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Why Does Niklas Süle Keep Getting Stuck on the Bench?

The lack of playing time for BVB’s big center-back is getting more and more noteworthy.

UEFA Champions League 2023/24Borussia Dortmund v Paris Saint-Germain Photo by ANP via Getty Images

It was a frustrating weekend for Dortmund’s towering German center-back, Niklas Süle, who found himself on the bench for the majority of Dortmund’s win against Darmstadt. Not only was Süle back on the bench, struggling for match minutes like in the Hinrunde, but he had also been overlooked at center-back for Emre Can, who played in place of Mats Hummels (out with illness). Süle was reportedly quick to depart the grounds after the Darmstadt match, and both Edin Terzic and Sebastian Kehl commented on the situation.

Following a strong 2022/23 season, where Süle was a regular cast member in Dortmund’s title chase, Süle has struggled mightily for minutes this season, playing less than half as many minutes as his compatriot Nico Schlotterbeck. A strong candidate for captain this summer, Süle has seen his minutes significantly reduced due to the excellent form of Mats Hummels. Hummels has rolled back the years this season, with the veteran center-back playing some of the finest football of his career over the last few months. Still, Dortmund have a packed schedule, and expecting Hummels to stay fit all season is an unrealistic ask.

Unfortunately, little has been reported from the inside about Süle’s relationship with Terzic, either good or bad. I have no idea why Süle keeps getting the cold shoulder. Understandably, the red-hot form of Mats Hummels has made him hard to leave out of the team, but there are two center-backs in Edin Terzic’s preferred formation; certainly there were some matches in the Hinrunde where Nico Schlotterbeck did not look entirely up to the task. Whether it is down to the stubbornness of Edin Terzic, or to a training issue with Süle, there seems to be an issue this season between the coach and the player, and they would do well to iron it out.

Niklas Süle is, by all accounts, a really excellent center-back. His physicality and pace make him a serious presence in aerial situations and tracking back on the counter. He is also very adept with the ball at his feet, which he has shown during his sparse deployments at right back. He carries the ball well, has a keen eye for a pass, and is intelligent enough to help progress the attack without marooning the rest of the defense.

Borussia Dortmund v RB Leipzig - Bundesliga Photo by Leon Kuegeler/Getty Images

It would be in Dortmund’s absolute worst interest to get Süle in the mindset that it’s time to move on to another club. Dortmund are precariously thin at center-back. There is a significant discrepancy between the senior level center-backs in the team and the youth products looking to stake a future claim in the side. That’s not a bad thing, development takes time, but it means Edin Terzic and Co. are reliant on their first team options with little depth to back them up, which can be a really dangerous situation in a high stakes match. Let your memory drift back to the 3-3 against Stuttgart last spring… and we’ll leave it there.

Niklas Süle is widely reported to be Dortmund’s highest earner (other than Jadon Sancho), which is, admittedly, fine as his transfer did not cost BVB a dime. Still, BVB cannot afford to have such a valuable asset rotting on the bench. Süle is in the prime of his career and should be fulfilling the potential BVB saw in a player who was stagnating on the bench at Bayern Munich. There’s an argument to be made that Süle’s propensity to land on the bench both in Munich and Dortmund is indicative of a larger issue, but I think it’s more reasonable to point at Edin Terzic’s stubborn line-ups than to the player. After Süle’s outstanding clearance in the Champion’s League, the player had certainly earned himself a few more games in the starting eleven. Still, it will be up to Süle to forge another opportunity for himself, but Edin Terzic needs to also acknowledge the talent on his bench and be willing to make changes when players have earned them (see: Youssoufa Moukoko, outstanding cameo against Darmstadt). Otherwise, Dortmund will see an uptick in forced departures in the transfer windows to come.

Is Süle right to be frustrated with his role in the team? How should Terzic manage his towering center-back? Let us know in the comments.