Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus is set to make his 250th Bundesliga appearance for his hometown club when they face Revierderby rivals Schalke on Matchday 27. bundesliga.com pays tribute to the BVB legend.
Reus, now in his 11th season at BVB, could have reached the landmark a lot sooner had injury and illness not limited his time on the pitch. Still, his extraordinary longevity at one club is almost unheard of elsewhere these days.
"It was always a dream to play for this club, whose fans I feel connected to," Reus, Dortmund born and bred, said. "It's so much fun to play in our stadium and especially to celebrate a win with the fans. For me, it's the fulfilment of a childhood dream."
But as he prepares to make his 250th Bundesliga appearance for the club, the 33-year-old's childhood dream of pulling on the Dortmund shirt worn by his idol Tomas Rosicky in the first decade of the millennium initially looked like it would never happen.
"I still don't understand it," said Reus of how — having joined the club aged six — and worked his way up to U17 level, he was told 'Auf Wiedersehen' by Dortmund, who were unconvinced his frail physique would develop sufficiently to provide the firm platform on which a top-class career is built.
"I had had a good pre-season and had imagined something for myself. I came off the bench in the first game of the season to play at right-back. That, of course, was not satisfactory," explained Reus. "It quite quickly became clear to me that the season would be tough."
At an away game against Rot-Weiss Ahlen, Reus's father, Thomas, grasped the nettle and asked the club — some 35 miles to the north west of Dortmund and the family home — to give his son a trial. "It was the case that the initiative [to leave Dortmund] came from me," said Reus in 2019. "I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was incredibly difficult to understand."
Watch: Reus returns to haunt his former club Mönchengladbach
With hindsight, Dortmund and their fans will surely say the same thing, but — as so often in his career — Reus bounced back. He stepped up level after level at Ahlen alongside future Dortmund teammate Kevin Großkreutz, who had also been rejected by his hometown club at first, and then at Borussia Mönchengladbach before returning in 2012 to his first football love as a bona fide Bundesliga star and Germany's Player of the Year.
Aged 23, Reus stepped onto the pitch as a Dortmund player, joining a side that had just won back-to-back Bundesliga titles under Jürgen Klopp. The future looked bright for the local hero in yellow and black, and so it has proven.
Reus is already 11th on the list of the club's all-time appearance makers, having recently overtaken double Bundesliga winner Sebastian Kehl, who replaced Michael Zorc as Dortmund's sporting director in the summer. Zorc, incidentally, is number one in the appearance chart, and though Reus may not reach his total of 572 games for the club, he is fast closing in on the top ten.
With 159 goals, Zorc is second on Dortmund's all-time scorer ranking, one ahead of Manfred Burgsmüller and 15 behind Adi Preißler: Reus, however, lies on 156 in all competitions having overtaken club legends Timo Konietzka and Lothar Emmerich — after whom Dortmund's mascot 'Emma' is named — during the 2021/22 campaign.
Having become only the fifth BVB player to score 100 league goals for the club when he found the net on the opening day of the 2021/22 season, he then pulled level with Stephane Chapuisat — a member of Dortmund's fabled 1996/97 UEFA Champions League-winning side — on 102 Bundesliga goals with his strike in the defeat to RB Leipzig on Matchday 11 in 2021/22. He has since eased clear of the former Switzerland international, is now fourth on the club's all-time league scorer's list and is closing fast on Burgsmüller in third.
Reus would almost certainly have had many more goals had his game been purely focussed on scoring. "He's our captain and he plays and acts like one," former coach Marco Rose said in October 2021. "He is an outstanding footballer who puts the team first." A statement backed up by the fact it was made just after Reus had racked up his 100th Bundesliga assist for Dortmund in the win against Augsburg, becoming the club's only player ever to reach a century for goals and assists.
"I enjoy every minute on the pitch with him," said former teammate Mario Götze in 2018. "Sometimes Marco makes runs that make space so that someone else can get the ball," added Marcel Schmelzer, who joined Dortmund in 2005 just after Reus had decided to move to Ahlen. "When Marco is there, he makes the team and each and every one of us better."
Reus was named Dortmund captain by Lucien Favre — the man who had overseen his emergence at Gladbach — ahead of the 2018/19 season. His experience, qualities and unflinching commitment to the cause made him, and still make him, the obvious choice to wear the armband.
"I look up to Marco Reus because he's a very big player, I look up to him like an idol," said ex-teammate Jadon Sancho, the England international who left Dortmund to join Manchester United in summer 2021. "It's good to have him on the pitch talking to me and giving me advice, because when he tells me things I listen."
Reus can also give advice on how to handle setbacks. He lost three successive DFB Cup finals before finally getting his hands on the trophy with the win over Frankfurt in the 2017 final. And even then, the triumph was tinged by a setback. "I couldn't really sprint anymore," said Reus after his team's win. "Perhaps it's a bit of a cruciate ligament injury, but today I'll take that."
Watch: The evolution of Marco Reus
It was indeed a ligament injury that would sideline him for whole first half of the 2017/18 campaign, and his phlegmatic approach to the setback was born of bitter experience.
Reus would no doubt have played more games, scored more goals and — most likely — had more winner’s medals than the two DFB Cup victories he has celebrated with Dortmund if he had not spent quite so much time in the treatment room.
His career has been peppered with injury lay-offs, and while his timing on the pitch is often laser-precise, that of destiny has been cruel. "Congratulations to the whole team! Your dream has come true! And thanks to my bro for the gesture," wrote Reus on social media after seeing his shirt held up by Götze after scoring the winning goal at the 2014 FIFA World Cup final. Reus would have been on the Maracana pitch himself, winner's medal around his neck, but for an ankle ligament injury suffered in a friendly days before departure for Brazil.
"I agree, but I've always come back," said Reus in reply to a question about how his national team career has been "tinged by tragedy." He did come back spectacularly for Dortmund under Thomas Tuchel in the 8-4 UEFA Champions League win over Legia Warsaw in November 2016 after being out with an adductor injury since the DFB Cup final defeat to Bayern Munich the previous season.
That night, he scored twice in the competition's highest-scoring fixture, and he netted 17 times and racked up 11 assists in the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign — his best yet in a Dortmund shirt — in what was his first full season back after the lengthy lay-off provoked by the 2016/17 cup final injury.
"Of course I had to accept a lot of setbacks, but I couldn't just say: 'All right, now I'm injured again, then I'll stop!' It's not that the injuries mean that I no longer have the incentive to practice the sport that I love so much and that gives me so much joy every day," said Reus, explaining the philosophy that has seen him make comeback after comeback in his remarkable career.
"In this respect, it's actually quite simple: You have to motivate yourself. Patience is required. You have to say to yourself: 'Okay, that's the way it is now, you'll deal with it too.' There are far worse things in the world. That's why injuries are really small things for me."
Ironically, his injuries have also taught him how to stay fit. "I had a very frank discussion with Hansi Flick. For us, it was important to look carefully at the workload, to get the amount right," said Reus in November 2021 to explain why he and the Germany coach had agreed to allow him to leave the get-together early.
"We've got a lot of injuries in Dortmund right now, so I have played almost every game. I now know my body very well after all the injuries, and I know when a break is necessary."
Reus' watchful health husbandry means he missed just five league games last season, and only two in the 2020/21 campaign. His current contract runs through to 2023, and — though he turned 33 in May this year — he believes there is more to come. And he will do it, of course, in a Dortmund shirt.
"We haven’t had any talks yet. But I've already extended my contract twice, especially in times when things weren't going particularly well from a sporting point of view. So why shouldn't I do it now?" Reus said in a recent interview. "As far as I’m concerned, BVB is my club, Dortmund is my hometown and I'd like to finish my career here."
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