Britain and ‘die Borussen’ – a match made in heaven
The sport of football was invented in England in the 19th century.
A place that boasts several of the world’s oldest clubs, the country’s top division, the Premier League, is widely regarded as the best and most competitive in the world.
Having thrived as the United Kingdom’s most popular sport for decades, it’s no mystery as to why so few players have historically left Britannia to ply their trade abroad.
But that is changing. With the Premier League so competitive, clubs are now reluctant to rely on the top young talents they continue to produce in abundance.
Thereby, over the past half a decade or so, many British prospects have started to pursue their dreams across the Channel. Germany has become the number one destination.
“It’s scary to see how he’s going to develop.”@22Demarai feels that a lot of young English talent will follow in the footsteps of Jude Bellingham and Jadon Sancho by developing their game abroad pic.twitter.com/XqGLB8kdiy
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) October 27, 2021
Although the likes of Gary Lineker, Kevin Keegan and Mark Hughes starred on sunnier shores before the turn of the century, they were bona fide stars.
Back then, it was unheard of for young players to sow the seeds of successful careers away from their homeland.
The most prominent early examples of this change were former West Ham and current Augsburg defender Reece Oxford and a certain Jadon Sancho.
They paved the way for many. And now, prosperous British ballers have an array of options when kickstarting their careers.
Germany is a country of great culture, great beauty and great football.
From the North Sea shores to the famous Black Forest and the quintessentially German medieval fairytale towns, there’s so much to love about Deutschland.
For a nation that was once so divided, it is remarkable how it is now one of the most diverse and accepting in the world.
The people are welcoming, the food is delicious and the infrastructure is top notch.
When compared to certain places in the UK, it’s no wonder why players fancy doing their thing in such a place.
The Bundesliga's fan culture is the best in the world.
— DW Sports (@dw_sports) May 14, 2023
From a footballing side of things, fans are and always have been at the heart of the game.
German football boasts some of the best atmospheres in the game, and these same passionate fans are very well represented in the hierarchy of their clubs.
On the pitch, the Bundesliga is a league of free-flowing, end-to-end football, allowing players to play their own game with freedom.
And due to the step down in quality from the Premier League, adapting and thriving is a simpler task, especially on a footballing scene where youngsters are far more trusted.
It poses as a nice, gentle introduction to football at the highest level, with continental football perhaps more feasible as the league’s top six aren’t so fixed like they are elsewhere.
Borussia Dortmund are a historical juggernaut of European football.
Eight-time German champions, five-time cup winners and 1997 UEFA Champions League winners, BVB are a huge institution.
‘die Schwarzgelben’ are one of the most likeable clubs for neutrals and that isn’t solely due to those successes.
For most football fans, when they hear the name ‘Borussia Dortmund’, they think of the iconic black and yellow strip and the unique atmosphere of Signal Iduna Park.
With a capacity of 81,365, many young footballers and fans dream of playing or watching a game at the Westfalenstadion – a true colossus of a venue.
Its famous single-tier Südtribune stand has become known as the ‘Yellow Wall’, showcasing unmatched passion week-in, week-out.
One of the most prominent examples of a team that truly expresses the heart of this club is Jürgen Klopp’s title-winning side of the early 2010’s.
That team won consecutive Bundesliga titles, the first ever league-cup double in the history of ‘die Borussen’ and reached a Champions League final for just the second time.
In terms of personnel, it boasted some of the most loyal players the game has seen; Marco Reus, Roman Weidenfeller, and Marcel Schmelzer are prime examples.
Meanwhile it was also a product of the club’s phenomenal recruitment and youth development.
Mario Götze was developed by Klopp and became a World Cup winner, while Robert Lewandowski became one of the finest strikers of all-time.
#OnThisDay: In 2012, Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund team won their second successive Bundesliga title ⚫️
An side pic.twitter.com/qh0PbfK7t8
— LiveScore (@livescore) April 21, 2022
He was one of three Polish players in that team, along with Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Blaszczykowski, players with little attention in their pre-Dortmund days.
An unassuming team of humble superstars won the neutrals’ hearts and that remains part of the club’s identity to this day.
Other players in more recent times such as Christian Pulisic, Ousmane Dembele, Achraf Hakimi and Erling Haaland shot to stardom in North Rhine-Westphalia as well.
Their track record for developing youth players is up there with the best on the continent.
Borussia Dortmund Examples
Although the trend of young British players seeking greener grass in mainland Europe is a more modern one, BVB’s recent teenage sensations are not the club’s first.
In fact, one Briton was in the starting lineup when Dortmund became European champions in 1997.
A familiar name to fans of English football, Scottish manager Paul Lambert lined up in midfield for Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side.
That was the midfielder’s only season in black and yellow but what a way to cap it off.
Another Scotsman and Celtic legend, Murdo MacLeod also played 129 times over three years for the club in the late 1980s.
But it’s due to a certain couple of players why this trend is so prevalent nowadays.
Sancho was a huge talent at Manchester City, pushing for first team opportunities alongside the likes of Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz. But it was at Dortmund where the winger really made his name.
A teenager at the time, the London native took his career into his own hands by moving to Germany in 2017, something people questioned.
But what a decision that proved to be. Among a substandard season for the team, Sancho worked his way into the side and into Lucien Favre’s plans for the 2018-19 campaign.
30 direct goal contributions followed in the Bundesliga, before he racked up 34 the next term. Possessing such flair and dribbling abilities, he was devastating in black and yellow and a nightmare for opposition defenders.
In the summer of 2021, Sancho left North Rhine-Westphalia to join Manchester United for a reported €85million, having scored 50 goals and assisted a further 64 in 137 appearances for BVB.
He would also win a Supercup and scored two goals in the club’s victorious DFB-Pokal final against RB Leipzig in 2021.
Having seen Sancho become the first major British export in Germany of his time, several others followed suit.
The next to arrive at Signal Iduna Park was a teenager who had stole the headlines in the English Championship with Birmingham City.
At just 16 years old, Jude Bellingham had become the youngest player in the Blues’ history and was later named the young player of the season for the entire English Football League.
In the following summer, the midfielder made the decision to join Borussia Dortmund, a club known for developing young players, for a reported €25million – a record for a 17-year-old.
Although it was first expected that Bellingham would be gradually bedded into the Dortmund setup, his performances fast-tracked him into a role of great importance very early on.
His debut in the Pokal was marked with a goal, which saw him break Nuri Sahin’s record to also become BVB’s youngest goal-scorer.
He would end that season having become an England international, having netted in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City and having started the Pokal final against Leipzig – something few expected when he initially arrived.
4 – Jude Bellingham has scored his fourth UEFA Champions League goal, the most ever by an English teenager in the competition. Tonight is also his 18th appearance in the competition; again, the most by any English teenager. Hey. pic.twitter.com/DxnojAmoZp
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) September 14, 2022
Mature beyond his years, Bellingham started 44 games the following term; it was clear he was becoming a key player at just 18.
So far this season, he has notched up 21 direct goal involvements and has captained ‘die Schwarzgelben’ on several occasions.
With his shirt number 22 signifying his abilities in and between both boxes (4+8+10), Bellingham is one of the most valuable and in-demand players in world football.
Whatever happens this summer, Dortmund will still have another English talent in their ranks; Jamie Bynoe-Gittens joined ‘die Borussen’ in 2020 from Manchester City and though he has struggled with injuries this season, the winger is firmly in the first team picture for Edin Terzic’s side, having shown his promise this term.
It’s likely that he won’t be the last Englishman to thrive in black and yellow.