Dortmund genius Reus would have challenged for the Ballon d’Or but for injuries

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Marco Reus Borussia Dortmund 2018-19
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The German, who will miss his side's Champions League clash with Tottenham, could have achieved great things had he not been plagued by fitness issues

Germany's 2014 World Cup-winning team had almost everything: a media-friendly head coach, a perfect blend of old and young players, quality in every position.

What they did not have, though, was a genuine worldwide superstar. Thus, when it came to the Ballon d'Or voting at the end of the year, Cristiano Ronaldo lifted the individual award thanks to his performances at club level.

Only one German player made the top three in the Ballon d'Or voting: their goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer.

However, there was one German who would have been ideal for the award. But he did not go to the World Cup.

Marco Reus was named in Joachim Low's squad for the tournament having scored 23 goals in 45 club games in 2013-14, but was forced to watch his compatriots on television after picking up an ankle injury in a friendly just 10 days before their opening group game.

Reus made his international debut in 2011, over a year after his first call-up, when injuries had also delayed his maiden cap and similarly ruled him out of the World Cup.

In fact, in the eight years since, he has played just 37 times for his country. For comparison, Joshua Kimmich made his debut in the summer of 2016 and now has 38 international caps.

Reus has been Dortmund's superstar since signing for his boyhood club in 2012. Having helped Borussia Monchengladbach to a Champions League finish in his final season there, he arrived at the Westfalenstadion for €17 million (£15m/$19m) in order to take the next step in his career.

The 2012-13 season was an impressive one for the forward, with Reus finishing with 19 goals in 49 games in all competitions. After finishing second to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, Dortmund met their rivals in the Champions League final, where Reus won the penalty for the equalising goal before Bayern netted late on to lift the trophy.

That 49-game tally is the highest of Reus's career to date. He has never stayed fit enough to better it, and has only played 30 Bundesliga games in one season since, in 2013-14.

Since then, his list of absences reads like a medical textbook: various ankle ligament injuries, adductor problems, bruised knees, muscular injuries, pulled hamstring, pelvis trouble that kept him out for over 170 days and, worst of all, a cruciate ligament rupture which saw him miss most of 2017-18.

GFX Marco Reus Jurgen Klopp

Despite all the injuries, Reus has never failed to deliver when fit. He averages at least a goal every two games for Dortmund and this season looked set to be the best of his career to date.

He has already won the Bundesliga Player of the Month three times this season and was in the form – and fitness – of his life, until he started picking up minor injuries, the latest of which has ruled him out of Dortmund's Champions League first leg with Tottenham on Wednesday.

"It was always clear: if Marco remains injury-free, he will be one of the most dominant players in the Bundesliga,” former BVB boss Jurgen Klopp said earlier this season.

“Now he can finally show that after a reasonably injury-free preparation. He is now at an age when he can lead the team and it’s really fun to watch him.”

Reus is now 29, though, having missed a significant chunk of his career through injuries, which greatly hindered Dortmund's chances of winning trophies, and held the forward back from winning individual awards or leaving for bigger clubs.

He has always had the ability and the status, with EA Sports even choosing him as their cover star for FIFA 17. The four previous games had Lionel Messi on the cover. The two since have had Cristiano Ronaldo. Both of those have multiple Ballons d'Or.

He could have had the accolades as well but every time he seemed to be getting in form, another injury struck. Even at his highest moment, he seemed cursed.

Reus's first major winners' medal was the 2017 DFB Pokal. He was taken off at half-time in the final thanks to the cruciate ligament injury that kept him sidelined until the following year. Reus knows he is privileged to be a footballer, but admitted that he would give away all his money if it meant he would be fit again.

Marco Reus Borussia Dortmund health PS

"We top players earn a lot of money, but in part we have to accept a high price on our health," he told GQ while recovering in 2017. "But what matters to me is not just money, but health. 

"Now some will say 'he's making so much money,' but that's the moment you do not care. I would give away all the money to be healthy to do my job. For what I love: playing football!"

Reus is in the best position to win the first league title of his career this season, but could have filled his trophy cabinet much sooner if he had stayed fit and moved away from Dortmund.

Real Madrid and Barcelona were interested in the past few years, while Pep Guardiola was eager to bring him to Manchester City before he signed his new contract.

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However, after all he has been through with Dortmund, he decided to remain at the club during his peak years, thanking them for supporting him through injury, when he easily could have taken the next step.

“This renewal is a ‘thank you’ to our fantastic fans, who have always stood by me," he said last summer. "The club has supported me in tough times, so it was important for me to thank them.”

He's not yet 30, so there is still time for him to win more trophies. Starring on the pitch won't be difficult for him. But staying off the injury table may be a different challenge altogether.