DFL - © Borussia Dortmund have been polishing up rough diamonds for years - just ask Jude Bellingham.
DFL - © Borussia Dortmund have been polishing up rough diamonds for years - just ask Jude Bellingham.

Jude Bellingham, Erling Haaland and the talents-turned-stars at Borussia Dortmund


Jude Bellingham leaves Borussia Dortmund for Real Madrid as perhaps the greatest midfield talent in the world of football - but he is not the first youngster-turned-star at BVB. bundesliga.com takes a closer look at the Dortmund diamond mine...

Jude Bellingham (2020-2023)

Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund: 92 (12 goals, 16 assists)

The stratospheric rise of Bellingham in Black and Yellow has quite simply been a joy to behold. He seized the opportunity to take his game to another level and leaves the club as a leader, all-action midfield hero, Bundesliga Player of the Season, UEFA Champions League and World Cup star - at just the age of 19!

Bellingham's career in numbers

None of that was assured when he boarded a plane for Germany in the summer of 2020, having left Birmingham City as a 17-year-old. The chance to train and play for a leading club serious about youth development, in a top league, has made for a spectacular coming of age.

At Dortmund, Bellingham blossomed into the complete midfielder. In 2022/23, he won more challenges than any other player, and he leaves the club as the German top flight's youngest-ever captain and teenager with the most appearances in the division (92). Following confirmation of his transfer to Real Madrid, he wrote just how much his time in Dortmund means to him.

How Bellingham blossomed into one of the best in the world at Dortmund

Robert Lewandowski (2010-2014)

Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund: 131 (74 goals)

Dortmund's policy of signing promising young players and selling them on as fully fledged stars had its roots in the financial difficulties the club experienced in the middle of the century's first decade.

Acquiring an emerging talent from Lech Poznan in 2010 who had just finished the Polish league as top scorer was a potentially shrewd move, but it was really the club and the Polish striker's shared passion for development that made it appear in hindsight to be one of the wisest moves in football history.

You can feel the ambition of a young Lewandowksi just by tracking his goalscoring numbers. Nine Bundesliga goals in 2010/2011, followed by 22 as the club retained their title in 2011/12 and 36 in all competitions in 2012/13 as BVB made the UEFA Champions League final. With his rise powered by the drive of Jürgen Klopp, the striker left for Bayern Munich in 2014 as a complete goal-scoring machine. When he left for Barcelona in 2022, he did so as - among other things - the Bundesliga's record non-German marksman (312 goals in 384 games).

Watch: All of Lewandowski's 312 Bundesliga goals

Ousmane Dembele (2016-17)

Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund: 32 (six goals, 13 assists)

By 2016, Dortmund had established a great reputation as the go-to name for explosive footballers - with Shinji Kagawa, Mario Götze and Henrikh Mkhitaryan just a few to enjoy career-shaping stints at the Ruhr district club.

None quite burst onto the scene in the same way Ousmane Dembele did in 2016/17, however. Signed as a 19-year-old from Rennes, the blistering pace and power of the Frenchman would leave defences all over Germany trembling.

Big clubs around Europe couldn't fail to take notice as Dembele was named Bundesliga Rookie of the Season and put in a Man of the Match-winning and goalscoring performance in the DFB Cup final as Dortmund claimed their first title in five years, under Thomas Tuchel. Barcelona came calling after just a year in Dortmund, and Dembele now plies his trade alongside Lewandowski at Barcelona, while his international career has led to him lifting the 2018 World Cup and making an appearance in the 2022 World Cup final.

Watch: Dembele's best bits for Dortmund

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2013-2018)

Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund: 144 (98 goals)

Aubameyang is another player who made the big time under Klopp and Tuchel in Dortmund. Having failed to make the breakthrough at AC Milan despite being a coveted youngster, BVB took note of his strong scoring record at Saint-Etienne to take the Gabon international over the border to Germany in 2013.

His passion for putting the ball into the net (which included a penchant for crazy celebrations) proved immediately infectious in the Bundesliga, resulting in double figures for goals in all five seasons. Twenty-five goals in 2015/16 helped the artful attacker to the honour of Bundesliga Player of the Year, while he stepped up further in 2016/17 to smash in a league-leading 31 goals in 32 league appearances and help the club to the DFB Cup.

Arsenal knew the goals were guaranteed to flow for them, too, when they signed Aubameyang in January 2018, and he has since led the line for Barcelona and Chelsea.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored 98 Bundesliga goals for Dortmund before joining Arsenal in the Premier League in 2018. - imago sportfotodienst/imago sportfotodienst

Christian Pulisic (2016-2019)

Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund: 90 (13 goals)

Dortmund's reputation for creating superstars had travelled far and wide by the time a 16-year-old Christian Pulisic decided to swap Pennsylvania, USA for Germany in 2016. The raw talent would develop into a refined playmaker and global soccer star during his time in the Bundesliga.

A 17-year-old Pulisic quickly earned the trust of Thomas Tuchel on arrival, with the speed and sharpness of his play proving he would be destined for great things. He soon became a regular for Dortmund, breaking all manner of records for an American in the Bundesliga. The USMNT star joined Chelsea in summer 2019, helping the London outfit to a UEFA Champions League title two years on, whilst inspiring a new wave of US talent in the Bundesliga - including Dortmund's Gio Reyna.

Christian Pulisic broke new ground for Americans in the European game at Dortmund. - DFL

Jadon Sancho (2017-2021)

Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund: 55 (38 goals, 51 assists)

Like Aubamayeng, Sancho was another player who had not been quite able to force his way into a major European team as a prodigious youngster, but found Dortmund willing to give him the opportunity he deserved.

The Black and Yellows recruited him as a 17-year-old in 2017 after he was released by Manchester City. Sancho developed into a technically superb winger in the Bundesliga, taking a season to settle in and then registering goals and assists like clockwork.

His trickery brought him onto the Champions League stage and into the England national team, including in their run to the EURO 2020 final in 2021. He returned to Manchester - this time to United - in the same summer as a highly accomplished operator. The path he trod as an English youngster, to the very top of the game, via Dortmund, is one that Bellingham followed.

Watch: Jadon Sancho's Bundesliga mix tape

Erling Haaland (2020-2022)

Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund: 67 (62 goals)

Hopes were already high when Dortmund signed a 19-year-old Haaland in the January 2020 transfer window. It is fair to say the Norwegian goalscorer extraordinaire blew the lofty expectations out the water with his absolutely insatiable appetite for putting the ball into the net.

A hat-trick within 23 minutes on his debut Bundesliga appearance against Augsburg in January 2020 set the tone for what was to come. Voted Bundesliga Player of the Month and Rookie of the Month in his first month in the league, Haaland bewildered defenders and delighted anyone watching his clinical striking exploits during his time in the Bundesliga.

Haaland had chosen to join Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg partly on the advice of his father, former professional footballer Alf-Inge Haaland, who knew the club would provide the ideal launching pad for a truly great career. That he would continue to smash scoring records and win the UEFA Champions League in his first post-Dortmund season at Manchester City is a surprise to nobody who followed his Bundesliga fortunes.

Watch: All 62 of Haaland's Bundesliga goals

The combination of Haaland's sheer ability and Dortmund's enthusiasm and experience of taking talents to the next level was truly spectacular. The question now, after his and Bellingham's departure, is who might the next megastar of the game to emerge from an apprenticeship in the Bundesliga at Dortmund be? Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, Youssoufa Moukoko, Julien Duranville, or perhaps someone else...?