Borussia Dortmund has seen the return of several familiar faces across the past month. Former wunderkind, Jadon Sancho, has returned to the side on loan from Manchester United while Nuri Sahin and Sven Bender make their returns as part of Edin Terzic’s coaching staff. These moves got this Fear The Wall writer thinking; what about all the other guys from recent seasons?
Have you wondered what happened to Marc Bartra after his season in Black and Yellow? Is Shinji Kagawa still playing? Did Roman Burki’s move to MLS work out? Is Thomas Delaney still redundant?
Look no further! Here are how some of Dortmund’s old players have fared since leaving the Westfalenstadion. Do not worry - if your favorite player did not make this list, it is not because I forgot about them. It is simply because I do not care.
It has only been six months since Jude Bellingham left Dortmund for Real Madrid but it is obvious that the move has worked out well for both him and his new side. Real Madrid are, to everyone's surprise, trailing Girona in La Liga but Jude Bellingham has continued to be one of the world’s best midfielders for Los Blancos with Carlo Ancelloti playing Bellingham much further up the field. He has already racked up 18 goals in all competitions this season and will likely pass his total at Dortmund (24 goals) by the end of the season. On top of that, he is storming his way to La Liga’s Player of the Season, in the running for the Golden Boot, and even finished 18th in the 2023 Ballon D’Or rankings. The sky is the limit for Jude, but at least we can always be happy for his three years at Dortmund.
Fear The Wall’s 2020/2021 Midfielder of the Year, Mahmoud Dahoud, has continued his career in Brighton & Hove Albion just like he ended his time at Borussia Dortmund - sitting on the bench. Despite being the most talented human to ever exist, Dahoud has failed to find a spot in Roberto De Zerbi’s side and has only played 454 minutes in the Premier League this season with only 66 minutes coming after he received an idiotic red card against Sheffield United back on November 12. He is in a rough spot, but they will never take this away from him:
This stunning finish from Mahmoud Dahoud put Dortmund on their way to a Champions League victory over Sevilla pic.twitter.com/3pSIw1nWgf— GOAL (@goal) February 23, 2021
The good ol’ days.
Paco’s receding hairline and susceptibility to knee injuries might have had you fooled that he was in the twilight of his career when Villareal purchased him for a club record of $25 million from Dortmund back in 2020 but he was only 26. His injury-riddled time at Villareal saw him win the Europa League but his failure to find consistency meant his 5-year contract was ended early by mutual consent. Now 30-years-old, Paco is plying his trade for Emirates FC in the UAE League, He will always be a “what could have been” story after scoring 1.19 goals per 90 minutes at Borussia Dortmund.
To my surprise, Axel Witsel has enjoyed himself after leaving Borussia Dortmund as a free agent in the summer of 2022. With his ACL injury behind him, he has become a consistent starter as a center-back for notoriously defensive coach, Diego Simeone. The 35-year-old has played very well this season and, if his health maintains, should be playing for another year or two. Witsel is still rocking the afro of course.
Marc Bartra only played one and a half seasons for Borussia Dortmund but quickly became a fan favorite who helped the club win the 2018 DFB Pokal final. That same year, he returned to Real Betis in Andalusia. Over the next five seasons, Bartra played 121 games in La Liga and helped the club win the 2022 Copa Del Rey, Betis’s first trophy in 2022. He joined Trabzonspor in the Turkish league that same year but eventually left the club by mutual consent despite playing 2,270 league minutes. Now, at the age of 32, Batra has returned to Betis on a one-year contract. Unfortunately, the Spainard has been diagnosed with Haglund’s deformity, a condition that impacts the Achilles tendon, and has only made 3 appearances in La Liga this year. I doubt Bartra will see his contract renewed unless he finds both fitness and form in the second half of the season. Regardless of his next destination, he’ll always be welcome in Dortmund.
In 2019, Fear the Wall released its greatest article: “Delaney is Redundant”. After being declared redundant, Delaney went on to play another 40 or so games for Borussia Dortmund and was transferred to Sevilla at the beginning of the 2021/22 season. His time in Southern Spain found some success and he helped the side qualify for the Champions League in his first season. His second season saw him only play twelve games with Sevilla, another seven with Hoffenheim on loan, and eventually get transferred to R.S.C Anderlecht in the Belgian top flight where he plays alongside Thorgen Hazard (who has not earned a section on this article). Is he still redundant for a dominant side like Anderlecht? You tell me.
Shinji Kagawa will, and should, always be remembered fondly for his time in Dortmund. His second stint at the club between 2014 and 2019 saw him do well for the club but ultimately injuries and Marco Reus’s move to attacking midfield saw Kagawa leave the club for the Spanish second-tier side, Real Zaragoza, after declaring he always wanted to play in Spain. Unfortunately, Real Zaragoza failed their promotion bid and opted to terminate his two-year contract a year early after the Japanese start failed to contribute as expected with only 5 goal involvements in 1,700 minutes. He spent the next year with PAOK in Greece, where he started only one game, and then another two year years with Sint-Truiden in the Belgian league where he started a total of ten games. Now, Shinji Kagawa is back at the club that gave him his first opportunity, Cerezo Osaka. He once again found a starting role and played as a deep-lying playmaker in 31 of 34 matches. It is the twilight of Kagawa’s career but I could not think of a better way to end it.
I am sure many of our readers have ‘USMNT’ tattooed across their chests and wake up next to a photo of Christian Pulisic so his inclusion in this list is a bit like Thomas Delaney. Pulisc joined AC Milan after four tumultuous years with Chelsea in the Premier League and seems to have found his form. He has 11 goal involvements across 19 games for Milan and his side are currently in third. On top of that, Pulisic was just named USMNT player of the year for the fourth time, a record he shares with Landon Donovan. I am sure both fans of Borussia Dortmund and the USMNT will be happy to see him hitting a purple patch after a rough couple of years,
If you made a best XI of Dortmund players this past decade, Aubameyang should make that list every single time. Even if you take in account his mutiny leading to his departure to Arsenal in the winter of 2018, the Gabonese-French striker was a huge success for Borussia Dortmund despite never achieving silverware. Since leaving six years ago, he has had quite the up and down career. Aubameyang was an absolute hit for arsenal in his first three years for the club and was one of the few positives during the London club’s 2019/20 season that saw Mikel Arteta take the reins. Several disagreements with the Arteta and his age saw the striker leave Arsenal for FC Barcelona in the winter of 2021 after 84 goal involvements in 128 games. Aubameyang only played a measly 17 games for Barcelona and was replaced, ironically, by Robert Lewandowski. A disastrous loan to Chelsea saw him waste the 2022/23 season and now, at the young age of 34, Aubameyang has found a home in the south of France. With 12 goal involvements in 18 games and probably a nice home in the French Riviera, Aubameyang is enjoying life in Ligue 1.
Which of these players do you miss? Who did I forget? Was Thomas Delaney redundant? Let me know in the comments below!