It’s been three full seasons since Marco Reus last cracked 20 Bundesliga starts in a single campaign, but performances like the one Borussia Dortmund’s star man laid down against Nuremberg are proof he’s back to his very best in an exciting time for him and his club.
Dortmund enjoyed a perfect team win against Nuremberg, smashing seven goals past the newly promoted side. It would be easy not to look beyond the eye-catching scoreline, but there was one man who stood out from the crowd as the incredible show’s agent provocateur: the new man with the armband at the Signal Iduna Park.
Reus’ first of two goals on the night came almost half-an-hour after Jacob Bruun Larsen’s ninth-minute opener. The 23 minutes in between allowed Dortmund’s visitors to show signs of life in attack. It was beginning to feel like the type of game that has come back to bite Dortmund in recent months and years, taking the lead but not making the most of it when they need to. Captain Reus, however, was not going to let that happen.
With Nuremberg brewing rebellion, Reus stepped up at the perfect time to rip the game away from them in an instant. An attempted block on his piledriver from the edge of the box wasn’t enough to stop the Germany international making the scoreline far more comfortable at 2-0 before the break and move himself onto 99 BVB strikes.
"It was important for us that Christian Pulisic and Jacob Bruun Larsen made the early goal so well," Reus explained. "After that, we ran riot and created a lot of chances that we turned into goals."
It was largely thanks to Reus they did so. In a starting line-up laden with young talents such as Bruun Larsen, Christian Pulisic, Dan-Axel Zagadou, Achraf Hakimi and Maximilian Philipp, Dortmund needed — and will continue to need — a leader to help guide the über-talented but inexperienced squad in decisive games such as these. Reus — who could be seen barking orders as he patrolled the space between midfield and the forward line — was dictating play even when all he could do was point at the next man for his teammates to pass to.
It’s the leadership Dortmund need on the pitch, and which also allowed them to take the game away from Nuremberg in the second half early thanks to Hakimi’s first goal for the club. The assist was provided by none other than Reus, leading a famously blistering Dortmund counter-attack before being composed enough to find the right man in the right spot to ensure the most was made of the opportunity.
Reus was everywhere in the game, whether calming the ball in midfield, or beginning counter-attacks with the pace of Pulisic and Philipp ahead of him. His night became perfect on 58 minutes as he added his second, slotting a first-time, inside-of-the-foot finish into the far bottom corner from Bruun Larsen’s assist. It was an appropriately classy way to bring up his 100th Dortmund goal in all competitions and his seventeenth career Bundesliga brace.
"It means a lot to me, I'm really proud," said the Dortmund-born star. "It's been a long wait, but I hope that it's not the last goal I've scored for BVB. I hope things will keep going in the same vein."
Reus had more shots on goal (three) than the entire Nuremberg team combined (two) and only needed 62 minutes to make sure of all three points, being replaced by Shinji Kagawa just after the hour mark.
After a successful FIFA World Cup on a personal level, Reus has returned to Dortmund and taken the next step in his career in his stride. Replacing Marcel Schmelzer as the club’s captain this summer, his decision to stay with his boyhood heroes for the foreseeable future places him as a prime role model for one of the most exciting young teams in the Bundesliga and Europe.
The role of captain is clearly bringing the best out of Reus.
For the first time in the 29-year-old’s career, he has had a direct hand in five goals after five matches. With "the best coach I've ever had" – his own words – Lucien Favre in charge, Reus’ form is set up for a big season ahead, provided his desperate luck with injuries improves. There is a good chance it will if he can exit stage right with half-an-hour to play, the game already in the bag thanks largely to his own immense talent.