Sometimes your club will buy a player that you scratch your head about. They may have underwhelmed at their previous club or you may see buying a rival club’s cast off as beneath you. Mats Hummels was one of those transfers for BVB when he was snapped up from Bayern Munich on loan in 2008.
Hummels was born in Gladbach, which actually isn’t far from Dortmund, on 16th December 1988. He was scouted by Bayern at the age of six and spent the next 14 years at the club. He made his debut for the club on the final day of the 2006/07 season in a 5-2 home win over Mainz. Hummels would stay at Bayern until the following January, when he would sign for Borussia Dortmund on loan. He regularly partnered Neven Subotic at the back, but was often injured so was mostly on the sidelines. Although Thomas Doll was sacked at the end of the 2007/08 season, new manager Jurgen Klopp decided to re-sign Hummels until the end of the following campaign. He continued to partner Subotic and, after a season of playing consistently, they were becoming a force to be reckoned with for opposition attackers. Dortmund would win the DFB Supercup and Klopp would guide his new side to a sixth-place league finish. Mats Hummels’ contributions to these achievements convinced the Dortmund board to spend €4 million to secure his services permanently.
Mats Hummels was proving to be an astute signing. He and Subotic were to be the perfect foil for each other. Subotic was a harsh centre-half who was hard in the tackle. He won most of his aerial battles with ease and was the type of defender to get his fair share of bookings. Hummels, however, was a calming presence. He brought a sense of serenity to the back four, especially to the game of his Serbian partner. Hummels was good in the air, but not as good as Subotic. Subotic’s impulsiveness sometimes lead to mistakes. It was rare but when it happened, Hummels was usually there to sweep up after him. It was clear that Hummels was improving the game of everyone around him with his leadership and composure at the back.
Dortmund would finish the 2009/10 season in fifth place, but the following two seasons brought back to back Bundesliga titles for the club. In fact, in 2010/11 the club finished the season with the best defensive record and, in 2011/12, they amassed 81 points – a Bundesliga record. That same season they also won the club’s first domestic double in their history, beating Bayern Munich 5-2 in the DFB Pokal final in which Hummels scored. It was clear that Klopp was building something special in Westfalia and that Mats Hummels was central to it. This was proven when he was awarded a contract that would keep him at the club until June 2017.
The following season saw Dortmund, and Hummels, brought to the attention of Europe. BVB would reach the Champions League final, being narrowly beaten 2-1 by Bayern at Wembley. His stock had risen though. He had taken his game up a level that season and proven that he could deal with the world’s best. In the home leg of the semi-final against Real Madrid, the Galacticos frontline was largely kept at bay by Hummels and Subotic. Cristiano Ronaldo and co had no answer for the solidity of the big German and his mad Serbian sidekick. He heroically guided his team-mates to a 4-1 win at Signal Iduna Park. In the return leg at the Bernabeu, the story was exactly the same. Real Madrid came away with a 2-0 win but the tie ended 4-3 on aggregate. It was slender but it was enough to see the team to the final.
Hummels was now seen as one of the best centre halves in Europe. The continent’s biggest clubs were now circling. Hummels pledged his allegiance to the club that had put faith in him though. He was rewarded with the DFB Supercup and a Bundesliga runners up medal the following season. That summer, long time club captain Sebstian Kehl announced his decision to retire. The club now needed a new captain. There was only one choice in the eyes of the fans, board and manager. Mats Hummels was named Dortmund captain.
Between being named captain and the end of the 2013/14 season however, a very special event in the career of Mats Hummels took place. Joachim Low named Hummels in the national squad for the World Cup in Brazil. He would score in the opening game, a 4-0 win over Portugal. Although he missed the second round due to illness, he would score the winner in the quarter-final against France. Hummels would also play the entire 120 minutes as Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the World Cup final. He was now a World Cup winner.
Back in Dortmund, Mats Hummels first season as club captain had not gone to plan. The club would finish the campaign in a very disappointing 7th place and manager Jurgen Klopp had announced he was leaving at the end of the season. Neven Subotic had been gradually replaced by Sokratis Papastathopoulos, and the settling period of the new partnership was taking longer than first thought. Rumblings regarding the skipper’s future resurfaced again. Hummels decided to stay at the club, however, and give the new manager, Thomas Tuchel, a season of grace. Tuchel’s first season was relatively successful. BVB finished as runners up in the league and DFB Pokal, losing out on both to perennial rivals Bayern Munich. They were also knocked out of the Europa League in the quarter-finals after an astonishing defeat by Liverpool.
On 10th May 2016, it was announced that Hummels would re-sign for Bayern Munich. It was news that caught many off-guard but not by surprise. Far from being vilified for signing for his club’s rivals, Mats Hummels was a given a hero’s send-off and rightly so. Hummels was part of a golden era for BVB. During his time at the club, he won the Bundesliga twice, the DFB Pokal and the DFB Supercup twice. It was also whilst he was at the club that he won the World Cup. Hummels was like no other defender at the club when he signed. He showed what a fantastic defender he was but also that he was an accomplished footballer. Not only could he lead a defence without bother, Hummels was also crucial in the way the team played the game. He brought the ball out of defence and started attacks. His reading of the game and positioning on the pitch made him extremely difficult to play against. By the time he left, he was regarded as one of the best – if not the best – centre half in the world. Mats Hummels must surely be remembered as one of the greatest signings in Borussia Dortmund history.