One and a half seasons after leaving Borussia Dortmund, Nuri Sahin is back at his hometown club. BVB announced at a Friday press conference that they had struck an agreement with the midfielder, Real Madrid, and Liverpool that would see the player sever his loan agreement with the Anfield outfit and return to the Signal-Iduna Park on an 18-month loan (per the club's official website). At the press conference, BVB CEO Hans-Joachim Watkze added that the club have an option to make the move permanent in 2014 (via Goal.com).
By all accounts, and for a variety of reasons, Nuri's brief stint outside Germany was a resounding failure. He played just 127 minutes in La Liga last season, and was sent to Liverpool on loan in the summer following Real Madrid's acquisition of Luka Modric. Even with less competition, he struggled to make an impression at Anfield, and in recent weeks has been excluded even from Brendan Rogers' bench. But even though it's been nearly two years since he was at his very best, there is plenty of reason to believe Nuri will rise again and regain his status as one of the brightest stars of world football.
The first and most obvious benefit Nuri reaps from signing with Dortmund is that the move is a homecoming. Nuri grew up in Luedenscheid, approximately 40 km from the Signal-Iduna Park. Apart from a year spent on loan at Feyenoord, he lived in the Ruhr area his entire life before making the move to Real Madrid. In any case, transitioning to a new culture and adaptation to a new language can for some players prove difficult. Struggling with injuries at a club as demanding as Real Madrid made Nuri's adaptation even more of a challenge. Back in a familiar and nurturing environment at Dortmund, Nuri will have stability he's lacked in the last 18 months.
In particular, Nuri will be reunited with the coach who made him a big star, Juergen Klopp. At Real and Liverpool, Nuri was just another player; it was expected that he would adapt to a pre-established system of play. At Dortmund, Klopp built a system around him: Nuri was the architect of the BVB attack. He had Klopp's unwavering support, and repaid that trust as he led Dortmund to an improbable Bundesliga title.
Much has changed at Dortmund since Nuri's last game. Mario Goetze has developed into a world-class superstar, Marco Reus has joined the club, and Shinji Kagawa has left. And in defensive midfield, Ilkay Gundogan has filled the void Nuri left with his departure. Nuri will not just walk back into the first team, nor can he expect BVB to adjust to work around his style of play. He will have to adjust, as will the rest of the Dortmund team. But his arrival brings with it new opportunities.
The most obvious advantage for Dortmund in bringing in Nuri is that it allows Klopp more possibilities with rotation. Reviewing their season thus far, it's clear that BVB have struggled to deal with the fatigue that has come from playing in the Champions League. They lost two and drew one of their six matches following European fixtures. And days before their home win against Real Madrid in early October, Klopp opted to shuffle tactics and lineups to allow key players to rest. He sent out only seven of his usual starters in an experimental 3-5-2 shape, and BVB went on to lose the Ruhr derby 2-1 to Schalke.
Dortmund play an exhaustingly fast-paced game, and with Nuri as added depth, Klopp will have the option to rotate the 24-year-old with Ilkay, thus ensuring that one or the other will always have fresh legs.
Another possibility is a tactical switch, with Dortmund taking on a 4-3-3 shape and using Nuri, Ilkay, and either Sebastian Kehl or Sven Bender as a midfield trio. Klopp has utilized a similar shape this season, with Kevin Grosskreutz often operating more narrowly and deeper than one might expect from a player formally listed as a winger. Nuri would be a more appropriate player in that position than Grosskreutz, and his use in that role would allow Ilkay more freedom to move into the advanced role in which he played prior to his move to BVB.
Nuri's return to Dortmund brings some tantalizing options for player and club, but it will take the Turkey international some time to adjust. It's been nearly two years since he last played at his best, and the club's tactics have shifted somewhat in the meantime.
Given that he has only a week of "preseason" training left before the Bundesliga campaign resumes, it cannot be expected that Nuri will be immediately at his best. However, Nuri is back at home, has a strong and largely familiar team to support him, and will play under the coach who once made him a big star. If there is any place he could resurrect his career, it's at Dortmund.
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