Galloping Foal to Bundesliga thoroughbred via a Champions League final: which Marco Reus has been the best? - © Getty
Galloping Foal to Bundesliga thoroughbred via a Champions League final: which Marco Reus has been the best? - © Getty

Is Marco Reus playing his best ever football for Borussia Dortmund?


"Saying 'this is the best Reus ever' is a bit over the top for me," so said the man himself when questioned by Süddeutsche Zeitung last season. Is the Borussia Dortmund captain right? He has just been named Germany's Footballer of the Year after enjoying his most prolific campaign since claiming the prize for the first time in 2012...

As far as can tell, there have been three distinct peaks in Reus' 10-year Bundesliga career:

  • The marauding forward who fired Borussia Mönchengladbach into the UEFA Champions League in 2012 after a career best 18 Bundesliga goals.
  • Dortmund's Reus 1.0: the attacking wide man who helped Jürgen Klopp's men to the Champions League final in 2013, attracting admiring glances from Barcelona and beyond.
  • Dortmund's Reus 2.0: the string-pulling captain who steered Dortmund to the top of the table for 20 weeks of the 2018/19 season from a hitherto unseen No. 10 role.

Time to investigate…

Gladbach's galloping Foal

Reus may have spent 10 years in Dortmund's youth academy, but it was Gladbach who gave him his Bundesliga debut in August 2009. Die Schwarzgelben had let Reus leave for Rot Weiss Ahlen aged 17 with his physical stature in question, but less than three years later he was scoring his first Bundesliga goal for the Foals following a slaloming 55-yard run against Mainz.

Watch: Reus's best moments (skip to 4:54 for the wonder-goal against Mainz)

Reus spent three seasons with Gladbach, the last of which saw him playing in his most advanced role to date. Lining up alongside, if slightly behind, Mike Hanke in Lucien Favre's 4-4-2 formation, Reus contributed 13 assists alongside his 18 goals. With a direct hand in a goal every 90 minutes he played, it's little wonder Reus helped Gladbach pull up a chair to Europe's top table for the first time since their 1970s Jupp Heynckes-led heyday.

Key facts:

  • 18 goals, 13 assists as Gladbach finished fourth.
  • 80 per cent pass completion in the final third.
  • Germany's Footballer of the Year for 2012.

The apple of Europe's eye

Dortmund, no doubt regretting their decision to release Reus five-and-a-half years before, duly re-signed the now nascent talent in January 2012. Having roared to back-to-back Bundesliga titles, current Liverpool manager Klopp was reluctant to change a winning formula that had seen Robert Lewandowski score 22 goals at the tip of his 4-2-3-1 formation the previous campaign. Reus was repurposed as a wide attacker playing off the Pole, sharing touchline duties with Jakub Blaszczykowski in his first season and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in his second.

Not yet wrestling with the ankle injuries that cost him nearly 150 days of competitive first-team action between June 2014 and January 2015, Reus was a force unleashed in his early years under Klopp. Right-footed, he had the pace and trickery to cut inside at will, making or taking 26 Bundesliga goals in his first campaign, as well as chipping in with four goals and two assists in the Champions League to set up an all-Bundesliga final, in which BVB were edged 2-1 by Klassiker rivals Bayern. Reus' domestic output even climbed to 16 goals and 16 assists the following season…

So close but yet so far: Jürgen Klopp (c.) and Marco Reus (r.) were denied European glory by Bayern Munich in 2013. - imago/Bernd Kˆnig

At the height of his powers, Reus missed only six Bundesliga games during his first two years at the Signal Iduna Park. He reached a top speed of 21.2 miles per hour (not topped since), beat his man an average of eight times per game, and covered more than seven miles per 90 minutes. Lionel Messi reportedly doubted that Reus would be a good fit at Barcelona. In retrospect, one suspects he may not have wanted to share the limelight.

Key facts:

  • Played 62 Bundesliga games in his first two BVB seasons.
  • Had a direct hand in 58 league goals in that time.
  • Champions League finalist and DFL Supercup winner in 2013.

Aging like wine?

So, what about the Reus of today? Now 30, the BVB captain has been repurposed as a No. 10 by his former Gladbach mentor, Favre. A smidgen of pace has gone - Reus' top speed this season is a still respectable 20.7 mph - but the extra yard in his head leaves him ahead of almost every opponent he comes up against.

"I've learned to accept that my body might not be built for the full 60 games in a season," says Reus, despite playing more minutes than all but three outfield colleagues in 2018/19. "My body needs a break here and then, especially because of the sprint-intensive position I'm playing in attack."

Watch: How Reus makes Dortmund tick

Reus ended the season with 17 goals and eight assists - his best return since his breakout season with Gladbach - and all the more impressive given he now plays in a deeper position. Whether he can tally the same number of games this season - or indeed with the same incredible output - remains to be seen, but if Dortmund are to end their eight-year wait for the title, a fit and firing Reus will be key.

Key facts:

  • A direct hand in a goal every 93 minutes.
  • An average of 52 touches and 30 passes completed per game.
  • Dortmund's top assist provider since detailed data collection began.

From galloping young Foal to Bundesliga thoroughbred, Reus has been a joy to behold throughout his career. And there's nothing "over the top" about that claim.