A German and European institution, Borussia Dortmund has long been home to some of the globe's finest football talent. With five Bundesliga titles, four DFB Cups and one UEFA Champions League in the club trophy cabinet, there has certainly never been a lack of star dust around the Signal Iduna Park, but which players would make it into an all-time XI?
Perhaps best known worldwide for a bus trick he conjured up with Nuri Sahin in 2011 going viral before virality was in vogue, Weidenfeller doubles up as Borussia Dortmund's finest ever goalkeeper and is second in the club’s appearance charts only behind Michael Zorc with 453 games in BVB colours following his arrival from Kaiserslautern in summer 2002 at the age of 21.
A key member of Jürgen Klopp's freewheeling, high-pressing side around the turn of the decade and crucial in the double-winning 2011/12 campaign, Weidenfeller often stood in as captain in Sebastian Kehl's stead before inheriting the armband in the years prior to his retirement, even leading the team out at Wembley for that famous Klassiker in the 2013 Champions League final.
Watch: Roman Weidenfeller's testimonial
Only Dede has played more matches for Dortmund than Piszczek among non-German players, and at the age of 34 the Pole is still going up and down the flanks in Black and Yellow. Following his arrival from Hertha Berlin in 2010 he featured in all but one game as Dortmund sensationally claimed their first Bundesliga title under Jürgen Klopp.
The following year he proved just as crucial in the league, as well as playing every minute of their DFB Cup campaign as Borussia beat Bayern Munich in the final to win the first domestic double in their history. Capable of being used across the backline or on either wing, Piszczek has proven himself one of Dortmund’s greatest servants.
Described as an "on-field human stop sign," by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Kohler was known to Dortmund fans simply as "Fußballgott" (football God). That moniker was coined after a legendary display at Old Trafford in the 1996/97 Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester United. Kohler made no fewer than three clearances off the line (from David Beckham, Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs) to help BVB secure a 2-0 aggregate triumph after Lars Ricken's early goal on the night. The defensive masterclass was made all the more impressive given that Kohler had been suffering from gastroenteritis in the build-up. Dortmund went on to win the trophy for the first time but Kohler isn’t simply remembered for that one game.
The 1990 FIFA World Cup winner made 191 top-flight outings for BVB between 1995 and 2002, adding two Bundesliga titles to an already-overflowing trophy cabinet. A brilliant centre-back famed for his rough-and-ready tackling style, Kohler was fittingly dismissed in his final BVB appearance in 2002 – in a 3-2 UEFA Cup final defeat to Feyenoord in Rotterdam. Reminiscing about his career in an interview with 11Freunde in 2012, Kohler said, with a tinge of regret, "the times when you could follow your opposite number right to the toilet [while marking him] are long gone."
There were seemingly no hard feelings when Hummels signed for Dortmund for a second time in summer 2019 – joining once again from Bayern. A World Cup winner in 2014 while at the club, the centre-back had earlier emerged as a key figure in Klopp’s back-to-back title-winning side alongside long-time partner Neven Subotic.
Following his initial signing on loan in 2008, Hummels went on to make over 300 appearances in his first spell and was even the captain for his final two seasons. On his return to the Signal Iduna Park, now Liverpool boss Klopp enthused: “I was really pleased he returned to Dortmund. He’s the best German centre-back.” High praise indeed and just another reason Hummels deserves his place in Dortmund’s all-time XI.
Watch: Mats Hummels' career so far
Typically Brazilian in that he was perhaps more comfortable going forward than defending, Dede was unfortunate that his best days in the mid-2000s coincided with a certain Roberto Carlos in the Brazil left-back spot. What a servant Dede was for another side in yellow, though. The Belo Horizonte native might only have won one Selecao cap, but he made 322 Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund between 1998 and 2011, sitting third on the all-time list by Brazilians in the top flight.
Granted a fantastic send-off in 2011 after helping to usher in Klopp's glory days by winning the Bundesliga title, Dede is still remembered fondly at the Signal Iduna Park. When voted by fans into BVB's team of the century, Dede told schwarzgelb.de it was "one of the best things that had ever happened since being in Dortmund," continuing: "I didn't play at the top level all the time, but I always gave 100 per cent and went for every ball. That is how I am. I am really happy that the fans noticed that. I didn't earn that by giving interviews or with TV ads. I earned that on the pitch."
For many Dortmund fans, any player that leaves them for arch-rivals Schalke is a persona non grata. That wasn’t quite the case for attacking midfielder Möller, though. The 1990 World Cup winner made over 300 appearances during two spells with the Black-Yellows. While the first of those saw the club’s first DFB Cup success in over two decades, that was relatively tame in comparison with his return.
After four years away at Eintracht Frankfurt and Juventus, Möller re-joined BVB. It was essentially his goal that won Dortmund their first Bundesliga title when he scored the opener against Hamburg on the final day of the 1994/95 season as the Black-Yellows leapfrogged Werder Bremen. Eight goals and 13 assists in the following campaign saw back-to-back titles before the club won its only Champions League trophy in 1997 – Möller providing two assists in the 3-1 win over Juventus in Munich. Oh, and to endear himself even further to the BVB faithful, he once slapped Lothar Matthäus across the face in a match against Bayern.
There is perhaps no one who epitomises Borussia Dortmund better than Michael Zorc. Born in the city, he joined the BVB academy at 16 before going on to play a record 572 matches in Black and Yellow. ‘Susi’, as he’s affectionately called by fans after an early nickname given to him by teammate Rolf Rüssmann because of his long hair, is even the club’s record goalscorer with 159 goals, despite being a midfielder.
Club captain from 1988, Zorc heralded in one of Dortmund’s most successful periods. That DFB Cup triumph came in his first season as skipper and it was also him who lifted those back-to-back Bundesliga titles and the Champions League in 1997. The following year he hung up his boots and moved straight into the club offices and in 2005 took over as sporting director, ushering in yet another golden era for the club.
The only player to win the Ballon d’Or as a Dortmund player, Sammer was another key figure in those two league triumphs and the Champions League win. The former East Germany international was instrumental as a sweeper in Dortmund’s back three that nullified the Juventus side that featured Zinedine Zidane, Didier Deschamps, Christian Vieri and Alessandro Del Piero in that European final, even captaining the team with Zorc starting on the bench.
Following his retirement the year after, Sammer did his coaching badges and in 2000 succeeded Udo Lattek as BVB head coach. Another Bundesliga title followed in 2002 as he imparted his playing knowledge on the latest crop of Dortmund players. Despite being the Bayern sporting director the year they won the treble, which included beating Borussia in the Champions League final, the respect held for Sammer at the Signal Iduna Park remains for his contribution to a decade of success.
An attacking midfielder born in Dortmund that came through the club’s academy to captain the first team – do you feel like you’ve read that before? Well there are remarkable parallels between Reus and Zorc, another being that they are two of the best players ever to wear the Black and Yellow of BVB. It’s perhaps only an unfortunate history of injuries that have prevented Reus (and perhaps Dortmund) from achieving even more.
Nevertheless, over 250 appearances consisting of 123 goals and 76 assists is an astonishing return. Having a hand in a goal in four out of every five games is a record any player would be proud of, and he has twice been named Dortmund’s player of the season. In 2019 he was also named Germany’s Footballer of the Year for the second time. A solitary DFB Cup title is little reflection on what Reus has done for his hometown club.
Watch: Reus' Bundesliga Mixtape
With the way he’s been banging in the goals for Bayern over the last five and half years, it’s pretty easy to forget that Lewandowski was once a Dortmund player – and a seriously good one over four seasons. As has been mentioned before, what was Blackburn Rovers’ loss turned into Borussia and the Bundesliga’s gain after the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland prevented him from travelling to the UK.
The Poland captain may not have scored as many goals for BVB as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but those 103 he did in just 187 games. The 2011/12 campaign in particular was memorable for Lewandowski and the club. Thirty goals in 47 games across all competitions turned the season into Dortmund’s most successful ever as they won their only domestic double. With 22 in the league he helped keep Bayern well at bay, as well as scoring the winner in the title decider on Matchday 30, before almost singlehandedly winning the DFB Cup with a hat-trick against the Munich side in the final. The following year he did the same to Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final, this time scoring four in one leg, to help set up the Klassiker final at Wembley.
The Swiss striker again didn’t score as many goals as Aubameyang but he still enjoyed eight vastly successful years in Dortmund and wrote his name into club history. He was the club’s focal point in attack throughout that golden era in the 1990s and registered 123 goals in 284 appearances.
Twelve of those came in just 20 Bundesliga games in 1994/95 as he helped Dortmund to that first Bundesliga title despite missing much of the campaign with a torn cruciate ligament. Perhaps his most famous goal, however, came in the 1997/98 Champions League quarter-finals when he scored the only one of the tie in extra-time to beat Bayern in the first match in the competition’s history to be contested between two teams form the same country.
Upon Klopp's only return to the Signal Iduna Park as the opposition coach – in charge of Liverpool in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals in April 2016 – there was a moment when he stood on the halfway line during the warm-ups, looking at the Dortmund team, and beyond them to the Gelbe Wand in all its glory. Perhaps, just perhaps, Klopp was wondering whether leaving what was a match made in heaven the previous summer had been the right decision. Indeed, Klopp was the perfect coach for BVB: although not from the region, he was a man who understood the locals and personified both their work ethic and passion for their club, in the process turning that club into one of Europe's most feared.
Cultivating and pioneering the Gegenpressing style of football that has since become synonymous with the club and the Bundesliga, Klopp took BVB to two league titles, a DFB Cup and the Champions League final, catching the imaginations of a country and continent and bloodying the noses of Europe's aristocrats, Bayern and Real Madrid, along the way. “Thank you, Jürgen,” read a banner on the Südtribune on the day of his final home game, a 3-2 win against Bremen. “It'll be a long time until we understand just how precious these moments were.”
Watch: Jürgen Klopp: Made in Bundesliga