Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus has proven time and time again that his never-say-die attitude is stronger than most. The Germany international has consistently returned from injuries better than before and besides his love of football, there’s one main inspiration that keeps the BVB captain coming back for more.
For the second season in a row, Dortmund fell narrowly short in their bid for their first Bundesliga title since 2012. For 31-year-old Reus, who will be heading into his ninth season with Dortmund and 12th in the Bundesliga overall in 2020/21, it's the only thing missing from his time with his boyhood club.
It's part of the reason why the attacking midfielder continues to return from injury and stay upbeat in his search for a league title. Reus will go again at the start of the new campaign, after suffering an unfortunate injury midway through what had been turning into his best-ever season; he had 11 goals and five assists through the first 19 games of 2019/20.
Watch: Dortmund's 2019/20 season review
Previous injury setbacks, as well as the birth of his first child last year, have given the Germany international a new sense of perspective, and he now prefers to focus on having fun in order to achieve his ultimate goal. A vital ingredient for any success, in his journeyed eyes.
"Obviously my main aim is to win the championship with BVB," Reus told Dortmund's YouTube channel. "If that doesn't spur me on, what will?
"And it's important for me personally and for the team to have fun, because you won't achieve much if you're not having fun. Toughness, determination in training, motivation and so on all have to be there, but it's important that you enjoy being in the dressing room every day. You know that you're in a kind of bubble in the dressing room, and you also know that in three or four years' time it won't be there anymore, so it's important to savour every moment and have fun."
Last season, the gap between champions Bayern and runners-up Dortmund was just two points - but in 2019/20 that was extended to 13. The big question that has been consistently asked throughout Bayern’s eight-year period of dominance is, what can Dortmund do to change the outcome at the end of the campaign?
For Reus, Dortmund are as close to winning the title again as they have been in all his time with the club, with their consistency and performances against Bayern across both meetings - a 4-0 defeat the Allianz Arena and 1-0 defeat at home - through the season proving the vital missing pieces of the puzzle.
"Not much – there's a lot of speculation if it's because of this, or that, but you basically have to have a perfect season," Reus said when asked what's missing for BVB. "In the second half of this season we showed that we'd got that consistency, and I think since Lucien [Favre] came in we've gained that consistency throughout the season. It hasn't yet been enough to win the big prize, but you can see that we've got closer.
Watch: The last time BVB beat Bayern in the league - and Reus scored twice!
"It's also important to win the games against Bayern, as they're our main rivals," Reus continued. "We've done well at home, especially the game the season before last when we won 3-2, but we have to start winning the away games in Munich to give ourselves the best chance of winning the title. That's what will make the difference, and it has made the difference in the last few years."
The 2019/20 season will go down as an unforgettable one for many different reasons, regardless of the outcome for Dortmund, with the coronavirus pandemic changing the shape of society and football as we knew it before the Bundesliga became the first major European league to restart in May.
For Reus it was an opportunity to further make his mark on his native Dortmund. The BVB captain set up the 'Help your Hometown' initiative with his wife to help local businesses through the difficult times during the pandemic, an initiative which local boy Reus will continue to play a huge role in even after the current crisis settles down.
"One really great story was how we supported the theatre in Dortmund. They said, 'Okay, you're giving us something, so we want to give something back', so give and take, and they're now supporting the Children's Village in Dortmund by performing there. It's something we want to build on in the future, rather than taking any steps back, and launch more initiatives."