[dropcap]A[/dropcap]lthough Borussia Dortmund have been a force in both German and European football since Jürgen Klopp took over in 2008, the Ruhr Valley club are still regarded in many circles as a level below the continent’s elite.
Two Bundesliga titles and a Champions League final appearance in that time have not lifted the Signal Iduna Park into Europe’s true heavyweights; the global powerhouses with bottomless pockets.
As a result, a host of Dortmund’s top players have become enticed by ‘bigger’ teams over the years, which has seen Die Schwarzgelben lose star names to the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City and domestic rivals Bayern Munich.
However, interestingly, of the seven household names to go to the afore-mentioned quartet of European giants, three have returned to Dortmund since.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan, İlkay Gündoğan and Mats Hummels have departed the club this summer to join United, City and Bayern respectively, while Robert Lewandowski remains the Bavarian side’s main attacking weapon.
But, in comparison, Nuri Şahin, Shinji Kagawa and Mario Götze will start the 2016-17 campaign at Thomas Tuchel’s disposal after failed stints elsewhere.
For Turkey international Şahin, the bright lights of Real Madrid were too much to resist; in reality a measly total of only two La Liga starts and a forgettable loan tenure at Liverpool were the sum of the midfielder’s muted adventure elsewhere.
Now 27, Şahin is no longer even guaranteed a place in the Dortmund line-up, mainly thanks to prodigious incumbent Julian Weigl, and the former Feyenoord loanee’s star does not burn as bright now as it did when he was crowned 2010-11’s Bundesliga Player of the Season.
Kagawa was tipped to be a sensation at Old Trafford but found first-team opportunities a rarity and was predominantly deployed out of position, in a wide role, when given a chance to feature.
The Japan international headed home to Dortmund in the summer of 2014 branded as not-rounded-enough to succeed at United. His case should serve as a prominent warning to Mkhitaryan, who will soon experience the lofty expectations of playing for the Red Devils.
Arguably the most interesting of the three returning stars has seen Götze resigned by Tuchel’s men this summer.
The attacking midfielder was a revelation after breaking through at Dortmund and went on to score the winning goal in a World Cup final – something only a privileged few have managed.
However, there is no escaping the fact that Götze simply did not deliver at Bayern after his treacherous move to the Allianz Arena and it is with understandable frostiness that the Signal Iduna Park faithful welcome him back.
The examples of these three star players should be prevalent in the minds of current stars Weigl, Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
These three youngsters have been given their chance to shine after illustrious team-mates moved to more prestigious climes and have taken the opportunity with both hands – so much so that they are now automatic first choices, even with the prodigal sons returning.
All three have been scouted and rumoured with big-money moves elsewhere and certainly have no shortage of prominent suitors.
But, if and when Bayern, Madrid or another cash-laden European rival comes knocking, the cases of Şahin, Kagawa and Götze, and their failures elsewhere, should be a hefty part of the personal consideration.
Similarly, this summer’s departing stars Mkhitaryan, Hummels and Gündoğan should be acutely aware that not living up to their potential at new clubs could see them back at Dortmund as fragments of their former selves.
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