Matthias Sammer, a name widely known across football history, is arguably the best player to have ever played for Borussia Dortmund. Sammer played as a libero in an era that heavily favoured sweepers. His impact on the game and the club probably make him the last libero at BVB and maybe even the Bundesliga. The German won the Ballon d’Or in 1996 and won 1 UCL, 2 Bundesliga titles and 3 German Super Cups at Borussia Dortmund.
Sammer came from a family with a football background. His father, a famous coach, and player, Klaus Sammer, gave him his club debut for hometown club Dynamo Dresden. Matthias started his career playing as a striker and was later moved onto the wing. His career really took off when he was shifted to central midfield, where his physicality and work ethic made him a force to be reckoned with. After a few exceptional seasons in the Bundesliga and Serie A, he signed for Borussia Dortmund in the winter transfer window of the 1992-93 season, where he built his immortal legacy.
A Libero, in football, acts as a free defender who usually does not mark attackers. Instead, they simply mop up any loose balls. These loose balls are then converted into counterattacks. One of the pioneers of this position is Franz Beckenbauer. Matthias Sammer was chosen by manager Ottmar Hitzfeld to fulfil this iconic role. This libero system reached its full potential when Dortmund were crowned Bundesliga champions in the next season. This was their first title victory in over 30 years. The glory days of Borussia Dortmund were back, thanks to Sammer’s exceptional performances throughout the season.
His success continued to the next season where he played a pivotal role in another title victory for Borussia Dortmund. Dortmund had finished 6 points above rivals Bayern Munich. Because of his contribution and new-found libero role, he was named German Footballer of the Year for both seasons. He became the first defender since Beckenbauer to be declared the best player in Europe and he was awarded the Ballon d’Or in 1996, after beating Barcelona’s Ronaldo and Alan Shearer from Newcastle United. He was also named the Player of the Tournament after Germany won the European Championship that year.
Although Dortmund could not continue their domestic run, the next season went down in BVB history as Sammer led the side to a Champions League victory after they defeated Juventus 3-1 in the final. Sammer ran the show, yet again, as Juve were outplayed. At the end of the season, Sammer suffered a serious knee injury, which stopped him from returning to the first team.
He retired as a professional footballer in 1998 but returned to Dortmund 2 years later as a manager. He became the first individual to win the Bundesliga as a player and as a manager after Dortmund finished first the next season. Unfortunately, due to financial troubles at the club, he was sacked after 2 more seasons. Sammer will go down in history as one of the best liberos, he was a national and club hero and a successful manager. He is indeed a BVB legend.