It’s sometimes easy to forget that Matthias Ginter is still only 22 years old. He made his professional debut 5 years ago, has already made over 50 appearances for Dortmund, has 9 caps for Germany, and has an Olympic silver medal. “Proving yourself” seems like an odd modus operandi when you’ve already accomplished all that at such a young age, but proving himself is exactly what Ginter has done yet again this season, becoming indispensable in Tuchel’s defense.
In the last couple months of the 2016 Ruckrunde, Ginter saw more and more starts at center back. Tuchel had all but given up the Bundesliga title to Bayern Munich, preferring to focus on the DFB Pokal and Europa League and giving some of his younger charges more meaningful run-outs in league play. Ginter responded admirably, looking more comfortable every week after being used primarily as depth at right back and defensive midfield earlier in the season. But Mats Hummels departure seemed to knock Ginter’s trajectory down a bit, and Marc Bartra’s signing (and a knock picked up in Brazil during the Olympic games) sent Ginter back down the depth chart.
Injuries, Dortmund’s constant theme in the Hinrunde, gave Ginter another shot, and Marc Bartra’s calamitous play, combined with nagging injuries to both Marcel Schmelzer and Lukasz Piszczek, have helped the relatively steady Ginter stay in the starting lineup. Ginter has paired fairly well with Sokratis in the middle of the defense, while also providing invaluable cover at both left and right back. After brief rumbles of player discontent and transfer offers in the late summer, Ginter made himself an important piece of the defense once again.
Ginter is still not the second-coming of Mats Hummels, however, and questions still remain over his place in the team moving forward. Sokratis remains the only defender that has consistently impressed in the defense this season, and rumors that Omer Toprak will join Dortmund persist. Ginter would most likely have to settle for a bench position once again if the Leverkusen rock were to join Dortmund. For all of his positive qualities and versatility, Ginter still has his moments of switching off on a play.
On the other hand, he’s still only 22 years old, and Dortmund would prove to be very foolish if they let Ginter walk this summer. He’s far from a perfect or complete player. But he has over 100 games of professional experience and knows what it takes to compete at the highest level, already staking a place in one of the best international programs in the world. Ginter absolutely has the markings of a future starter for BVB at center back. He might have to be patient to reach that point, but if the Hinrunde is any indication, he’ll find his way onto the field one way or another.