If the recent storm of reports is to be believed, Jadon Sancho is set to fly to Marbella to join us on a six-month loan deal, potentially spelling the end of the torrid few years he’s had in Manchester’s red half. This would make him seventeenth player in BVB history to have had two or more separate spells at the club, which got me thinking: how have our various prodigal sons fared upon their respective returns to the Westfalenstadion? Below is a run-down of some of our more recent returnees, in no particular order (plus my two cents on the Sancho deal!). Enjoy.
The Indisputably Good: Mats Hummels, Marco Reus
Hummels and Reus are two footballers who have truly defined an era at the club. Our veteran central defender was plucked from the Bayern youth ranks at 19 and has since gone on to become club captain and an absolute tower in some of die Schwarzgelben’s most successful campaigns ever. His transfer to Bayern was met with outrage, and some of you might remember his final game for the club when his every touch was met with boos from the black and yellow faithful. After a short, but immensely successful holiday in Bavaria, he was back, returning himself almost immediately to icon status. At 35, he continues to defy the media’s constant suggestions that he is on the decline, with his impeccable positioning, timing, and composure even more apparent now that he’s been paired up with the rather more hotheaded Schlotti.
Unlike Hummels, Reus played at every single one of Dortmund’s youth teams before leaving to join Rot-Weiß Essen and, later, Borussia Mönchengladbach. Three wildly successful seasons with die Fohlenelf later (the last of which saw him win German Player of the Year), Dortmund paid a reported 17 million Euros to bring him to Klopp’s recently crowned double winners. While injuries have blighted large parts of his Dortmund career, Reus has hit double figures for goal contributions every Bundesliga season except for 2017/18 (when he only played 11 games), winning the Pokal, DFL-Supercup, and German Player of the Year multiple times. While the Bundesliga title continues to elude him, our hometown hero has been (and continues to be) an integral part of every Dortmund side since 2012.
Marius Wolf: Steady Improvement
Wolf was signed after a very impressive season with Frankfurt, but the hard-running utility man was quickly (and understandably) deemed “not good enough” by the Dortmund hierarchy, spending only a single season at the club before being sent out on two consecutive loans to Hertha and Köln. Despite this, Wolf had been very public about his desire to continue at the club, supposedly having grown up a Dortmund fan; his commitment to staying paid off as we opted against selling him, and he has since played over 1,300 minutes of league football in black and yellow in both seasons since his return, earning himself his first caps for Germany in the process. He splits opinion among our fan base, but he’s been an invaluable depth option who always gives his absolute all for the shirt, important for the increasingly-anaemic looking Dortmund sides of recent months. A good return, I’d say; while he doesn’t have the technical ability demanded of an elite full-back, he usually makes up for it with grit and work rate and has been significantly better for us post the loan spells.
Nuri Sahin: Flash in the Pan
Our newest addition to the coaching staff was an important cog in Klopp’s first title-winning Dortmund squad, playing 2,600 minutes in the league and contributing to 14 goals from central midfield. Europe’s elite took notice, with Real Madrid signing him that summer. However, he played just 130 minutes for Jose Mourinho’s Galácticos (though he did receive a league winner’s medal for it) before being loaned to Liverpool for six months. The Turkish international made his return to Dortmund after, becoming an important player in the 13/14 campaign that saw Bayern run away with the league. Injuries and coaching changes in the following seasons meant his minutes were increasingly restricted, and a brief renaissance under Peter Bosz aside, he didn’t feature much for the remainder of his six seasons at the club, eventually leaving for Bremen and, later, Antalyaspor. While he never quite reached his obvious potential, BVB fans will have fond memories of our lefty dead-ball specialist’s second spell, including this derby day screamer in 13/14:
Shinji Kagawa: Never Hit the Heights
Kagawa spent two seasons terrorizing the Bundesliga after being snapped up from Cerezo Osaka, contributing heavily to both our 10/11 title and 11/12 double. It was during the latter of the two that he established himself as one of Europe’s hottest #10s, recording 13 goals and 11 assists as Klopp’s vibrant, young side stormed to the club’s highest ever points tally. Sir Alex’s United came calling, prying away our Japanese star in the summer. After a promising first season, he was an unfortunate casualty of the Scot’s retirement, as the appointment of David Moyes led to him playing a reduced role, giving rise to the #FreeShinji movement that saw him return to NRW the following summer. While there are plenty of highlights from his return spell (including this ridiculous finish against Augsburg), and he did have a very productive 15/16 under Thomas Tuchel, the enduring feeling is that he never managed to hit the lofty heights he did prior to his departure. As the out-and-out 10 began to fade out of the mainstream, so too did his role at the club. After unsuccessful periods in Spain, Turkey, Greece and Belgium, he now turns out for his first club, Cerezo Osaka, aged 34.
Mario Gotze: What Could’ve Been
Perhaps the most naturally gifted of all the players mentioned today (arguably including Sancho), MG10 had the world at his feet before he turned 20. Our very own Golden Boy winner had won the league twice before breaking black-and-yellow hearts to join Bayern for a then-mammoth 37 million Euros. He won the title in each of his three years with the Bavarian giants (shocker, I know) and scored the winner in the 2014 World Cup final, but a rare muscular disorder meant that he was unavailable to play for large parts of his final season with the club. Dortmund signed the out-of-favor playmaker at a significant discount in 2016, with the apparent goal of rehabilitating the fan favorite and restoring him to his former glory (sound familiar?). At Dortmund, his wonderful intelligence and technical skill (plus some recently-developed work rate) allowed him to reinvent himself, playing slightly deeper in a supporting midfield role behind the red-hot Sancho and Reus.
Unfortunately, the fitness issues persisted for large parts of his second term with die Schwarzgelben, and, while he became very important under Favre in 18/19, it was clear that he was no longer the world-beating magician he threatened to be when he was 19. He left the club on a free to join PSV Eindhoven, where he regained some form and fitness, before returning to Germany with Frankfurt, where he was an important player last season but has found game time harder to come by in 23/24. The first genuine wonderkid off Dortmund’s post-financial debacle conveyor belt, der Pummelfee will almost certainly go down as one of the decade’s greatest “what could have been” players.
My Thoughts on the Sancho Deal
I’m conflicted about this move, actually. At ~3 million Euros, this is not an extremely expensive deal for a player who has proven several times over that he can be an absolute game-changer. It’s also clear that none of our wingers are up to the task of producing week-in-week-out at the highest level (in fact, our three wingers have contributed a paltry combined total of eight goals and assists this season), something Sancho showed that he could do. I’d go so far as to argue that a consistently top-level winger should be our absolute number one priority in the next transfer window (provided we offload Donny for sufficient money). After months stagnating on the sidelines, I’d also imagine that JS would be extremely motivated to get back to the form that saw him bag double figures for both goals and assists in back-to-back campaigns, with his desire to play for England at the upcoming Euros serving as an extra motivator.
However, it’s impossible to ignore the other side of this. While I hate to buy into unfounded media speculation about people in football (I’ve refrained from saying anything about the general reportage about dressing-room rifts at various clubs), it does seem as though Sancho is regarded as a less-than-ideal presence at United; there has been the very public falling-out with ten Hag, despite the Dutchman staunchly defending the winger from the media for his first several months. Player-manager relationships can be fraught, but it’s also difficult to overlook the Nemanja Matic’s interview about his time at the club, where he spoke in less than glowing terms about JS7.
My other concern about the deal is that we need Sancho to hit the ground running immediately, which will be difficult enough not only because he will have to adapt to a new manager and team, but also because he hasn’t started a game since early June 2023 and hasn’t been involved in any senior football since August; moreover, he’s been training individually for the last four months or so, making it a tough (though not impossible) ask for him to produce immediately. Finally, there have been a lot of reports suggesting that Sancho would be played in the #10 role, but I’m hoping those are wide of the mark because that’s the area of the pitch we’ve got the most quality in. Brandt is currently our top contributor with 12 G+A, and, behind him, Reus has quality in abundance. As a wide player as well, Jadon is heavily reliant on a world-class attacking fullback to support him (as Zac pointed out in his article), which we currently do not have in our squad.
Therefore, while the financial risk isn’t particularly high, I’m a little sceptical of the potential rewards of this deal. Fingers crossed it works out for all parties, though; I’d love to see him back at his best in black and yellow!
Which of these returnees were you most excited to see back at the club? What do you think about the Sancho deal? Let us know!