Football Features

All roads lead to Norwich? Famous footballers you (probably) forgot played for Borussia Dortmund

By Ben Green

Published: 15:30, 25 July 2020

Let’s face it, if you’re a fan of football, then you’re a fan of Borussia Dortmund. We all have a soft spot for the Black and Yellows.

And no, it’s not just because Jurgen Klopp captured hearts and minds there with his animated antics and rock ‘n’ roll football; or that the club has a penchant for developing young players; or even because of that famed “Yellow Wall”.

We love Dortmund for all those things, but mainly for the exceptional talent to have donned the revered BVB colours over the years.

That their ranks get plundered annually — mainly by Bayern Munich — but they’re still able to churn out world-class star after world-class star is testament to their belief in unpolished gems and shrewd scouting network.

We all know the big names. The likes of Robert Lewandowski, Ilkay Gundogan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have all come and gone. But, there are one or two other household names who have sported the BVB jersey that may have slipped your mind.

Who are they? Well, here we remind ourselves of Dortmund’s forgotten few.

Antonio Rudiger

Current club: Chelsea

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 0

During his embryonic years, Chelsea’s no-nonsense centre-back was learning the ropes in Dortmund. Not a bad education by any stretch of the imagination. His arrival in the Ruhr district coincided with his half-brother Sahr Senesie’s departure.

Senesie mustered just a handful of appearances for BVB, but that was more than his sibling, who left for VfB Stuttgart in 2011 after two years and no appearances, before forging a formidable reputation at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, and going on to sign for Roma and later Chelsea.

Kevin-Prince Boateng

Current club: Besiktas (on loan from Fiorentina)

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 11

With Boateng struggling for game time at Spurs under Juande Ramos and later Harry Redknapp following his move from Hertha Berlin, Dortmund took the mercurial forward on loan for the second half of the 2008/09 season.

That campaign will be remembered for being Jurgen Klopp’s first at the helm, while Boateng’s lasting memory was picking up a four-game suspension for a reckless challenge on Wolfsburg’s Makoto Hasebe. BVB did want to make his move permanent despite the indiscretion, but financial restraints meant that a transfer failed to transpire and Portsmouth jumped ahead of the queue.

Oh how times have changed.

Ivan Perisic

Current club: Bayern Munich (on loan from Inter Milan)

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 64

The World Cup finalist featured a fair few times for Dortmund but he only managed to complete the full 90 minutes on just seven occasions during his brief sojourn at the Westfalenstadion. Perisic became disillusioned by the lack of playing time he received under Klopp and publicly criticised the German coach, leading to a retaliation from the Liverpool manager and a subsequent fine from the club. His departure for Wolfsburg in 2013 suited both parties at the time.

Adnan Januzaj

Current club: Real Sociedad

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 12

Remember when Januzaj was going to be the next best thing? In 2014, the Belgian had the world at his finger tips; he was the latest golden nugget to emerge from Manchester United’s esteemed academy, every nation worth their salt was vying for his allegiance and he even took on Ryan Giggs’ revered No. 11 shirt after the legendary winger retired. With the Welshman kept on as part of Louis van Gaal’s coaching staff after hanging up his boots, Januzaj was set to blossom.

However, as we now know, he fell out of favour with the Dutchman and eventually looked to revive his star status with a lucrative move to BVB. Again he was provided celebrity treatment as he took on the No. 9 shirt, once donned by Robert Lewandowski, but after just three starts he returned to Old Trafford at a crossroads.

Ciro Immobile

Current club: Lazio

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 34

When Lewandowski left for Bayern in 2014, the crisis klaxons were alive and thriving, but the arrival of Immobile subdued those early apprehensions. The Italian marksman enjoyed a stellar campaign in Serie A the year prior with Torino and inherited the No. 9 jersey — just before Januzaj. Things looked bright. Look, this is a club accustomed to clinical centre-forwards, Aubameyang and Lucas Barrios would attest to this, things should have worked.

Unfortunately, after just one full season and only three Bundesliga goals, this habitual finisher left BVB for a couple of loan spells before completing a permanent switch to Lazio, where he has taken his game to stratospheric heights and is now considered of one the continent’s most prolific goalscorers.

Marcel Halstenberg

Current club: RB Leipzig

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 0

The Germany international is currently one of Julian Nagelsmann’s most important players at RB Leipzig. Yes, Timo Werner is the main attraction, and Dayot Upamecano is Kalidou Koulibaly 2.0, but Halstenberg is the silent workhorse, a player who shuns the limelight but plays just as influential a role as his star-studded counterparts.

But, before the Red Bull Arena and glittering European nights, Halstenberg was plying his trade for Borussia Dortmund II under David Wagner. The versatile defender impressed enough to earn a promotion to the first team, but after just three appearances on the bench he left for FC St. Pauli in 2013.

Mario Vrancic

Current club: Norwich City

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 0

The Norwich City midfielder was a teammate of Halstenberg at Borussia Dortmund II under Wagner, but he too failed to earn a single minute at the Westfalenstadion and soon left for SC Paderborn. After helping the North Rhine-Westphalia club to Bundesliga promotion, he achieved a similar feat with the Canaries, playing an important role in their Championship title win last season.

Steven Pienaar

Current club: Retired

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 27

The South African went on to enjoy such a long and prosperous career in the Premier League that it can often be forgotten where this exceptional import first transferred from. Well, the balletic trickster first caught the eye of David Moyes having failed to hit the ground running at Dortmund. Pienaar was acquired from Ajax in 2006 to succeed Tomas Rosicky, who had just left for Arsenal, but after an underwhelming season he left for Goodison Park and forged a formidable partnership with Leighton Baines down Everton’s left flank.

Ruben Sosa

Current club: Retired

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 27

Before Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan and Edinson Cavani, Uruguayan fans were in awe of another genius forward: El Principito, or the Little Prince. Sosa was a pint-sized wizard who enjoyed major success at Zaragoza in the 80s, winning the 1986 Copa del Rey at the expense of Barcelona before flourishing in Serie A with Lazio and Inter Milan.

This came during Italian football’s zenith, when the likes of Diego Maradona were lighting up the world. He clinched the 1994 Uefa Cup with Inter and would eventually leave for Dortmund in 1995. Sosa played just one season at Dortmund under Ottmar Hitzfeld before relocating to Logrones and eventually back to his native Uruguay. It was a peripheral role, but he added a Bundesliga title to his cabinet nonetheless.

Kerem Demirbay

Current club: Bayer Leverkusen

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 0

Demirbay initially began his career in the Schalke academy before making the ill-advised switch to Revierderby rivals Dortmund. There he progressed through the ranks and appeared for Borussia Dortmund II but the creative midfielder failed to stamp his mark on the club and soon left for Hamburger SV.

He experienced similar treatment with Der Dino and joined Hoffenheim in 2016, where he has since established himself as one of Europe’s most gifted midfielders and earned a transfer to Leverkusen last summer.

Guy Demel

Current club: Retired

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 42

The former Arsenal defender failed to cut the mustard in London after just one season in 2000/01 and eventually left for Dortmund the following year. Demel struggled for consistent game time at BVB, too, and would once again be on the move, this time for Hamburger, before joining Sam Allardyce’s West Ham in 2011. He played a key part in their promotion to the Premier League, including in the Championship play-off final, and enjoyed a few fruitful years in the top-flight.

Christoph Zimmermann

Current club: Norwich City

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 0

The towering centre-back joined Borussia Dortmund II from Borussia Monchengladbach II in 2014 and played under then-coach Daniel Farke, who evidently saw enough in his compatriot to sign him for Norwich, where he too helped guide the club to promotion.

Marco Stiepermann 

Current club: Norwich City

Borussia Dortmund appearances: 7

The Norwich-Dortmund connection stretches further, with Stiepermann another alumnus of the German club, though unlike his current teammates, he is the only ex-BVB man to make an appearance for the club. He looked a real prospect at one point, but his emergence coincided with one of Dortmund’s greatest ever spells, and so, he went on to tour a number of German clubs before settling in Norfolk.