint Etienne's Dimitri Payet as a possible replacement underlines that Lille is no longer a pauper.
Whereas the French side may have been prepared for a clearing of the decks, the first blow to Dortmund was a brutal one. Its star playmaker Nuri Sahin tied up a 10m euros move to Real Madrid within days of the title party, putting his rather sheepish demeanor in the midst of the celebrations into context.
The psychological effect was palpable, and concerns over the futures of Lucas Barrios, Mats Hummels and even the precocious teenager Mario Goetze rose considerably.
While Dortmund may lament the loss of Sahin, it will also reflect on the joy of having captured a league championship without compromising its return to an even keel.
Memories of the club facing financial meltdown in 2003 and 2006 are too close in the past for comfort.
Selling is a fact of life, and since the Deutscher Fußball Bund (DFB) compelled Bundesliga to invest more seriously in youth programs at the turn of the century, clubs like Dortmund have a route to success and fiscal ecurity.
The likes of Marcel Schmelzer and Kevin Großkreutz remain, and represent Germany's future.
Lille and Dortmund may not appear to have the strength in depth - or the top-level administrative know-how - to cope with the advances of Europe's predators, but they are learning.
Lille has made millions in recent years, selling big names like Kader Keita and Michel Bastos to Lyon while outshining its rival on the field. Dortmund supplements its youth with bargain buys such as the in-demand Shinji Kagawa.
Both clubs will hope their ability to offer their young stars Champions League football will make them stick around for a while yet, with Lille in particular nervously guarding the exceptional Hazard.
For the moment, the promised land of the Champions League can wait. The first target is to make it to the weekend of August 6, when Lille travels to Nancy to debut is league campaign and Dortmund opens its title defense at home to Hamburg, with the rest of the staff intact.
Teams usually want the celebrations to go on forever but for these two, the end of August - and the firm slam of the transfer window - can't come soon enough.
Andy Brassell is the European correspondant for BBC 5Live's World Football Phone-In and a contributor to FOXSoccer.com. His work appears in titles including The Independent. Andy is also the author of 'All Or Nothing: A Season In The Life Of The Champions League' and can be found on Twitter at @andybrassell .