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BVB Alumni Spotlight: Maximilian Philipp

A promising career cut short.

Borussia Dortmund v 1. FSV Mainz 05 - Bundesliga Photo by Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund via Getty Images

Hello, Fear the Wall.

I’m sure you have all been keeping plenty occupied with the ongoing FIFA World Cup and the many exciting matches it has already provided us. Still, I have found my mind wandering toward ole’ BVB now and again, and decided it might be nice to actually provide you readers with some content.

Sarah kicked off the BVB alumni series some months ago, and now we will install our next chapter on Maximilian (Maxi) Philipp.

Frankly, I cannot remember if I have ever talked about Maxi Philipp here, but he is a player I have often mentioned as a true case of what-if in the BVB history books. Philipp’s time with BVB was ultimately underwhelming but had fortunes favored him differently, his career may have gone a completely different way.

Dortmund signed Maxi Philipp from SC Freiburg in the summer of 2017 for a fee of €‎20 million. The German forward had been an electric playmaker for Freiburg, operating in the areas behind the striker or off the left flank, wherever the space was available for him. Some eyebrows were raised at the fee, but Philipp immediately showed his talent, notching four goals in three games in only September of his first season. Unlike other BVB signings who have failed to hit the ground running (*COUGH COUGH* MALEN AND ADEYEMI), Maxi needed little time to show his value to the team. Please enjoy this highlight reel that I show people to prove that Philipp had world-class makings.

A clinical finisher with excellent goal-scoring awareness, Philipp looked prepared to slot into the role of the oft-injured Marco Reus (at that time) and begin his climb to the top.

But then, he got injured. I’ve linked the video here; if you get queasy about knee stuff, maybe move along.

Like countless BVB players before and after him, injury derailed a promising start for Maxi Philipp, and ultimately, he would never recover from it. Philipp missed fourteen matches and eighty-five days after his knee injury. With such a lengthy absence, Dortmund were forced to find other solutions. Jadon Sancho introduced himself to world football, Marco Reus returned from injury, and Andre Schurrle, I dunno, played. Dortmund limped through the season, and Philipp returned to a new coach. He looked like a shadow of his vibrant, pre-injury self, and Dortmund scraped out a 4th-placed finish for the year.

The departures of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Michy Batshuayi left Dortmund short-handed at striker, and Watzke and Zorc decided to put their trust in Maxi to lead the line, a player more used to a second-striker role. Unsurprisingly, he floundered, missing his pre-injury pace and incisiveness, while being played in a position that did not suit his strengths. Paco Alcacer was brought in as a late summer transfer and, at this point, it was basically curtains for Philipp. Maxi would not get a single shot at left wing again, and the 2018/19 season, while hugely successful for Dortmund, was catastrophic for the player. He scored only once all season.

Borussia Dortmund v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - Bundesliga Photo by TF-Images/TF-Images via Getty Images

Philipp moved on to Dinamo Moscow in the summer of 2019, and his fortunes improved some, as he found the net eight times for the Russian team. He would eventually sound out a move home, transferring to Wolfsburg where he has remained. His attacking output for the Wolves has only diminished since he arrived, and today, Philipp rides the bench.

This may sound like the sad and dark tale of a career gone awry, and that’s because it is. I remember watching Philipp at Dortmund and thinking how great his career could be for the team. One injury took all that away. We as fans often forget the toll this game takes on the bodies of the players. Injuries are measured in matches missed not damage done, and for Philipp, his injury not only damaged his body, but it also damaged the entire trajectory of his sporting career. Maybe I’m being a hopeless romantic about all this, Philipp’s form could have gone bust in January and the result would be the same. But I cannot help but wonder, without that injury, would Maxi Philipp and Jadon Sancho have gone on to lift the Meisterschale together in 2018/19? Would the German have torn it up at Euro 2020, or become a linchpin in the BVB attack? Unfortunately, we will never get to know.

Was Maxi Philipp the one that got away for BVB? What BVB alumni would you like us to cover next? Let us know.