Reus is unique because he joined Dortmund in his 20s, but rather than make a big move during his prime like many of his teammates, chose to stay. Alexandre Simoes/Borussia Dortmund/Getty Images
Marco Reus is an old man. He is 32 years old, which is a young age for most people. However, the sports world has a shorter timeline. There are many generations of players at Dortmund and it is possible for the fortunes to change in a few years.
Reus has been with Dortmund for nearly 10 years. Reus is the face and perhaps the only constant playing figure for young Dortmund fans. Reus is closer to the end of his career than he was to the beginning. Players can play at the highest level for longer periods of time (Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo), as well as into their 40s (Zlatan Ibraovic). Reus' graying hair is a visual sign that he is no longer the boy with endless possibilities.
At the end of the video interview, in September, I asked him if he'd ever do anything with his hair again. He said that Erling Haaland would be able to help him with ideas but that his hair isn’t the same as it was when he was younger. We'll see.
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Reus being old is both a common fact and a bizarre reality. Reus is old because people age, things change, and the years pile on top of each other. It's the most basic rule in the universe. Reus is old because he has stayed with a team where young players constantly come in and out. This is what is strange about Reus. Dortmund is not meant to be home for talented players like Reus.
Robert Lewandowski left and Robert Lewandowski arrived. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived and went. Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mcitaryan, Shinji Kagawa and Ciro Immobile, Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembele have all left. Donyell Malen and Youssoufa Mukoko, Jude Bellingham and Gio Reyna will all be leaving while Reus remains there. He could have left at least and returned, just like Mario Gotze or Mats Hummels. But that was not what he did.
Reus' age is also strange because his career was so interrupted by injuries that his story arc seems incomplete. His story is more like a series of deferred possibilities. Then, it was deferred and then he was erased. The list of injuries he has sustained can be extensive. Just a month ago, he was injured in his knee while on international duty. His career has been consistent in that he is likely to be there more often than any other player.
I asked him about the frustrations that come from his career being hampered by these injuries and whether it still angers him today as it did when he was younger.
He said, "I've become more relaxed in this regard." One learns more about one's body. It is possible to learn that it may be better to let the body recover and do less. I feel like I'm still at the peak of my abilities, even though I'm 32 years old. Perhaps what I lost with all the injuries I suffered in the past, I can now bring back. It is crucial to prepare for the game, training, and just to be aware that each day is important. To balance the body and mentally prepare for the future.
Reus was in and out of the picture every day as his recovery progressed and his teammates changed. In a flash, Reus turns 32. He arrives at an interview with graying hair and is frustrated by his body. He stops being unhappy with his body and complaining about how he is losing time to make the most of what time he has. He begins to think and talk about a life beyond football. Louise Gluck's poem "Dawn" stated that "Years, years -- that is how time passes." All this happens in a dream.
I asked him about his thoughts on the rapid transition from promising young boy into elder statesman.
"Yes, definitely. It's amazing how quickly the years pass. There are now 17-year-olds and 18-year olds who are performing at a higher level than I was when I was their age. This is amazing to me, but it is also the time. I am now almost an old player. This shows that you can't get it back.
Reus, the middle, is still the emotional heart of a vibrant Dortmund side. He is surrounded by stars such as Haaland, who are destined to do bigger things. Joosep Martson/Getty Images
Reus can be seen from one perspective as another example of what could have been, a story as old and as tragic as football itself. His name was once as popular on the transfer market as the talented young players he mentors. He was named FIFA 17's cover star, joining the elite group that includes Neymar, Eden Hazard, Kylian Mbappe, Messi and Neymar. Yet, unlike most of them, he has remained at his club, so long that he's now the second-longest-serving player at Dortmund, after Marcel Schmelzer.
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Real Madrid and Barcelona could have been the next destination for Reus. Bayern were naturally in the conversation as they have taken many of Dortmund's greatest players (Lewandowskis, Hummels and Gotze) over the years. He could have signed with a Premier League team. None of these moves were made. He remained at Dortmund. He stayed as long as his body allowed him to.
I asked him if it was something he regretted sometimes not leaving.
He said, "No." "I must say that all of the decisions I made were taken from my heart. That speaks volumes about me as a person. No matter what decision was made, I listened to the voice of my heart.
It is natural to think about it when you receive offers from top clubs and teams. But that is only part of the equation. You have to make a decision. My heart always said that this is where I feel most at home. It is difficult to play in front of more than 80,000 people, so the decision was easy. It was something that one had thought about.
Football can make it difficult to stay focused on the future. It can be difficult to focus on the present in football due to the endless cycle of seasons and an infinite supply of players, managers, and talent.
Young players are a wonderful representation of the fascination with the future. They're so full of potential that it's hard not to imagine what they could be. The imagination is wild. They are the basis of a whole industry of transfer rumors. Dortmund is Haaland's playground, and each goal makes it more fun to see him in action.
These young players are in a sense, never really being there. They are rarely seen as they are now. They are all they can and will be. They reach that peak and become veterans. Then, their eyes turn to the next generation of young players who will succeed them.
Ramon Calderon, the former president of Real Madrid once called Guti "eternal proverbial promise". This was paradoxically because Guti, through his own faults and external circumstances never became the player he had hoped to be. Even as his career was nearing its end, he never lost sight of the abstract meaning of being young.
Reus started his career in Dortmund's youth ranks, but he left to join second division Rot-Weiss-Ahlen at 17 and eventually returned to Dortmund's original team in 2012. Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
Reus was the "immediate now" and I began to think about him that way. Reus admitted that he doesn't care about the future or the time lost. Reus is only concerned with enjoying the moment. Doing his best for his team, his body and himself. Then he will let the future unfold as it pleases.
I was shocked when he decided not to attend the 2020 European Championships in Germany, which he had discussed with me in September. His explanation of his decision was a perfect example of how peaceful he is with himself.
He said, "It wasn't an easy decision." You don't cancel such a tournament. However, it was well-thought out due to my injury history or the long injury that I suffered last year. My body just told me, or gave me a signal to slow down and keep my body in good shape for the next season. This is what I did for the season. I wasn't just at the beach enjoying the sun but also working. The combination was great, I think. I did not regret making the decision. However, I accepted it and allowed my body to heal.
The renaissance has been fueled by a new focus on the present. He can now be focused on what is happening right now, without worrying about the future and no regrets over the time he's lost. Reus's personal campaign was one of his best, despite the injuries he sustained last season. Reus managed to score eight goals and assist six times, and he was involved with all four goals of Dortmund's 3-0 win over RB Leipzig in the German Cup final. He would not have been held responsible if he had walked out of the game too soon or lost faith in his ability to rise to the heights he has reached today. He believed that he could keep climbing up, no matter how many times it took, and that he would be able to prove his talent.
He said, "No, it wasn't surprising." "I believe every athlete has self doubt. I was hurt for a while and didn't know how I would recover. I also believed that everyone needs time to get better. I believed in myself and knew that I could help the team. To believe in myself, I had to continue to work. Everything is okay and everything will come back."
Reus' most regrettable injury, out of many, was the ankle injury he sustained in a 2014 World Cup warmup against Armenia. This injury saw him lose his chance at glory. Without him, Germany would win the competition. DANIEL ROLAND/AFP via Getty Images
Reus was focusing on the present and I wanted to do the exact same. To see the present Reus and not feel that his story is incomplete. Reus should be seen as the player at the moment, and we should appreciate him for who he is.
Reus was penalized after he scored a penalty shout in the match against Augsburg, Oct. 2. Reus was running for the ball in the box and trying to beat a defender. Replay revealed that the defender was able to reach the ball in the box in a fraction of a second faster than Reus. My natural instinct was to believe that Reus, a younger man, would have beaten the opponent to the ball. Similar thoughts were prevalent throughout the match.
Reus is slower now than he was when he was younger, which is a natural result of injury and age. Reus still has the same gait, elegance, and speed, but he doesn’t consume space as much. He sprints and his defenders are there to support him. They sometimes catch him up after he has had an advantage, but it still feels strange. Reus is playing more centrally than he used to, which helps reduce the loss of speed.
Reus is still a fiery, energetic player which makes a great contrast to the coolness of his away from the field and what's expected of him as the captain. After he retaliated against Daniel Caligiuri from Augsburg, he was charged with dissent.
play 1:05 Janusz Michallik praises Jude Bellingham's performance in Haaland's absence after Borussia Dortmund's victory over Bielefeld 3-1.
Reus' coolness doesn't seem like it has translated to his finishing. Reus is known for his technical skills, making it funny when he misses a finish or completely misses the target. This happened multiple times. He missed one chance, and he was left laying on the ground in defeat for a few moments.
Still, he gets fouled quite often, with each foul bringing a little bit of tragedy. The foul is often sold by the players, who grimace and try to sell it. But I am too distracted from the seriousness of the situation to enjoy the humor.
Reus is still a great player. Reus assisted Brandt in scoring his goal, and the entire match was a joy to watch.
Dortmund responded with Marius Wolf driving up the ball from the left wing and Reus racing to the inside. Wolf handed the ball laterally, but slightly behind Reus, as he was being surrounded by defenders. Reus is known for letting the ball fly behind him, instead of controlling it and turning with it. This is a noticeable habit, as well as his tendency to hit passes with the outside side of his right foot instead of controlling it and turning with him. Reus let the ball run behind him, then met it on the opposite side, and sent the ball to Brandt at the box's edge. Brandt scored as Reus ran into the box to make a return pass.
Reus's second-most noticeable characteristic when he plays is his inability to hold onto the ball. Reus was a central player and often served as Dortmund's point-of-reference when they needed to launch a counterattack. This would usually be the job for a larger striker who can hold the ball up and then release a teammate.
Reus is not very big. He's 5'11" but quite small. The Dortmund youth academy famously fired him for being too small. He was able to do the same job using his unique method of quick interchanges. He would receive the ball, lay it down, then move into space to retrieve it again. Then he would play the longer ball to his teammate either on the wing or in front. His speed was so fast that his defender had to quickly stabilize himself to be able to defend the long pass.
This style of play was not just for counterattacks. He rarely carried the ball. He didn't run more than a few meters with the ball, and he only played one- or two touch the entire time. He would release the ball as soon as it reached him and then run to get it again. This simple technique is at the core of many footballing philosophies.
Reus' physical attributes naturally decline with age but he still has an advantage when it comes vision and game reading. Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
Many players are often unable to adapt their game to the changing times and injuries. Some people are unable to change their ways and find it difficult to do so. Reus has shown remarkable growth as he reaches older age. Although he is no longer able to beat fast defenders in foot races, he can still do more damage by thinking faster than them and taking advantage of spaces. He buzzes around like a bee, which is what he and his team-mates are dressed as.
Reus's playing style is now a great metaphor to Reus as a person and an athlete. He doesn't have to prove anything, and he has little anxiety. He grabs the ball and lets it roll, while still trusting the younger, more talented players around him. He puts them in a position to succeed. His natural fire is accompanied by greater intelligence and a greater enjoyment of the moment. He's enjoying himself and having fun, even with his gray hairs.
Marco Rose, Dortmund coach, praised Reus before the Champions League match against Ajax, in late October. He is our captain, and he acts and plays like that. He is a great captain and I can count on him 100%. He is a great footballer and is always there for the team. For me, that's the most important thing. He is in great form. We're missing a lot if he's not there. Marco is the glue that holds our team together."
Reus was grateful to me for everything, despite all the setbacks, at the end of our interview.
He said, "To be able do the job I always wanted." "I wanted to be a professional footballer. I didn't think I would be able to play professionally for a prolonged period of time. I am grateful for this opportunity and my family has given me the opportunity to play at this level.
"Setbacks are part of any sport. But I am thankful that I was able and allowed to do the job."