Football Features

The Wolfsburg German Cup-winners that spoiled Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund farewell

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 10:45, 11 September 2023 | Updated: 8:21, 13 September 2023

Before bringing success back to Anfield with Liverpool, Jurgen Klopp made his name in management by going toe-to-toe with Bayern Munich as Borussia Dortmund manager.

Klopp’s seven-year managerial career at Dortmund ended on May 30, 2015 in the 72nd DFB-Pokal final against VfL Wolfsburg. Klopp had endured an awful start to his final league campaign at the Westfalenstadion, but the team recovered after the winter break to finish seventh and reach the German cup final.

It teed up an opportunity for the perfect farewell and Klopp’s team featured a who’s who of BVB stars past and present, including Mats Hummels, Ilkay Gündogan, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Shinji Kagawa, Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

But the opposition were also well-stocked in terms of ability, and though Aubameyang gave the yellow-blacks a fifth-minute lead it was Dieter Hecking’s Wolfsburg team who came out on top that Saturday evening.

Luiz Gustavo grabbed the equaliser before Kevin De Bruyne and Bas Dost put the game out of Dortmund’s reach.

A painful goodbye for Klopp, who has since lifted the Champions League and the Premier League as Liverpool boss, but what of that Wolfsburg team? Where are those 11 starters and bench players now? Read on to find out.


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Goalkeeper: Diego Benaglio

Wolfsburg appearances: 321

Current club: Retired

Diego Benaglio, who came through at Stuttgart, made a name for himself while serving Wolfsburg. There, he played more than 300 times and kept 80 clean sheets. The 61-time capped Swiss international captained The Wolves on this triumphant day and would subsequently join AS Monaco, whom he left in 2020 and subsequently retired.

Right-back: Vieirinha

Wolfsburg appearances: 163

Current club: PAOK

The much-travelled Portuguese full-back enjoyed six seasons at Wolfsburg, in which time he earned a national team call-up. Since leaving Germany following the 2016/17 campaign, Vieirinha has exclusively played for Greek outfit PAOK and lifted a second championship, as captain, having previously won the Portuguese title at FC Porto.

Centre-back: Naldo

Wolfsburg appearances: 163

Current club: Retired

An evergreen Brazilian defensive colossus, Naldo became a superstar at Werder Bremen before joining Bundesliga rivals Wolfsburg, where he averaged 31 league starts per season across a four-year stay. Schalke 04 would become his third (and to date final) German club. Most recently, Naldo spent a year with Monaco, before leaving and then ending his career.

Centre-back: Timm Klose

Wolfsburg appearances: 43

Current club: Retired.

Klose joined Norwich City in 2016, subsequently ending a three-year association with Wolfsburg. He played a pivotal role in the Canaries’ top-flight return but the veteran German centre-back made just seven appearances in all competitions after suffering a knee injury. Klose ultimately joined Bristol City following a brief loan spell at Basel but he’s now happily retired.

Left-back: Ricardo Rodríguez

Wolfsburg appearances: 184

Current club: Torino

Rodríguez established himself as one of the Bundesliga’s more revered left-backs at Wolfsburg, creating 26 goals across 149 league outings, before AC Milan signed him in 2017 amid their rebuilding phase. After struggling to get into their team last season, Rodriguez was loaned to PSV and made six appearances before the Eredivisie’s early finish. He is now back in Italy but with Torino.

Central midfielder: Maximilian Arnold

Wolfsburg appearances: 319

Current club: Wolfsburg

Having come through Wolfsburg’s academy, Arnold – who has one senior Germany international cap under his belt – remains at his boyhood club. Having debuted in November 2011, he became their youngest-ever player at 17 years, five months and 30 days old, a record he still holds to this day.

Central midfielder: Luiz Gustavo

Wolfsburg appearances: 142

Current club: Free agent

A 41-time Brazilian international Gustavo really came to the fore at Wolfsburg following solid spells at Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich. Gustavo moved from Wolfsburg to Marseille in 2017 and spent two years in France before joining Fenerbahce, quickly becoming a key part of their midfield, but he has since left for Al Nassr and is now a free agent following his departure.

Right-winger: Daniel Caligiuri

Wolfsburg appearances: 130

Current club: Free agent

Caligiuri spent almost four years at Wolfsburg, joining from Freiburg in 2013, and was involved in 37 goals across 130 matches for Wolfsburg, creating 21 of those and scoring 16 himself. In January 2017 the Italian winger joined fellow Bundesliga side Schalke 04, leaving after just over three years, now a free agent following a spell at Augsburg.

Attacking midfielder: Kevin De Bruyne

Wolfsburg appearances: 73

Current club: Manchester City

De Bruyne joined Wolfsburg following a disappointing time at Chelsea, whose manager at the time, Jose Mourinho, afforded him only nine appearances. German football reinvigorated him, and since moving to Manchester City he has been widely considered as Europe’s best midfielder.

Left-winger: Ivan Perisic

Wolfsburg appearances: 88

Current club: Tottenham

Wolfsburg were reacquainted with Perisic when the Croatian returned to the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, whom he joined on loan from Inter Milan. He has added to his Bundesliga numbers as part of Bayern’s title-winning side, scoring four goals and recording six assists, having previously left boasting 27 goals shared between his time at Borussia Dortmund and Die Wölfe. Not to mention winning the DFB-Pokal and Champions League. However, he is now at Tottenham where he plays a squad role under Ange Postecoglou’s leadership.

Striker: Bas Dost

Wolfsburg appearances: 117

Current club: NEC

A serial goalscorer wherever he’s been, Bas Dost rocked 48 goals in 117 games for Wolfsburg before registering 93 strikes across 127 games at Sporting CP. Dost returned to Germany for the 2019/20 campaign, linking up with Eintracht Frankfurt, scoring 15 goals in 43 games before turning out for Club Brugge, FC Utrecht and currently NEC.

Substitutes:

Goalkeeper: Max Grün

Wolfsburg appearances: 12

Current club: Victoria Aschaffenburg

Max Grün would make nine Bundesliga appearances for Wolfsburg prior to joining SV Darmstadt 98, for whom he never played, and then Borussia Mönchengladbach, where he also failed to play a single minute. Grün is now representing Victoria Aschaffenburg.

Centre-back: Robin Knoche

Wolfsburg appearances: 226

Current club: Union Berlin

Until the summer of 2020, Robin Knoche was a one-club man, making over 200 appearances for Wolfsburg. But after 15 years on the books at Wolfsburg, Knoche left for Union Berlin on a free transfer.

Left-back: Marcel Schäfer

Wolfsburg appearances: 312

Current club: Retired

Marcel Schäfer called time on his professional career in 2018 after enjoying a year representing the Tampa Bay Rowdies, while in Europe he was Wolfsburg first choice left-back for much of a decade.

Defensive midfielder: Christian Träsch

Wolfsburg appearances: 154

Current club: Retired

Träsch joined his final team UAE side Al-Wasl having previously spent his entire playing career in Germany, last representing FC Ingolstadt whom he joined from Wolfsburg. There, he made over 100 league appearances between 2011 and 2017.

Defensive midfielder: Josuha Guilavogui

Wolfsburg appearances: 192

Current club: Free agent

Guilavogui, who in the past briefly represented Atlético Madrid, served as Wolfsburg’s captain before leaving the club and is now a free agent.

Left-winger: André Schürrle

Wolfsburg appearances: 63

Current club: Retired

Since setting up Mario Götze’s winning goal at the 2014 World Cup final, Schürrle has represented no fewer than five clubs including Wolfsburg, sandwiched between spells at Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund. Following loan spells at Fulham and Spartak Moscow, Schurrle retired aged 29, citing mental health reasons as one of the factors.

Striker: Nicklas Bendtner

Wolfsburg appearances: 47

Current club: Retired.

So much was expected from Nicklas Bendtner when he burst onto the scene at Arsenal, but it never came together. Sunderland, Juventus, Wolfsburg, Nottingham Forest, Rosenborg and FC Copenhagen have all enjoyed his services before he called time on his career.

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