BVB’s best academy products

BVB’s best academy products

Borussia Dortmund is a club widely renowned for its remarkable youth development.

The likes of Erling Haaland, Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho all transformed their careers in black and yellow.

As a result, the club boast a record sales list like no other.

Nurturing elite young talent is what BVB do best and is the reason why so many top prospects choose to further their careers at Signal Iduna Park.

North Rhine-Westphalia is a hotbed for some of Germany’s biggest football clubs.

The passion for football is rife in these parts and the Dortmund academy itself has had its own line of success stories, with many rising stars going on to do exceptional things with the first team.

This is a breakdown of the very best.

8. Eike Immel

A name that may be familiar with fans of Manchester City, goalkeeper Eike Immel took his first steps into the professional game with ‘die Borussen’.

Immel was only 17 years old when he was passed down the torch to become the club’s starting goalkeeper.

The German went on to play 280 times for the club across an eight-year stint.

He was part of the West Germany squad that won the 1980 European Championships and became the most expensive goalkeeper in German football when he left the club for VFB Stuttgart in 1986 (roughly €1m).

7. Nuri Sahin

Born in Lüdenscheid, North Rhine-Westphalia, Nuri Sahin joined the Borussia Dortmund academy at just 13 years old.

In 2005, the midfielder became the youngest player in Bundesliga history at 16 years of age – a record only surpassed three and a half years ago by Youssoufa Moukoko.

Later that year, Sahin also became the league’s youngest ever goalscorer. This record was also taken in 2020 by Florian Wirtz.

The Turkey international quickly made a name for himself in black and yellow, producing 14 direct goal contributions from midfield in the club’s victorious 2011 title-winning campaign.

He left that summer to join Real Madrid but later cited his discontent being away from his boyhood club in his decision to return permanently in 2014.

Sahin left in 2018 after making 274 appearances. He is now one of Edin Terzic’s assistant managers.

6. Marcel Schmelzer

One-club men are a rare luxury in professional football.

But Marcel Schmelzer joined ‘die Schwarzgelben’ at 17 years old and retired there at 34.

After making his debut at 20, the left-back went on to play 367 times for the club and was a key player in the iconic Jürgen Klopp side of the early 2010’s.

Schmelzer won two Bundesliga titles, three DFB-Pokals and three DFL-Supercups during his time at the club.

Marcel Schmelzer and Jürgen Klopp of Borussia Dortmund

5. Mario Götze

One of the club’s most famous academy graduates, Mario Götze had the world at his feet when he first broke through in 2010.

Dortmund legend Matthias Sammer said the playmaker was “one of the best talents Germany had ever seen”.

Götze joined the BVB academy at eight years old in 2001 and went on to be the golden boy of Klopp’s iconic side.

The midfielder registered 15 assists in the 2011 title win and racked up 16 goals and 20 assists in the 2012/13 season.

That year, his form attracted the attention of treble winners Bayern Munich, who paid a release clause of €37m to bring the wonderkid to Bavaria that summer.

A year later, Mario Götze was the biggest name in football, as he scored the goal that won Germany the 2014 World Cup against Argentina in Brazil.

Now at Frankfurt, his career may not quite have panned out as he perhaps hoped.

But for a player of his age, it could be argued that ‘die Borussen’ have never produced such a talent.

4. Mirko Votava

A name which may be more unfamiliar to UK-based fans than others in this list, Miroslav ‘Mirko’ Votava also joined Borussia Dortmund at 17 years old in 1973.

From 1977 to 1982, the defensive midfielder missed just three games for the club.

Along with Immel, Votava was also part of West Germany’s victorious 1980 Euros squad, in which he was vying with the legendary Lothar Matthaus for a starting role.

Born in the Czech Republic, he enjoyed the best years of his career with the successful Werder Bremen side of the late 1980’s/early 1990’s.

Votava remains fifth in the Bundesliga’s all-time appearance rankings. He was also never sent off throughout his career.

3. Lars Ricken

Dortmund-born Lars Ricken certainly remains one of the club’s finest youth products.

Only five players in club history can better the midfielder’s tally of 407 appearances across a 15 year period.

In that time, Ricken was an instrumental figure in Ottmar Hitzfeld’s consecutive title-winning side from 1995 to 1996.

Among his 69 BVB goals is the one that effectively won the club its first ever Champions League title – the third goal in the 1997 final win over Juventus.

That goal remains the fastest ever scored in a UCL final by a substitute.

Ricken also scored six goals as Matthias Sammer’s side lifted the Meisterschale again in 2002.

His tally of 69 goals and 68 assists from midfield remains a very impressive feat from the one-club man, who left in 2007.

2. Marco Reus

Arguably the club’s most famous academy graduate, boyhood ‘Borusse’ Marco Reus spent 10 years in the academy from the age of seven.

After six years away with Rot-Weiss Ahlen and Borussia Mönchengladbach, the Dortmund native returned to the club in 2012.

The rest is history.

Only Michael Zorc, Mats Hummels, Roman Weidenfeller and Stefan Reuter have turned out for the Black and Yellows more than Reus (415 appearances).

Plenty of star teammates have come and gone but the playmaker has always remained loyal to his club.

His goal tally of 167 – to go along with 128 assists – is only bettered by the great Adi Preißler (177).

Now 34 with his deal up in the summer, it appears as though that Meisterschale will elude him once more.

But there doesn’t come many, if any, bigger Borussia Dortmund legends than Marco Reus.

It makes his legacy even more special, the fact he was produced by the club’s academy.

1. Michael Zorc

Another hometown hero, Dortmund’s record appearance-maker Michael Zorc also came out of the club’s youth system.

Zorc served the club as a player between 1981 and 1998, playing 572 times and scoring 159 goals from midfield.

Having joined BVB at 16, he went on to win two league titles, a Pokal and the UEFA Champions League.

Despite being into his mid-30’s, Zorc was still an ever-present during those golden years (1995-1997).

In the club’s successive Bundesliga triumphs, the future sporting director played 63 times of a possible 68, scoring 30 goals while setting up a further five.

As director, Zorc oversaw the following golden era at Signal Iduna Park (2010-2013), having earlier helped the club out of a tough financial situation.

When thinking about Borussia Dortmund’s incredible youth development and ability to nurture young talent, the mind tends to go towards the likes of Haaland and Bellingham.

But it perhaps goes under the radar, just how strong the club’s academy really is.

With a catalogue excelling in both quality and quantity of brilliant talent, their academy is clearly one of Germany’s very best.