It was an emotional day at the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday afternoon as Borussia Dortmund bid farewell to a number of stars, including hometown hero Michael Zorc, former captain Marcel Schmelzer and centre-forward Erling Haaland.
Zorc went on to captain his boyhood club and make a record 572 appearances in black and yellow, scoring 159 times in the process - a return only bettered by Adi Preißler across Dortmund’s entire history.
During his playing days, Zorc also lifted the Bundesliga twice and was part of the famous BVB team that lifted the UEFA Champions League in 1997, a year before he hung up his boots at the age of 36.
Zorc then moved into the sporting director role that he now departs, a position that he has held with great success - coinciding with a golden period under Jürgen Klopp and the club’s unearthing and profiting on the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Ousmane Dembele, Shinji Kagawa, Robert Lewandowski, Christian Pulisic, Jadon Sancho and many more.
“[Dortmund means] a great deal [to me], because I was born here and went to school here,” Zorc said in reply to fans’ questions on the eve of his departure. “I met my wife here and my children were born here. This is where I joined BVB, where I won titles and where I met a lot of lovely people. Dortmund will always be my home.”
Ahead of Zorc’s farewell, Dortmund president Dr. Reinhard Rauball wrote on the club’s website: “Michael Zorc leaves behind something that very few people have been able to match – even outside our club. He has left massive shoes to fill, both as a player on the pitch and as managing director. Michael will go down as one of the true greats at Borussia Dortmund for his top performance both on the pitch and behind the scenes.”
Zorc was presented to the crowd before kick-off alongside another Dortmund stalwart in Schmelzer, whose own 17-year career with Die Schwarzgelben came to an end.
A series of unfortunate injuries have meant Schmelzer has rarely featured in recent years and the last of his 367 Dortmund appearances came in June 2020, but he too leaves having left an indelible mark on their history.
Schmelzer played every minute under Klopp as Dortmund lifted the 2010/11 Bundesliga title and was again first-choice left-back as they successfully defended the Meisterschale the following campaign. He became club captain in 2016/17, lifting the second of his three DFB Cup trophies that season.
Schmelzer is among a number of players that leave the Signal Iduna Park following the Matchday 34 meeting with Hertha Berlin.
As well as Haaland, Roman Bürki, Marvin Hitz, Axel Witsel and Dan-Axel Zagadou all bring their Dortmund journeys to a close, while loanees Marin Pongracic and Reinier head back to their parent clubs this summer.
Tributes poured in from all over the world for all the outgoing players, while coach Marco Rose said “these goodbyes will be special” ahead of kick-off and Witsel pondered whether he would ever feel the same connection with supporters as he does with Dortmund’s fan base.
“They will always be in my heart,” the Belgian told Dortmund’s Matchday Magazine. “I don’t know, in my future, if I will have the same kind of crazy atmosphere that you have when you play at home [for Dortmund].”
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