When Marco Reus put pen to paper on a new contract with the Borussia Dortmund a week ago, it took seemingly everyone in Europe by surprise. The announcement came the day after a tough first leg defeat in the Europa League last 16 to RB Salzburg, and Reus was not shy about the message he was trying to send. He had been linked with a move away to one of the biggest clubs in the world after returning from his cruciate injury as strong as ever, but in committing to his boyhood club, he has shown that there is more to the club’s future plans than finishing in a European place and turning half of the squad over in the summer when clubs come sniffing around their most talented players. At 28, Reus was not likely to be taken in by a future that involved selling his best teammates every season, which had left many in the media to speculate that the German attacker was privy to Dortmund’s transfer plans for the summer and beyond.
Having missed the last 3 major competitions that Germany entered due to injury, Reus will be anxious to work his way into Joachim Loew’s World Cup plans and expand on his shockingly low 28 caps for his country. Germany is one of the favourites to win in Russia this summer, but there still exists no wide forward quite like Marc Reus in their whole setup. If he stays healthy, he should have little trouble worming his way into the team.
As much as his importance to this current Dortmund side is helpful in his bid to play for his country in Russia, it does not adequately explain why Reus has committed the next 5 and a half seasons to Dortmund. The club hierarchy has been keeping their future plans close to the vest, but surely what they shared with their talisman was satisfying enough to him to convince him of the direction the club is headed. In this writer’s estimation, there are 3 things that Dortmund can do that will keep their most beloved player happy to play out his best years in the yellow and black.
The Next Manager
Peter Stoeger has undoubtedly been a stabilising force since assuming the managerial role at the beginning of December, but the results have been a bit kind to the team’s performances since his arrival. The defence has improved dramatically, due in no smart part to Stoeger’s more conservative tactics to his predecessor, Peter Bosz, but he has not yet married this philosophy with Dortmund’s exciting attacking pedigree to the create a properly balanced team. Dortmund are still liable to go through large stretches of matches where they cannot get themselves into scoring positions, and the late match heroics of Michy Batshuayi and others have put a shine on Stoeger’s record with the club, as he has yet to lose a match in the league. However, it is fair to ask whether or not Stoeger would be an exciting enough prospect to convince Reus that Dortmund can take the next step in the Bundesliga and in Europe.
Should the club look elsewhere to fill the vacancy at the end of the season, 2 names that are forever being linked are Hoffenheim’s Julian Nagelsmann and Ralph Hasenhuttl of RB Leipzig. Of the two, Hasenhuttl seems most similar to the rapid, frenetic pressing teams of Dortmund’s most decorated years under Jurgen Klopp, but Nagelsmann is a young manager (so young that several members of the team would be his senior if he was hired) with an exceedingly bright future. He is known for being pragmatic, and his desire to tailor his tactics to the strengths of his players has made it difficult to pin down what exactly a Dortmund team under his stewardship would look like, but many are convinced he will be brilliant, no matter where he ends up in world football. It remains to be seen whether either of these men could do a a better job for the team than Stoeger, but judging by the opinions of many fans, they are eager to find out.
Keep Talent Around
Following their brush with financial ruin over a decade ago, Dortmund have dutifully adhered to a model of high turnover to keep their books healthy. As a result, Dortmund have seen some of the most talented players in Europe leave the club, and have been forced to replace them with more young, talented players. In truth, there are few clubs in the world, especially at Dortmund’s level, that are as effective at this strategy as die Schwarzgelben, and as this trend has accelerated in the last 3-4 seasons, they have been largely able to maintain their status as Germany’s second biggest club behind Bayern Munich.
However, is a continuation of the recent transfer strategy the best way to take advantage of a Reus’ best years with the club? Despite frequently being a part of one of the most exciting and clubs in Europe, Reus has won just 1 DFB Pokal and 2 German Super Cups. Many of his teammates have treated Dortmund as a stepping stone to a “bigger” club with bigger wages, but one of the easiest ways the club can ensure they are fighting for more trophies is to hold on to their best players. Instead of letting the likes of Ousmane Dembele (although to be fair, that was entirely his doing), Mats Hummels and Robert Lewandowski depart, the club could extend just a little bit more to keep them at the club. With this current squad, this would involve players like Julian Weigl and Christian Pulisic around long enough to realise their full potential in Dortmund. With some of the club’s core contributors reaching the latter stages of their careers, or at the very least past peak, it becomes that much more important to identify a nucleus of talent that will provide the foundation on which title contending sides are built for years to come. No player would benefit more from this than Reus, who thrives when playing with players at or near his own prodigious level.
Sign More Ready-Made Stars
Even if the club aren’t interested in totally reworking their transfer policy to help Reus win more trophies, targeting fewer players of a higher calibre could make all the difference. Hans-Joachim Watzke and Michael Zorc like to portray the club as plucky but slightly impoverished fighters who must be smart where other clubs can afford to throw money at a problem. While this has undoubtedly informed their transfer policy and wage bill structure, Dortmund have quietly become one of the most lucrative clubs in Europe, with Deloitte ranking them as the 12th highest earning club in the world by revenue. They spend nearly £100 million in transfers this past summer, an amount that wouldn’t be out of place in the money printing top 6 of the Premier League. The club doesn’t have to abandon thrifty signings of players like the £10 million and under acquisitions of Omer Toprak, Mahmoud Dahoud, Jadon Sancho and Jeremy Toljan. Instead, they could pass on signing multiple ~£20 million players like Andriy Yarmolenko and Andre Schurrle in favour of targeting 1 or 2 top level players that may cost a little more, but have a better chance of making a real and lasting impact on the team with their contributions.
Dortmund will be confronted with a similar decision this summer as it pertains to Chelsea loanee Michy Batshuayi. The Belgian has taken to Dortmund like a duck to water, scoring goal after goal after goal, quickly consigning former star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the history books with nary a backward glance. It is inconceivable that the club will decline to pursue a permanent move with his parent club, but to do so would likely involve shattering their transfer record. In fact, how the club handles the Batshuayi situation this summer will be a clear indication of how they plan to make use of a Reus’ prime years. Extending to sign the Belgian striker (who already has combined brilliantly with a Reus) could be a harbinger of things to come for fans of die Borussen, and the beginning of their first serious title challenge since Jurgen Klopp was prancing the touchline. For Marco Reus, easily one of the most talented players in this golden age of German football, that could be exactly what he wants.