How Marco Reus has stayed true to his roots
'Reus represents Dortmund - the city, the community, and most importantly, the football club'
The biggest news of the day was that Marco Reus hadn’t agreed to join TSV Winsen, the amateur club that has joked on Twitter about courting the 25-year-old over the last few months.
Winsen - 25km southeast of Hamburg - certainly wasn’t the first choice destination for Reus, but the German international finally eased fears of being prized away on his release clause this summer when he agreed to extend his contract at Borussia Dortmund until 2019.
A crucial detail in the fine print: Reus could play for Dortmund in the German second division - contracts need to be valid for each individual league, according to the statues of the German Football League (DFL).
But while the Dortmund hierarchy of Hans Joachim Watzke (CEO) and Michael Zorc (Sporting Director) completed one of the bodacious deals in the club’s modern history, something intangible struck a chord with the supporters.
For Reus represents Dortmund - the city, the community, and most importantly, the football club.
What was overlooked was that the Reus’ situation was very unique: neither Robert Lewandowski nor Bavarian-born Mario Götze, two highly-valued footballers in their own right, had roots cemented in the region.
“Marco loves Dortmund. He lives there and grew up in Dortmund,” said current German U17 coach Christian Wück who coached Reus for 18 matches at Rot-Weiss Ahlen.
“I think it’s really important for him to love the place that he’s in. He’s a Dortmund boy, like Kevin Grosskreutz. It’s a special club in Dortmund, the fans are very local and the two players mentioned are through-and-through and play with their hearts.”
Symbol of the club
Identity plays a crucial role in shaping football in the Ruhrgebiet - the two biggest clubs in Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 emanating from working-class parts of the country. While both clubs appreciate aesthetically-pleasing football.
Comparisons to Steven Gerrard’s connection with Liverpool were made by Zorc on Dortmund’s official website. “He can shape an era in Dortmund,” he said. Gerrard symbolized the idea of loyalty and representing a club identity, spending more than two decades at Anfield until confirmation of his proposed move to Major League Soccer.
In a region defined by the working-class industries of years gone by, that feeling of civic pride is still present in the Ruhrpott. To recognize ‘one of your own’ in the colors of your own club, bridges the connection between club and supporter - and the importance of Reus deciding to turn down the likes of Real Madrid to remain at his local club cannot be understated, particularly in an era of rapid commercialization in Germany.
The reaction of the home support after the loss at home to FC Augsburg last week was a snapshot of the connection between the players and fans. Captain Mats Hummels and long-serving keeper Roman Weidenfeller went across to furious supporters and delegated showing empathy and understanding of their frustrations.
It’s this kind of bond that makes Reus’ commitment to the club even more essential.
Reus: the story so far
To understand what Reus means to Dortmund and vice-versa, it’s important to assess his path back to his boyhood club. At the age of 17, having been on the books of Dortmund for several years, Reus was deemed to be too physically weak and was shipped out to lower league club Rot Weiss Ahlen where he quickly progressed from U18 level to the first-team.
As an orthodox center-forward - the role he would similarly familiarize himself with at Borussia Monchengladbach - his raw speed and quick-thinking was a thorn in opposition defenses. Wuck even noted once that Reus was capable of winning matches at that level on his own.
The teenager went on to score more than one goal every two games for Ahlen’s U19 side before playing another 40 matches for the first-team. While Grosskreutz would return to Dortmund and be a vital cog in Jurgen Klopp’s first title-winning team, Reus went to Borussia Monchengladbach.
A regular in the first chunk of the 2010-11 season, Reus would eventually face one of his toughest challenges - a challenge which has supplied him with the experience and skillset to navigate Dortmund out of troubled waters. In February, Lucien Favre was appointed at Borussia-Park with The Foals seven points adrift at the bottom of the league.
The Swiss coach stabled the ship and allowed Gladbach to flourish with Reus’ contribution vital in the final standings - he scored in two of the last three matches before scoring the decisive goal to beat VfL Bochum in the promotion/relegation play-off.
What happened next would propel Reus to the forefront of the Bundesliga. After beating Bayern Munich on the first weekend of the season, Gladbach finished fourth - qualifying for the Champions League - with Reus’ dynamism complementing Mike Hanke in what became one of the most proficient strike partnerships in recent memory in German football.
Reus ended the season with 18 goals and 12 assists from 32 league games. Soon, the dream move became reality. In the summer of 2012, Borussia Dortmund spent 17 million euros to prize him from the Foals with Reus’ reputation and performances only set to improve. Champions League finals followed, with Reus now sitting on 49 goals from 107 league games under Klopp.
The question: Dortmund or Real?
Amid an already relationship between Dortmund and Bayern Munich, the CEO of the German champions Karl-Heinz Rummenigge made Reus’ release clause of 25 million euros public, which incensed Watzke.
It maybe panned out to be Bayern’s downfall in pursuing the player - albeit the club appeared to have moved on to other targets last month. Reus was present to see the reaction of former team-mate Gotze at Signal Iduna Park and with his close bonds to the community that was probably not on the cards.
As England never really appeared to be an option, Real Madrid was the last man standing. Reus was reported to be enrolling in Spanish lessons and the player’s compatibility with counterattacking and quick transitional play only helped fuel suggestions he was Madrid-bound.
“Dortmund is my city, and my club,” Reus said in an official statement, hinting there was little doubt over his final decision.
Signed, sealed and delivered, talk of Reus’ future can be put to bed and the job of securing their Bundesliga status - and perhaps progressing in the Champions League - can come to the fore.