Marco Reus: Football’s Greatest Underachiever

Five times in the Bundesliga team of the season, voted the Bundesliga’s best player in 2011-12 and 2013-14, German Player of the Year in 2012, UEFA Champions League Team of the Season in 2013. Quite astonishingly, it took Marco Reus 27 years and 361 days to achieve his first major trophy.

Borussia Dortmund’s 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt in the final of the DFB-Pokal (Germany’s premier cup competition) was their first trophy since May 2012.

Reus had re-joined his former club Dortmund from Borussia Mönchengladbach for a fee of €17.1 million and trophies looked a certainty. The club had just won their second league title in a row after Reus had agreed to join when the season had finished.

Reus was in the Dortmund youth system between the age of seven to 17, before his release forced the German to sign for third tier Rot Weiss Ahlen. Several impressive performances that led the club to promotion earned Reus a transfer to Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2009. 41 goals in 109 games and a string of Germany call ups piqued the interest of Dortmund, who promptly persuaded Reus with a five-year deal four years later.

Reus was determined to seize his second chance at Dortmund and became a key player instantly, scored 19 goals in his first season, improving with 23 in his second. Reus cites his idol as Tomáš Rosický and quickly emulated the performances of the former Czech international, who played for Dortmund between 2001-2006.

Forming a lethal partnership behind Robert Lewandowski with Mario Götze, Franz Beckenbauer hailed the playmaking-partnership as “the strongest midfield duo” in world football.

The trio came agonisingly close to silverware in their only full season together, finishing as runners-up in the Bundesliga and the UEFA Champions League. As Götze left in the pursuit of more silverware, Lewandowski’s eyes began to wander and Reus became the figurehead for Dortmund’s plight to stop the juggernaut of Bayern Munich.

After Lewandowski’s exit in 2014, Reus’s injuries have become increasingly common. Since the start of 2015 he has missed 358 days through injury.

After joining Dortmund, Reus was a key cog in the German machine, with a goal in his first start at a major tournament against Greece in 2012. Reus looked certain to be an integral part of Germany’s ultimately successful 2014 world cup campaign, however, tragedy struck and Reus was ruled out for two months after picking up an injury during a 6-1 warm-up win over Armenia, days before the tournament.

The talent of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Ilkay Gundogan and Mats Hummels all left after 2015-16 and yet another season with an empty trophy cabinet occurred. As Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang began to find his feet as Dortmund’s best player, Reus’s injuries have become common, and lengthy. A pelvis injury ruled him out for 175 days at the start of the current season, before a muscle fibre tear saw him miss over a month just before the season run in.

After another unsuccessful Bundesliga campaign, Dortmund and Reus found their luck in the cup. Penalty wins over Union Berlin and Hertha Berlin were sandwiched by comfortable victories over lower-tier opposition. Reus scored in two of his three cup games, including the impressive 3-2 win away to Bayern in the semi-final which left Dortmund on the brink once more.

The final against Frankfurt was far from a foregone conclusion, with Dortmund losing in the final for the previous three seasons. A masterclass from Ousmane Dembélé won the game 2-1 after Reus was withdrawn in the 46th minute with a suspected ruptured cruciate ligament.

Despite the victory, Reus looks set to spend his 28th birthday on the treatment table as his career takes another turbulent twist. With Aubameyang Paris Saint-Germain bound, Dortmund may once more rely on a young batch of talent and the fitness of Reus in their attempts to succeed on all fronts next season.

Despite his obvious talent, Reus’s loyalty has undoubtedly hindered his ability to win trophies. With a single winners’ medal to compare with the three league titles Lewandowski has won at Bayern, did Reus make a mistake in not looking elsewhere? His unwavering love for his club – despite them releasing him as a teenager – is truly admirable, and with several seasons still to play, the footballing world hopes he will get the league title his performances have deserved.

With Francesco Totti retiring after 25 Serie A seasons with just a single league title to his name, are the benefits of loyalty now outmatched by the riches and promise of titles by Europe’s elite?

As his cup final injury looks set to rule Reus out for another six months, it looks increasingly unlikely that the winger will fulfil his immense potential. One thing that remains certain is that his love for Dortmund won’t falter. A true club legend, in a time when they are few and far between.


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