Marco Reus is a one-club man at heart, but his love for Borussia Dortmund wasn't always mutual. It took a three-year affair with Borussia Mönchengladbach for the Black-Yellows to realise what they were missing...
Raised in Dortmund, Reus was just six when he joined his beloved hometown club. He spent 10 years in the BVB youth academy, before being deemed too slight for the pros, aged 17. "It was very painful for me to leave‚" he told The Guardian of his enforced switch to pastures new with nearby Rot-Weiß Ahlen. "When you spend your whole youth career at one club, you want to make the next step - especially when you support that team."
Reus channelled his frustrations productively. An eye-catching introductory stint with the Ahlen U19s paved the way to the reserves and, at the start of 2007/08, the senior set-up. He played 16 times in Germany's third tier as the Westphalian outfit secured promotion to Bundesliga 2. Four goals and three assists across 27 appearances at that level prompted five-time Bundesliga winners Gladbach to make their move.
Watch: The Marco Reus story
Just weeks after making his Bundesliga debut, Reus scored his first goal in Germany's top flight, and it was a suggestive strike. A slaloming 55-yard run through almost the entire Mainz team and composed finish ensured everybody at the stadium that day left talking about Dortmund's lean and lithe one that got away.
Reus consistently lived up to those lofty standards, scoring eight in his debut season and a further 10, as Gladbach's top scorer, to help the Foals secure their top-flight status via the play-offs the following campaign. In his swansong year, Reus' 18 goals propelled Gladbach to a UEFA Champions League play-off berth.
All told, the nimble attacker registered 36 goals and 25 assists across his three seasons at the club, establishing himself as one of the most coveted players in German football. Understandably, he more than flirted with the idea of prolonging his stay before being lured home by then Dortmund head coach Jürgen Klopp.
"On the one hand, I was very happy at Gladbach," the 2012 Germany Player of the Year recalled in an interview with DAZN. "We had a strong side and I really wanted some continuity. I felt that we could grow as a team and play European football in the seasons ahead, something which Gladbach hadn't managed for years.
"But on the other hand, chances to return to your hometown club don't come along often. I wrote down a list of pros and cons, and pretty quickly came to the decision that I wanted to move to BVB. It was a matter of the heart."
Reus has been bleeding black-and-yellow blood ever since, making some 402 competitive appearances for his beloved club. The three-time Bundesliga Player of the Season has produced 165 goals and 123 assists ahead of his Gladbach reunion on Matchday 12 of 2023/24, whilst winning two DFB Cups, three Supercups, playing in a Champions League final and captaining the club between 2018 and 2023.
Watch: Marco Reus - a modern-day Bundesliga legend
"Dortmund is my home, BVB is my club," Reus said after signing a one-year contract extension with his echte Liebe (the German for 'true love' - Dortmund's club motto) in summer 2023. "I always said I would prefer to only play for Dortmund in my career."
It might not have played out quite how he wanted, but Reus's Ahlen diversion and his Gladbach years, in particular, doubtless shaped him into the Dortmund legend he is today.
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