Jadon Sancho and the players who’ve returned to Borussia Dortmund

Jadon Sancho (c.) has followed the likes of Mats Hummels, Shinji Kagawa, Mario Götze, Marco Reus and Nuri Şahin (l-r.) in returning to Borussia Dortmund. – © DFL

Having left Borussia Dortmund for Manchester United in 2021, Jadon Sancho is now back at Signal Iduna Park. The England international is by no means the first player to return to Dortmund, where for many the grass has always seemed greener.

Let’s take you through some of the big names to decide that Dortmund is in fact home after some time away…

Jadon Sancho
Sancho lit up the Bundesliga during his first four-year spell at BVB. After making his debut at the age of 17 years and six months back in October 2017, he proved almost unstoppable up front for Dortmund, scoring 50 goals and providing some 60 assists in 137 competitive outings.

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In the Bundesliga alone he contributed 38 goals and 45 assists from only 104 appearances following his arrival from Manchester City. The Englishman served as an example to many other young players who now saw Germany as the place where they could develop and progress at the highest level. Following in Sancho’s nimble footsteps came to the likes of Reiss Nelson, Emile Smith Rowe, Jonjoe Kenny, Jude Bellingham, Omar Richards, Callum Hudson-Odoi, Ryan Sessegnon and most recently Jamie Bynoe-Gittens again at Borussia. Perhaps that long list even influenced Harry Kane’s decision to switch to Bayern Munich…

“I can’t thank the Borussia Dortmund management enough for the chance they gave me as a very young player. At BVB I was able to mature into the player I am now,” Sancho said in his farewell message to the club as his 2021 move to Manchester United was confirmed.

He added at the time: “Also the support and the love of the incredible fans will always be a special memory.”

And it was a sentiment echoed upon announcing his return to Die Schwarzgelben as a 23-year-old following two-and-a-half seasons away.

“When I walked into the changing room today, it felt a bit like coming home. I know the club inside and out, was always very close to the fans here. I can’t wait to see my teammates again, be out on the pitch and play football with a smile, assist goals, score goals, and help the team qualify for the Champions League.” he stated as he gears up for a second spell at the Signal Iduna Park.

Shinji Kagawa
Sancho is not the first to decide he prefers BVB over Man United after having a taste of both. Kagawa made the same journey a decade ago after playing a pivotal role in Dortmund’s back-to-back Bundesliga titles under Jürgen Klopp in 2010/11 and 2011/12.

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A total of 21 goals and 13 assists from 49 league appearances during that time – which would likely have been much more if not for a broken metatarsal that ruled him out of the second half of that first season – made the Japanese playmaker a firm fan favourite and a hot target abroad.

United made its move in the summer of 2012. “I’ll always hold this club, its great fans and the whole city in my heart,” Kagawa said on his departure. He would go on to earn a third straight league crown as a part of the Red Devils’ most recent title-winning team under Sir Alex Ferguson. After 57 competitive outings, though, the man from Kobe was back on German soil.

“I said in an interview on the day of my departure that my Borussia Dortmund chapter wasn’t closed,” Kagawa stated upon returning in 2014. “I wanted to fulfil a dream in the Premier League. Now I’m just glad to be back in Dortmund, with this great team, this incredible environment, these unique fans. BVB is like a family. I’m proud that they never forgot me and I belong again.”

Shinji’s last game in black and yellow had seen him score the opening goal and provide an assist as Borussia beat Bayern 5-2 in the 2012 DFB Cup final. In the first game on his return, he helped set up the opener and then scored to make it 2-0 in a 3-1 Bundesliga win over Freiburg. He was afforded a standing ovation when subbed off with cramp after an hour. Klopp called him a “defining figure” in the game, while the man himself spoke of “having goosebumps throughout the match”.

After a further four years at the Signal Iduna Park, another 99 Bundesliga appearances, a combined 216 competitive outings over both spells and another DFB Cup trophy in his bags, Kagawa’s Dortmund chapter finally came to a close. He spent the second half of 2018/19 on loan at Besiktas before a permanent departure to Real Zaragoza in summer 2019. He is now back at boyhood club Cerezo Osaka in Japan.

Mats Hummels
Hummels has come and gone from Dortmund a couple of times, first joining from Bayern in 2008 on an initial 18-month loan. That turned into a stay of over eight years as the centre-back became a pillar of Klopp’s back-to-back title winners and 2013 UEFA Champions League finalists alongside Neven Subotić and earned a reputation as a modern, ball-playing defender.

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In 2016, Hummels left his adopted home after 279 appearances to return back to Munich where he grew up when he re-signed for Bayern. He made his debut in that year’s Supercup victory over BVB and would win the Bundesliga in all three seasons at the Allianz Arena.

Then, 1,095 days after he left, the defender once again put pen to paper on a contract with Dortmund ahead of the 2019/20 season. “It was easier than I thought,” the returning Hummels said in reference to the reception from the fans, who had previously voiced their displeasure at his 2016 departure. “I’d expected there to be some resistance in the stadium, but I didn’t sense anything.”

Consistently good performances no doubt helped soothe any hard feelings. Bar a campaign affected by injuries in 2021/22, Hummels has remained one of the first-choice centre-backs under successive coaches at Borussia, taking on the role of vice-captain, and has since featured in 181 more games in black and yellow. He now sits second on the all-time list for BVB appearances with 490 to his name, behind only Michael Zorc (572), and has equalled the Bundesliga record for having scored at least one goal in 16 consecutive seasons.

Marco Reus
When you think of Reus and his career, it’s easy to forget that the Dortmund native wasn’t always at BVB. He was only six when he joined the club’s academy, but his career looked under threat when he was deemed not robust enough to make it at U17 level. After a substitute appearance at right-back and not featuring in some games, he decided it was time to move on, joining third-tier Rot-Weiß Ahlen and helping them to Bundesliga 2 promotion in 2008.

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In 2009, after some initial uncertainty, Reus stepped up to the Bundesliga with Borussia Mönchengladbach and made an immediate impact. Over three seasons and 109 appearances, the forward contributed 41 goals and 28 assists, being named Germany’s Player of the Year in 2012. That summer it cost Dortmund over €17 million to bring one of their own back home some 2,700 days since he was last on the books – the longest time any player has been away from the club before returning.

“I can laugh about it all now,” Reus said back in 2019 of the episode that saw him leave. Over a decade and 400 competitive games later, that’s probably fair to say. The local boy sits fifth on the club’s all-time appearance chart and is second for goals with 166. Only Adi Preißler – himself a player who left and came back during the 1950s – from the pre-Bundesliga era remains ahead on 177.

Even at 34, the ex-captain is still proving his worth for Borussia now. He helped the club to the 2013 Champions League final in his first season – where he won the penalty for the equaliser against Bayern – later to DFB Cup glory in 2017 and 2021, and was again named Germany’s Footballer of the Year in 2019. Who knows what could’ve really been if not for so many frustrating injuries that have seen him miss over 140 club fixtures?

Mario Götze
Having moved to Dortmund when he was five, Götze was only nine when he first joined the Borussia ranks. The attacking midfielder worked his way through the academy and was later named Germany’s best player at U17 level when awarded the Fritz Walter Medal. Such was the hype around the youngster, that he was labelled a Wunderkind and a once-in-a-century talent. He made his senior debut in the Bundesliga at the age of 17 in November 2009.

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The following season he emerged as a key player in Klopp’s team, contributing six goals and 16 assists as BVB stormed to the title. It emerged in the summer of 2011 that Dortmund had turned down an offer in the region of €40 million from Arsenal for their up-and-coming star, who would then help Die Schwarzgelben to the domestic double in 2011/12 and to the Champions League final in 2013. By the time of the latter, however, things had changed.

Götze missed the final defeat to Bayern through injury, having already agreed a move to Munich for the new season. “We are obviously disappointed beyond measure,” said Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke of the announcement, made shortly before the team’s semi-final tie with Real Madrid and the ensuing all-German final.

He joined the freshly minted treble winners and their new coach Pep Guardiola. He unsurprisingly received a frosty reception when coming off the bench at the Signal Iduna Park and subsequently scoring the opening goal in Der Klassiker as Bayern romped to the title and domestic double. The pinnacle of his career, of course, came in summer of 2014 as he wrote his name in the footballing history books by scoring the winning goal in the FIFA World Cup final against Argentina.

Despite all the highs and the silverware, Götze’s time at the Allianz Arena never really lived up to all the hype and expectations. After three years and 1,116 days away, he returned home. “Mario is a Dortmund boy, one of Europe’s best creative midfielders. He had several options but opted for the not-easy path of returning to his boyhood club,” said former sporting director Michael Zorc of the homecoming.

“It’s my goal to play my best football again, for all of us, the club and the BVB fans,” the then 24-year-old also stated on his return. Things weren’t quite that easy, though. A few months after his return, Götze was diagnosed with a metabolic disorder deemed the reason for his frequent muscular injuries and weight issues. It meant he only played 11 Bundesliga matches in 2016/17.

He would enjoy lengthy spells in the side under Peter Bosz and Lucien Favre, even captaining the team at times in the absence of Reus, but fell out of favour in 2019/20 before leaving Dortmund once again upon the expiration of his contract, enjoying a change of scenery in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven. His second spell in black and yellow included 103 appearances to go with the 116 from his first stint. The current Eintracht Frankfurt man therefore played a total of 219 times for his boyhood club, winning the Bundesliga and DFB Cup twice each, plus the Supercup.

Nuri Şahin
Having joined the Dortmund youth setup at the age of 12, clubs at home and abroad soon had their eyes on local boy Şahin, especially after being named Player of the Tournament as Turkey won the 2005 U17 Euros. Only two months later he became the youngest player at the time to feature in a competitive fixture for BVB when he came off the bench in an Intertoto Cup fixture. In August, he became the first 16-year-old and youngest person ever to appear in the Bundesliga, holding that record until Youssoufa Moukoko broke it in 2020.

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In November 2005, aged 17 and still requiring permission from his parents to be selected for games, he also became the youngest goalscorer in a Bundesliga fixture – a record that also held until Florian Wirtz in 2020 – and featured 23 times in his maiden Bundesliga campaign with the first team. After a year on loan at Feyenoord in 2007/08, Şahin returned to Dortmund and soon established himself in Klopp’s setup. Across 40 competitive outings in 2010/11, the holding midfielder scored a remarkable eight goals and provided 13 assists as BVB won the title.

However, Borussia were unable to hold onto their young jewel as he joined Real Madrid on the back of 153 appearances before the age of 23. Although part of the side that won Spain’s La Liga in 2011/12, the midfielder barely featured and was loaned out to Liverpool. Again, he failed to hold down a place and the deal was terminated in January 2013, paving the way for his return to Dortmund on an initial 18-month loan.

Described as the “lost son” in the media, Şahin said he was “happy to be home” and once again established himself as a key figure in Borussia’s midfield. The transfer was made permanent in the summer of 2014, but injuries soon hampered his progress, although he did receive his old No.8 shirt back after İlkay Gündoğan left, and he signed a contract extension in 2017. However, the Turkey international left again in 2018 after 121 more appearances and a total of 274, joining Werder Bremen, after falling down the pecking order under Favre.

After two years in Bremen, Şahin signed for Antalyaspor. A year later, he was named manager, opting to hang up his boots. A 16-game unbeaten league run to end the season saw the struggling side ultimately finish seventh. His sole full campaign at the helm produced a finish of 13th before leaving the club in December 2023.

That promoted a second homecoming as Şahin was named alongside former teammate Sven Bender as assistant coach at BVB under Edin Terzić on 1 January 2024.