Dortmund – Real 4-1: Where are the BVB Players Now?

On June 1st the song “Are You Gonna Go My Way” will not only be a popular melody of American artist Lenny Kravitz, whose act will be opening the Champions League Final, but also the main thought of the players and fans as soon as they see the most coveted trophy in European club football on the Wembley pitch. Real managed to stun Bayern through Joselu’s brace to deny a repeat of the 2013 final, also played at Wembley and instead have given us a repeat of the semi-final clash of that year between them and Borussia.


Despite their recent successes in the Champions League against German opposition, German clubs have historically been kryptonite for Los Blancos, with Kaiserslautern, Hamburg and Borussia Monchengladbach all putting 5 goals past the Spaniards during the 80s. Eleven years ago Dortmund only managed to score 4 against the Spanish giants to win 4-1, which interestingly enough is the same scoreline achieved in 1975 by Derby County in their game against Real.


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I might look like an idiot for saying this but I really believe that meeting Real instead of Bayern in the final is far more preferable for Dortmund and they stand a bigger chance of winning the competition. However, we are still a week away from the final and since I have nothing better to do let’s take a look back at where Borussia’s players from that 4-1 win are today.


Borussia’s goalkeeper that evening, Roman Weidenfeller was unable to keep a clean sheet with Real keeping with tradition and scoring through a Cristiano Ronaldo tap in, after the referee didn’t award a penalty at the other end of the pitch. Weidenfeller, at that point, had already been with Dortmund for eleven years and Jurgen Klopp naturally awarded him the captaincy.


Initially coming through the ranks at Sportfreunde Eisbachtal (a club whose name translates to Sport Friends Eisbachtal) he moved to Kaiserslautern after reaching the semi-finals of the 1997 U-17 World Cup. Kaiserslautern were not so friendly, offering the young goalkeeper only a handful of appearances in his four years there and he moved to Borussia in 2002 as Jens Lehmann’s replacement.


By 2005 he had become the number one goalkeeper and one broken meniscus, one racial insult against Gerald Asamoah and two Bundesliga titles later he was leading Dortmund into a Champions League final as captain. His performances finally granted him a much-awaited call-up to the national side, making him Germany’s oldest debutant at 33. In 2014 he became a World Cup winner as Manuel Neuer’s understudy.


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He continued in his no1 role for the club under Jürgen Klopp, but in 2015 with Klopp leaving his place was under threat as new manager Thomas Tuchel brought in Roman Bürki. In the subsequent three seasons, he firmly became the number 2 choice at the Westfalenstadion and retired in 2018 as a Borussia Dortmund legend. Nowadays he is working for the club as an ambassador.


The two men tasked with keeping Weidenfeller safe against Real were Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic. We’ll start with the latter and his career that saw him achieve European success via the United States. Subotic was born in Yugoslavia in the modern-day part of Bosnia to Serb parents.


In 1994, the Bosnian war forced the family to move to Germany where he started playing football with the local sides. However, in 1999 the family moved once again, this time to the US to avoid being sent back to Bosnia as their residence in Germany had expired. Initially settling in Salt Lake City, they later moved to Florida to enable Neven’s sister to play tennis at a local academy.


As luck would have it, Bradenton, Florida is also a base for the US U17 side and after an assistant manager spotted Neven training by himself in a park he was signed on to the academy. This enabled him to go on tour with the U17s and in 2006 Mainz signed him on after impressing in a trial.


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Two years later, after Jürgen Klopp moved from Mainz to Dortmund, he took Subotic with him and made him a mainstay in the side. His first seasons were so impressive that the German media started speculating as to where he would play his international football, all whilst hinting at the possibility he would join the German national team.


Despite being eligible to play for the US, Germany, Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia, Subotic made his debut for Serbia in 2009 against Romania. Very much a Klopp player, just like Weidenfeller, Thomas Tuchel’s arrival in 2015 meant that Subotic’s game time started to decrease and he moved to Saint-Etienne in 2018 after a short loan at FC Köln.


He helped the French outfit to a Coupe De France final in 2019, which they lost to PSG before moving to Union Berlin in 2020. In their debut Bundesliga season, the Berlin club finished a respectable eleventh and despite making 26 appearances that season Subotic moved to Denizlispor the next season.


After one and a half years in Turkey and a six-month stint in Austria with Rheindorf Altach he retired in 2022. His partner in defence for most of his Dortmund career, Mats Hummels spent his whole career between Germany’s two biggest rivals. Hummels was a Bayern youth product but had the misfortune of joining the first team during the mid-2000s which were somewhat tumultuous for the Bavarians.


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As his talent was not recognized properly a loan to Borussia followed in 2009, which led them to sign him permanently one year later. Bayern would come to rue this decision as Hummels became one of Borussia’s best players during the Klopp era and a World Cup winner in 2014.


In 2016 Bayern paid €35 million to reverse their previous mistake. In his three years back in Bavaria he won three Bundesliga titles and one DFB Pokal but his performances had started to regress by the time 2019 rolled around. The decision was made to sell him back to Dortmund for almost the exact fee paid three years earlier.


At the time it seemed that his career was starting to wind down after the unsuccessful end to his Bayern career and Joachim Löw’s statements that Hummels would not be part of his future plans. Instead, he continued as a regular at Dortmund, winning the 2021 DFB Pokal and being instrumental to this year’s Champions League campaign putting in two Man of the Match performances against PSG.


He was overlooked for the 2022 World Cup and Julian Nagelsmann has recently announced he will not be included in the squad for this year’s Euros, which in my opinion is criminal. He has overtaken Roman Weidenfeller as the player with the second most appearances for the club, cracking the 500 mark this season and even though he has not hinted at retirement yet, overtaking current record holder Michael Zorc on 572 will be a tough task.


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To the left of Hummels and Subotic, Marcel Schmelzer we find one of the last modern one club men, Marcel Schmelzer. He joined the side as a youth player in 2005, making his debut three years later. In 2011 he played every minute of Borussia’s title-winning campaign and was the starting left back for the club all the way until 2018, surviving Klopp’s departure.


Despite retiring in 2022 he had not made a Bundesliga appearance for the club in the past two years. Always reliable and sometimes stellar, especially under Klopp his performances regularly went under the radar amongst the superstars that graced the Westfalenstadion during the 2010s. A Borusse through and through he stayed on at the club after his retirement working as an assistant to the U17s coach and next season will be the assistant to their second team, who play in the third tier.


Now we come to the first of the players with a lot of Zs in their name, Lukasz Piszczek. Whilst playing in his native Poland with Gwarek Zabrze and signed him in 2004, loaning him out to Zagłębie Lubin. He made his debut for the capital club in 2007 and struggled with some quite serious injuries, which hampered his development.


In 2010 Klopp signed him on a free and immediately handed him the right back position. Proving to be one of the bargains of the decade, Piszczek made more than 20 appearances in each season from 2010 to 2020. In 2021 aged 35 he saw his game time dwindle at the Westfalenstadion and made a move back to his boyhood club Goczałkowice-Zdrój.


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He is still contracted to the team, which plays in the Polish third tier, and since 2023 has transitioned to being a player-manager. Piszczek did not play the whole 90 minutes of the semi-final against Real as he was substituted for Kevin Grosskreutz in the 83rd minute.


Grosskreutz had been a Dortmund youth player during the early 2000s before being let go by the club and joining Rot Weiss Ahlen, where he eventually made his professional debut in 2006. Three years later his old club re-signed him. Back at Dortmund, he made around 30 appearances in his first 5 seasons.


However, traveling with Germany to the 2014 World Cup, where he didn’t start, his season was curtailed by injury and a subsequent knee operation and he was demoted to the second team. Looking to restart his career he joined Galatasaray in 2015, but because the Turkish club did not submit the necessary paperwork in time for deadline day, he could not play for them until the winter transfer window of 2016.


In a strange twist, just as he became available to play for the Turkish club, he signed for VfB Stuttgart six days into the January window of 2016. Relegation from the Bundesliga followed for Grosskreutz and in April 2017 his contract was terminated after he got into a bar fight.


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From there, he spent a season in the second Bundesliga with Darmstadt and moved even further down the footballing pyramid, spending two seasons with KFC (no connection to the colonel) Uerdingen. In 2021 he announced his retirement from professional football, but more importantly not from amateur football, as he is still playing today with sixth-tier outfit TuS Bövinghausen.


Moving on to Dortmund’s midfield we find two rising stars at the time, who had entirely different career paths. Mario Götze and Ilkay Gündoğan were tipped for stardom as soon as they broke into Klopp’s side. Götze was the poster boy of German football during the 2010s, coming through the Dortmund academy before making the classic move to Bayern München, in contentious fashion, 36 hours before their Champions League final, to play under Pep Guardiola.


At the end of his first Bayern season, he scored the winning goal of the 2014 World Cup against Argentina causing a rare outburst of emotion from Germany’s matriarch Angela Merkel. His career was supposed to reach the highest levels under the close supervision of Pep Guardiola who personally requested his signing.


Instead, he struggled with form throughout his Bayern career and towards the end of the 2016 season it was becoming clear that his Bayern career was under threat. After moving back to Dortmund in 2016, the root cause of his struggles was discovered one year later, namely myopathy, a metabolic issue that affects muscle fibres causing them to not function optimally, as well as causing fatigue and weight gain.


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He missed almost that entire season due to his condition and most of the rest of his Dortmund career was spent battling its effects. In 2020 it was announced that he would leave the club during the summer window and he made the respectable decision of joining PSV instead of chasing the bag in the Middle East of the US.


In his two seasons in the Netherlands, he looked to be slowly coming back to his best winning the Dutch Cup and Super Cup. In 2022 he returned to Germany with Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt and in the last two seasons he has cracked the 30-appearance mark in the league for the first time since 2015.


Ilkay Gündoğan on the other hand remained loyal to Dortmund even after the lost Wembley final and spend a whole year out of commission with a back injury in 2013-14. As his career progressed, he was constantly touted for a big-money move all whilst pundits were not entirely convinced he could cut it at a superclub.


The reason for that was his playstyle which was that of a Guardiola player in a Klopp system to put it in a very simplistic way. Always more of a metronome he was often overshadowed by the more explosive players around him. Naturally, Pep spotted his talents and brought him to Manchester City as soon as he left Bayern.


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Despite making a slow start to his City career and struggling with injuries, like many of Guardiola’s signings he came into his own once he became fully integrated into his system, becoming one of City’s most important players during their most dominant eras. Despite being 33 he is showing no signs of slowing down, having moved on to Barcelona at the beginning of this season becoming integral at the Camp Nou.


Gündoğan was substituted during the semi-final against Real as well, with Julian Schieber coming on for him in the second minute of extra time. Signed as a squad player by Klopp in 2012 from Stuttgart, Schieber spent 4 years at Hertha from 2014 to 2018 before retiring at Augsburg in 2021. The last of Dortmund’s midfield three that evening was Lars Bender.


A genuinely underrated player, Bender was unspectacular yet always dependable for Dortmund since joining from 1860 München, where he played alongside his twin brother Lars. In 2017 he was reunited with his twin, signing for Leverkusen. Four years later, both Benders retired at the same time in a game against Dortmund, with Sven coming on as a substitute in place of his brother.


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With Dortmund 3-0 up in the 89th minute Leverkusen were awarded a penalty and Roman Bürki did not make any effort to save Sven’s spot kick allowing him to score the consolation goal and his final professional goal. After their playing careers ended both Benders became assistants in Germany’s youth squads and in December 2023 Sven joined Edin Terzic as an assistant.


On Borussia’s right flank and in the centre of attack we can find the second and third players of the club’s Polish contingent, namely Jakub Błaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski. Two landmarks of Dortmund’s excellent recruitment during the 2000s, both players went under the radar of Europe’s top clubs before exploding in Jürgen Klopp’s Gegenpressing system.


We start with the man who struck fear not only in the hearts of opposition defences but also the hearts of footballing commentators around the world. Luckily for the latter Jakub Błaszczykowski was more commonly known as Kuba however the former had to suffer from his blistering runs down the right-hand side of Dortmund’s attack.


His ceiling was much lower than that of his compatriot Lewandowski and Klopp’s departure in 2015 spelled the end for his Dortmund career. After an unsuccessful loan spell with Fiorentina, he spent three years at Wolfsburg playing less and less. In 2019 he moved back to Poland with Wisła Krakow, the team from which he joined Dortmund, also becoming a part owner of the team.


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He managed to keep going until 2023 despite an ACL injury when he retired. Whilst his time in Dortmund was the peak of Kuba’s career, for Lewandowski it was just a springboard towards becoming undoubtedly the best Polish player of all time. His career nearly took a completely different turn as in 2010 Sam Allardyce was set on bringing him to Blackburn Rovers.


Whilst that move was spectacularly scuppered by the 2010 eruption of Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull coupled with some budgetary issues he also came close to joining Genoa before president Enrico Preziosi, who was coming off his third court case for corruption at the time, decided to reject the transfer.


Instead, he ended up at Dortmund scoring a goal every other game, which put him firmly in the crosshairs of Bayern. One of the best free transfers of all time, Lewandowski’s 2014 move to Bayern yielded 238 goals in 253 games, 8 Bundesliga titles and a Champions League trophy.


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Helped by his wife Anna, a former karate World Cup Silver medallist, who became his personal trainer and nutritionist he managed to remain at the top of his game well into his 30s. His wife threatening to beat him unless he ate his veggies enabled him to use his longevity to gain a dream move to Spain with Barcelona in 2022. He fired his team to a La Liga title with 23 goals and only scored four less this season.


Before we come to the Borussia legend that will play his last game for the club in the Champions League final some honourable mentions have to be mentioned. Namely, Sebastian Kehl, who came on for Kuba and spent 13 seasons at the Westfalenstadion. He remained at the club joining the backroom staff after his retirement in 2015, replacing Michael Zorc as sporting director in 2022.


The other players on the bench that night that did not see minutes include Moritz Leitner, who had a journeyman career after his time at Dortmund, playing for Augsburg, Stuttgart, Lazio, Norwich and Zurich, Mitchell Langerak, who only found regular game time since 2018 at Nagoya Grampus, Felipe Santana, who joined Schalke at the end of that season before retiring in 2023 at 38 and Nuri Sahin.


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Sahin was the first player of Klopp’s Dortmund revolution to make a big money move away from the club. He joined Real Madrid in 2011 but found game time hard to find and he was loaned out to Liverpool and Dortmund, where he was in 2013 when Dortmund eliminated his parent club.


After two years on loan, he re-joined Dortmund permanently and remained there until 2018. After two seasons with Werder Bremen and a managerial spell at Antalyaspor, he joined Sven Bender as one of Edin Terzic’s assistants in 2023. You can probably tell that the last player on the list is the darling of all the sappy posts about footballing loyalty, mediocre footballing pages love to pull up every once in a while.


Whilst we can lambast Bayern for letting Hummels go as a young player, Dortmund are equally guilty for letting Marco Reus go in 2006. He joined another Borussia, namely the one in Mönchengladbach, quickly becoming one of the hottest prospects in the Bundesliga.


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When Jurgen Klopp heard that he had been a Dortmund youth product he told the club they had to sign him. His move back to Dortmund came just as the team won the last of their two consecutive titles and just in time to lose the Champions League final.


Bad timing would become a hallmark of his career, suffering injuries before the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Euros, when Germany were arguably at the height of their strength. That coupled with his undying loyalty towards Dortmund means that two DFB Pokals and three German Supercups are all that he has in terms of trophies, and I think I can speak for all neutral fans when I say that I hope to see him lift the Champions League in a few days’ time.


By: Eduard Holdis / @He_Ftbl

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Matthias Hangst / Bongarts