A German and European institution, Borussia Dortmund has long been home to some of the globe's finest football talent. With five Bundesliga titles, four German Cups and one UEFA Champions League in the club trophy cabinet, there has certainly never been a lack of star dust around the Signal Iduna Park, but which players would make it into an all-time XI?
Designed to provoke debate, here is a BVB all-time XI chosen by the brains at bundesliga.com towers. There could have been – and in some cases, there were – arguments for several others, but let the discussions now commence.
Perhaps best known worldwide for a bus trick he conjured up with Nuri Sahin in 2011 going viral before virality was in vogue, Weidenfeller doubles up as Borussia Dortmund's finest ever goalkeeper and has made almost 350 Bundesliga appearances for BVB since arriving from Kaiserslautern in summer 2002 at the age of 21.
A key member of Jürgen Klopp's freewheeling, high-pressing side around the turn of the decade and crucial in the double-winning 2011/12 campaign, Weidenfeller often stood in as captain in Sebastian Kehl's stead. Now 37 and the grandfather of this young BVB unit, Weidenfeller is always on hand in case of injury or crisis.
Despite losing his place upon Roman Bürki's arrival in 2015, it is credit to the man that he has never complained in public, rather putting his head down and working harder. Although perhaps not the most comfortable with the ball at his feet, Weidenfeller has always been an excellent shot-stopper and commanding in his area.
Too often lists such as this have a conscious bias in favour of retired players from halcyon eras – and the point here is that Stefan Reuter (currently sporting director at Augsburg) would have been a worthy inclusion – but it would be criminal to overlook BVB's flying Pole, a footballer good enough that CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke deemed his absence a key reason for BVB's struggles under Peter Bosz.
Indeed, Piszczek, who was influential in the back-to-back Bundesliga triumphs under Klopp, continues to produce one top-notch performance after another – even at 32. While most from the Klopp era have moved on (and some, such as Mario Götze and Shinji Kagawa, have since returned), the Poland international has improved and also thrived under the guidance of Thomas Tuchel, helping the club to the DFB Cup triumph in 2016/17.
Watch: Check out Piszczek's top five Bundesliga goals!
Described as an "on-field human stop sign," by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Kohler was known to Dortmund fans simply as "Fußballgott" (football God). That moniker was coined after a legendary display at Old Trafford in the 1997 UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester United. Kohler made no fewer than three clearances off the line (from David Beckham, Eric Cantona and Ryan Giggs) to help BVB secure a 2-0 aggregate triumph after Lars Ricken's early goal on the night. The defensive masterclass was made all the more impressive given that Kohler had been suffering from gastroenteritis in the build-up.
Of course, BVB went onto win the European Cup that season, and while Kohler's nickname might have stemmed from one performance, it is not just his efforts in the one game for which he is remembered. The 1990 FIFA World Cup winner made 191 top-flight outings for BVB between 1995 and 2002, adding two Bundesliga titles to an already-overflowing trophy cabinet.
A brilliant centre-back famed for his rough-and-ready tackling style, Kohler was fittingly dismissed in his final BVB appearance in 2002 – in a 3-2 UEFA Cup final defeat to Feyenoord in Rotterdam. Reminiscing about his career in an interview with 11Freunde in 2012, Kohler said, with a tinge of regret, "the times when you could follow your opposite number right to the toilet [while marking him] are long gone."
It is quite strange that one of the Bundesliga's finest defenders and best players of the modern era often receives criticism for a perceived inability to defend.
During his time in Dortmund, between 2008 and 2016, Hummels developed into one of the world's prototype modern centre-backs: good in possession, a fine reader of the game, unerring in the tackle and strong in the air. The Bergisch Gladbach native formed a fine partnership with Neven Subotic as Klopp's tyros took first Germany and then Europe by storm at the start of the decade, and always carried a certain authority both in and outside the dressing room. Indeed, Hummels walking into the mixed zone was always a cue for the assembled journalists to rush over, knowing that the defender would deliver a fair, honest assessment.
Made captain in 2014, Hummels was a pivotal figure during the recent glory years but also took his game to a new level following the appointment of Tuchel, adding marauding forward runs and audacious passes (does anyone play the outside-of-the-boot pass better in the modern game?) to an already broad skillset. While the manner of his departure to boyhood club Bayern Munich in 2016 left a sour taste for some, Hummels' quality as a player was never in doubt.
Watch: Check out Hummels' top five Bundesliga goals in the video below!
Typically Brazilian in that he was perhaps more comfortable going forward than defending, Dede was unfortunate that his best days in the mid-2000s coincided with a certain Roberto Carlos in the Brazil left-back spot.
What a servant Dede was for another side in yellow, though. The Belo Horizonte native might only have won one Selecao cap, but he made 322 Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund between 1998 and 2011, sitting third on the all-time list by Brazilians in the top flight.
Granted a fantastic send-off in 2011 after helping to usher in Klopp's glory days by winning the Bundesliga title, Dede is still remembered fondly at the Signal Iduna Park.
When voted by fans into BVB's team of the century, Dede told schwatzgelb.de it was "one of the best things that had ever happened since being in Dortmund," continuing: "I didn't play at the top level all the time, but I always gave 100 per cent and went for every ball. That is how I am. I am really happy that the fans noticed that. I didn't earn that by giving interviews or with TV ads. I earned that on the pitch."
A superstar before the era of superstars, Möller was one of the most exciting players Germany has ever produced. The Frankfurt native enjoyed two spells at BVB (1988-1990; 1994-2000), and while the manner of his eventual departure to Schalke in 2000 caused much consternation among Dortmund matchgoers, it was in part because they had seen the playmaker's talent at first hand.
Those gifts evident from an early age, Dortmund coughed up the astronomical sum of 2.5 million Deutschmarks to sign Möller from hometown club Eintracht Frankfurt at the age of 20. The investment paid off as Möller scored one of the finest goals in club history against Hannover in a 5-1 win in 1989 - needing only seven touches to beat three opposition players, he slalomed from his own half into the box, before chipping the onrushing keeper – and helped BVB to the DFB Cup in 1989, a triumph that perhaps marked the beginning of the modern Dortmund era.
After spells back at Frankfurt and Juventus, Möller returned in 1994 and played a key role in back-to-back Bundesliga titles and the Champions League triumph in 1997, even at 32.
"I was never the sort of player who would guarantee winning a title, but wherever I went, something always happened," said Möller, who also won 85 Germany caps. A total of 301 games, 88 goals and 83 assists in Dortmund colours certainly attests to that.
Matthias Sammer (captain)
Much as with Kohler, you can pinpoint the moment Sammer the player found his way into Borussia Dortmund hearts. During a 3-3 draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach in November 1994, Sammer – having suffered a serious gash to the forehead – walked off the pitch, had the wound sewn up without anaesthetic, and walked straight back on. The scar is still visible above his eye today.
It is a tale that sums up Sammer's relentless drive for perfection (in his post-match press conference after Borussia Dortmund sealed the Bundesliga title under his stewardship in 2002, Sammer continued to find flaws in his side's performance), a drive that took him to the heights of world and European game. After joining Dortmund from Inter Milan in January 1993, Sammer twice won the Bundesliga, once the Champions League, was crowned German Player of the Year in 1995 and 1996 and won the Ballon d'Or in 1996.
Not that the individual awards ever bothered him; Sammer was all about the collective, to which he contributed plenty. His first half-season started with a bang, the Dresden native scoring 10 goals in 17 games in early 1993. The following season, he was moved back to play as a sweeper in front of the defence and while the goals decreased, Sammer's influence increased – culminating in the red baron skippering the club to their to-date only Champions League triumph in 1997.
"Michael Zorc represents BVB unlike any other person – he's been part of the club since 1978 and has enjoyed great success as both a player and a sporting director," said Watzke in 2014 when Zorc extended his contract as sporting director by five years.
Architect of the club's lauded transfer policy in recent years, Zorc was also the architect of all Borussia Dortmund's attacks in midfield for almost 20 years until 1998. Nicknamed 'Susi' on account of his long, flowing locks when he arrived at the club, Zorc went on to become BVB's all-time leading appearance-maker in the Bundesliga, turning out on 462 occasions in the top flight.
As if that was not enough, Zorc, who first visited the Westfalenstadion at the age of 12 when BVB were in the second tier, is also the club's second-highest Bundesliga goalscorer ever, having found the net on 131 occasions. That was in part down to his prowess from the spot: Zorc scored 49 of 57 penalties he took.
An all-action midfielder who was incredibly powerful in the air and possessed an eye for the spectacular, Zorc is living proof that intelligence on the pitch often correlates to intelligence off it. Since taking over as sporting director in the early 2000s, he has crafted Dortmund's image over and over again and although Arsenal were reportedly interested in securing his services recently, Zorc being anywhere but Dortmund quite simply would not feel right.
With a total of 135 goals in 224 games between 1976 and 1983, Burgsmüller is the finest goalscorer in Dortmund's Bundesliga history – bar none. It is, however, a curious quirk of fate that in that time he never finished with the Torjägerkanone, or prize for top scorer.
Comfortable leading the line or as a second striker, Burgsmüller captained the club between 1979 and 1983 and is remembered as a cult figure in Dortmund, in part thanks to a catchy chant that ran "Manni Manni Manni Burgsmüller" to the tune of Abba's 'Money, Money, Money'.
Although Burgsmüller won no major honours at BVB, he did pick up a Bundesliga title later in his career at Werder Bremen, and – after retiring at the age of 41 – he went into American Football, representing the Rhein Fire and winning two World Bowl titles, the most important trophy in the sport after the Superbowl.
A record of 101 goals in 217 Bundesliga games in Dortmund colours – the fourth-finest all-time return – is testament to Chapuisat's mercurial talents.
Possessing a wand of a left foot, Chapuisat was as comfortable creating goals as scoring them – although score them in some style he could. The Swiss might have insisted after his career that his favourite goal was always the one that put his side 1-0 ahead, but few will forget his overhead kick against Auxerre, for example, or the way he stated that "Borussia is better than Italy," when Roma came looking to sign him.
On the receiving end of Oliver Kahn's famous kung-fu kick when Dortmund were setting the pace domestically and Bayern were playing catch-up, Chapuisat twice won the Bundesliga with Borussia, as well as the 1997 Champions League. "We had a great team back then," Chapuisat told 11Freunde. "That was definitely my best period in Germany." While Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has a claim, in this instance, Chapuisat's trophy return gets him the nod.
By virtue of trophies, Lewandowski also gets the nod over Aubameyang in the all-time XI stakes. While the Gabon striker (98) scored more Bundesliga goals for BVB than the Pole (74), Lewandowski proved the perfect frontman and focal point during Klopp's great era.
Hard-working, eager to learn and physically less imposing than he is nowadays, Lewandowski had to wait for his chance up front with Lucas Barrios and Nelson Valdez ahead of him in the pecking order and played a bit-part role in the 2010/11 title-winning season, returning eight goals in 33 games.
The chance came the next campaign, though, and the former Lech Poznan hitman began his rise to the very top of the world game: 22 goals in 34 Bundesliga games and seven goals in six DFB Cup outings as BVB romped to the double.
Over 100 goals in total with BVB prove testament to Lewandowski's relentless goalscoring, since honed at Bayern, with the highlight perhaps the four-goal salvo in the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid at a rocking Signal Iduna Park. He might have left in acrimonious circumstances, but a place in two Bundesliga all-time XIs underlines his claim to be one of modern football's best strikers.
Watch: Click play on the video below to enjoy all 74 of Lewandowski's Bundesliga goals! for BVB
Upon Klopp's only return to the Signal Iduna Park as the opposition coach – in charge of Liverpool in the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals in April 2016 – there was a moment when he stood on the halfway line during the warm-ups, looking at the Dortmund team, and beyond them to the Gelbe Wand in all its glory. Perhaps, just perhaps, Klopp was wondering whether leaving what was a match made in heaven the previous summer had been the right decision.
Indeed, Klopp was the perfect coach for BVB: although not from the region, he was a man who understood the locals and personified both their work ethic and passion for their club, in the process turning that club into one of Europe's most feared.
Cultivating and pioneering the Gegenpressing style of football that has since become synonymous with the club and the Bundesliga, Klopp took BVB to two league titles, a DFB Cup and the Champions League final, catching the imaginations of a country and continent and bloodying the noses of Europe's aristocrats, Bayern and Real Madrid, along the way.
"Thank you, Jürgen," read a banner on the Südtribune on the day of his final home game, a 3-2 win against Werder Bremen. "It'll be a long time until we understand just how precious these moments were."