Farewell Marco Reus: The story of a Borussia Dortmund legend


Marco Reus's "exceptional" bond with Borussia Dortmund will be broken at the end of the season after 12 heartwarming - and at times heartbreaking - years. bundesliga.com pays tribute to a club and Bundesliga icon...

"He would think he had done everything right," replied Reus when asked in April 2023 - having just signed a one-year contract extension - what his nine-year-old self would think of his career. "There was no reason to do things differently or not to be loyal to the club. It was worth making all the sacrifices. Pulling through, sticking at it, never giving up and always staying positive. Nothing could ever compare to crowning it all with the league title."

The unscriptable comic-book drama of the final Matchday of the 2022/23 season did not produce the fairy-tale ending Reus' younger and older selves wanted, leaving the Meisterschale elusive. But now, Reus' story with Dortmund comes to an end with a more fitting ending: a goal and an assist on his final Bundesliga appearance against Darmstadt.

Watch: The best of Marco Reus' final home game for Borussia Dortmund

There could be a Champions League winner's medal, though. It would be Dortmund's second with Reus aged 34 - 35 at the end of May - having experienced his beloved club's first just three days before his eighth birthday in 1997. That triumph must have been extra special for the youngster aspiring to make it in the game. Dortmund born, Reus was on course to being Dortmund bred too having joined the club's youth academy the previous year. It would be 2012, however, until he pulled on the yellow-and-black shirt of his club as part of the first team.

"It was very painful for me to leave‚" Reus said of the moment in 2006 when it looked like his dream had been shattered. "When you spend your whole youth career at one club, you want to make the next step - especially when you support that team."

He returned to Dortmund as Germany's Footballer of the Year, an accolade he achieved with Borussia. The 'other' Borussia in Mönchengladbach, the club that had been willing to take a gamble on him that Dortmund, who had judged his physique too frail to withstand the battering of the elite game, had not. Gladbach had pounced after Reus had impressed in three years at Rot-Weiss Ahlen, first with their reserve team, then in the third tier of German football and finally in Bundesliga 2. Even so, there were still doubts.

"I remember how [former Gladbach coach] Hans Meyer asked me about signing Marco Reus," recalled Max Eberl, Gladbach's sporting director at the time and the man who brought Reus to the club. "'Max, don't you think 800,000 euros for a Bundesliga 2 player who's scored four goals is a lot of money?'

"If a Hans Meyer says something like that, then you could be unsure. But I was totally convinced by Marco. My gut told me that we would buy potential here, even if it was a lot of money for Gladbach at that time."

Watch: Marco Reus confirms Dortmund departure

Eberl's gut feeling was right. How right? Forty-one goals and 28 assists in 109 competitive appearances for the Foals right. But while Reus' talents were showing at Borussia Park, his heart had never really left Dortmund.

"I've made the decision to take the next step forward in the coming season," said Reus after announcing in January 2012 that he would be re-joining BVB the following summer. "I'd like to play for a club who can challenge for the league title and guarantee me Champions League football. I see this chance in Dortmund."

So far, so footballer, right? Come on, though, Marco, you're fooling no one. There was never really any doubt the "next step" would a backwards one, geographically, if not in sporting terms.

''Home. Belonging. Simply just life," said Reus to explain his attachment to BVB last year, 11 years after his return. "It's hard to explain for people who aren't so immersed in it. It means so much when you've spent your entire life here and have had the chance to play for the club – right until the end. 

"At some point you have to make a decision: do you want to try something new at some point or do you want it to end here? I always have the feeling that I'm at home. Even if there are phases when things don't go so well. I know it's always wonderful here, the people embrace me with open arms, and I've never wanted to be away from that."

He added: "When my daughter goes to kindergarten in the morning, she always says 'Heja BVB!' That leaves a mark on you and you don't want it to end. Of course, I also talked about it a lot with my wife too. Everyone in the family is happy that the [contract] extension is now complete and we can concentrate on the challenges ahead."

Watch: Reus signs off in style in final home game for Dortmund

Those challenges were the league title which Reus was so desperately close to claiming last season - it would have been his first having joined just after Jürgen Klopp had taken Dortmund to back-to-back Bundesliga crowns. In fact, the 2022/23 season fits so well with the narrative of Reus' career: it has been fabulous, but he - and we all - know it has been so close to being so much better.

There have been many near-misses at club level: the 2012/13 Champions League final for starters where he drew former Gladbach teammate Dante into the foul that earned a penalty and threw Dortmund a lifeline at Wembley only for Arjen Robben to dash BVB hopes. Dortmund were runners-up in the Bundesliga too as Bayern won the treble that year. Three successive DFB Cup finals were lost, two to Bayern, before it was fourth time lucky and a 2-1 defeat of Eintracht Frankfurt in 2017. Another Cup win followed in 2021, but Bayern's iron grip on the Meisterschale was never loosened by Reus & Co. though they were long the chief pretenders to the crown that Bayer Leverkusen have since claimed.

Two DFB Cup winners' medals are scant reward for Reus' career, and the biggest hole of all in the CV came in 2014. He was there when Germany lifted the World Cup in the Maracana, but only in spirit. In body, he was in bed not watching his country defeat Argentina, riddled with disappointment after an ankle injury in a warm-up friendly had deprived him of the greatest prize of all. It also meant football fans missed out on the chance to see a man at the top of his game - 23 goals in 44 club appearances in all competitions that season - perform on the biggest stage.

Though it is no doubt the most heart-breaking, it is not the only time injury has left Reus rooted to his sofa while Germany's other world-class footballers play a major tournament. He featured only at Euro 2012 and the 2018 World Cup, and admittedly he did not miss out on any more winner's medals. In fact, Germany struggled badly in most of the tournaments he missed, but perhaps that was not a coincidence given one of their best players of the last decade was not there.

For some, the injuries may also explain why Reus never left the Signal Iduna Park. But while players like Erling Haaland, Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho have honed their talents only to move on, there was never a moment when Reus saw his club as a stepping stone to somewhere else. In fact, his injuries had given him the determination that allowed him to keep re-starting from scratch even when his teammates departed.

''I've always said that everyone is responsible for their own career. Time flies and you only have so much of it. We've had a lot of players here who we could have built a fantastic team with, but they unfortunately made different choices and pursued other career paths. That should be respected," he explained. "For a player like me, who always wants to compete for titles, it obviously stings to see the best players leave the club because they regrettably don't see that they would be able to make the next big step here. But I never had the sense that I should go down this route just because others did. I was always ready to build up something new again and thereby send a message to people: 'I'm staying here no matter what!'"

Now though, even if he does not want to leave, at the age of 34, the decision has been made.

"We have come to a mutual decision," explained Sebastian Kehl, Dortmund's sporting director and a teammate of Reus' when he first joined the club. "It's important to look each other in the eye. With 426 games and 170 goals, he has written quite a unique story. And despite that, there is a responsibility to plan for the future and to pass responsibility on."

Watch: Reus reflects on "perfect day" following his final home game for BVB

Along with his advancing age, Reus must have known this painful separation was coming when he handed over the captain's armband to Emre Can at the start of the 2023/24 season. The club will be happy for him to return a third time with club boss Hans-Joachim Watzke acknowleding Reus' "exceptional" connection to the colours, and stating that he has "exciting tasks" for the BVB icon when retirement comes.

Reus' immediate future lies elsewhere, however, and he is convinced it remains as a player. His performance in the 5-1 thrashing of Augsburg on Matchday 32 more than suggests he is right. "I love this, to be on the pitch," he said after scoring once and setting up another two in what was only his 16th start of the league season. "So, I won't be ending my career. I want to keep playing."

But after 120 goals and 93 assists in 294 Bundesliga appearances, Reus' German chapter has been a memorable one.

Watch: Reus bids Dortmund farewell