Picking a Best Borussia Dortmund XI Using Only 1 Player of Each Nationality

Lars Pollmann@@LarsPollmannFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2016

Three key international BVB players from the last few years: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Lukasz Piszczek and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
Three key international BVB players from the last few years: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Lukasz Piszczek and Henrikh Mkhitaryan.PATRIK STOLLARZ/Getty Images

Football has experienced an incredible growth as an international sport over the years. Long gone are the days when teams played with only one or two foreigners on the pitch.

Borussia Dortmund are no exception. Non-Germans have worn the captain's armband, led the team in scoring, were the most important players on the pitch...you get the picture.

It got us here at Bleacher Report thinking. How would a truly cosmopolitan Dortmund side look?


Criteria and Formation

Each country can only be represented by one player. In cases of dual citizenship, only the country the player represents at international level will be considered.

We will keep things relatively recent, looking only at players who have been with Dortmund since the turn of the millennium.

Our team will play with four defenders, five midfielders and one striker, seeing as that has been the Black and Yellows' standard system over the last few years.


Goalkeeper: Roman Burki, Switzerland

There is not a lot of choice for the position between the sticks. Not wanting to use the goalkeeper position for the only German allowed in our team, we are left with all of four players to choose from.

Roman Burki can do a good job starting attacks with his distribution.
Roman Burki can do a good job starting attacks with his distribution.Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Swiss Roman Burki, Dutchman Dennis Gentenaar, Frenchman Guillaume Warmuz and Australian Mitchell Langerak are the only non-German 'keepers to have played for the Black and Yellows since 2000.

Seeing as Gentenaar and Warmuz always were No. 2 options during their time at Westfalenstadion, it boils down to Burki and Langerak.

While the latter has the advantage of being one of only two Australians to play for Dortmund—midfielder Ned Zelic was popular among fans in the early to mid-1990s—Burki is the first foreign No. 1 goalkeeper in club history.

That trumps the fact Switzerland produced a few other players worthy of consideration for us, namely strikers Stephane Chapuisat and Alexander Frei.

While no one would put him at the top of their rankings of Dortmund's greatest goalies just yet, Burki has developed nicely since making the move from SC Freiburg in the summer of 2015. Strong in one-on-ones and with solid reactions on the line, he is also decent on the ball. We could do worse in goal for our fictional XI.


Right-Back: Lukasz Piszczek, Poland

For a time under former head coach Jurgen Klopp, the Black and Yellows were nicknamed Polonia Dortmund thanks to the big influence Lukasz Piszczek, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Robert Lewandowski had on the team.

Lewandowski is certainly the most impressive player of the group individually, but as we will see later, there is a large pool of potent strikers to choose from. The same cannot be said about the right-back position, where Piszczek's longevity has seen him be an almost guaranteed starter in the six years since he joined from Hertha BSC.

The 31-year-old has lost a step or two in recent times, but a relentless work ethic, endless stamina and solid tactical understanding made him one of the best full-backs in European football during his prime for Dortmund.

Thirteen goals and an impressive 46 assists in 244 matches across competitions show he will contribute to our team's attacking play, while we will never have to worry about him defensively.


Centre-Backs: Neven Subotic, Serbia, and Mats Hummels, Germany

Chemistry among centre-backs is vital, and Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic have it in abundance.
Chemistry among centre-backs is vital, and Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic have it in abundance.JOHN MACDOUGALL/Getty Images

Born only six days apart in December 1988, Neven Subotic and Mats Hummels always displayed a special chemistry, making them a formidable centre-back pairing during the club's successful time under Klopp.

Subotic has been robbed of most of what should be his prime years so far, suffering various injuries in recent seasons that rendered him a back-up. However, we are judging players at their respective peaks here, and the Serb used to be one of the most tenacious defenders in the Bundesliga.

One could argue Sokratis Papastathopoulos is the more impressive individual player, but the Greek and Hummels never jelled as a pairing in the heart of defence.

Hummels was our top choice for the one German in our team, mostly because he has unique qualities as perhaps the best ball-playing centre-back in the world. The 27-year-old will be our principal buildup player, orchestrating attacks from the deep zones. A natural leader, he would also wear the captain's armband.


Left-Back: Leonardo Dede, Brazil

A fan favourite thanks to his adventurous playing style, his relaxed nature off the playing the surface and, most of all, his loyalty, Dede is an automatic selection for our team. The Brazilian, who later obtained a German passport, is the club's most capped non-German player, with 398 matches—which is more than 100 more than Chapuisat, who's No. 2 on that list.

The Black and Yellows used to have a strong contingent of Brazilians in the '90s and early 2000s, with centre-backs Julio Cesar and Felipe Santana, right-back Evanilson and attackers Marcio Amoroso and Ewerthon all leaving their marks on successful Dortmund sides, but no one came close to having the lasting impact Dede left.

A solid defender and, more importantly, superb technician with a marvellous left foot, it remains a mystery why he only appeared in one game for his home country.


Defensive Midfield: Nuri Sahin, Turkey

Whereas it feels as though our defensive selection was almost automatic, difficult decisions await us in midfield, starting with anchor.

Most of the players who ought to be included in the discussion are German, be it longtime captain Sebastian Kehl or Julian Weigl, whose sensational rise from afterthought signing to perhaps the team's most important player has been one of the more surprising stories surrounding the club over the last years.

As luck would have it, our starter was born in Germany but chose to represent his parents' homeland, Turkey, at international level. Nuri Sahin may have had his best time in a more advanced role, but he is perfectly capable of providing cover for our back line while also dictating the tempo in buildup thanks to his impressive passing range.


Right-Winger: Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Armenia

Blaszczykowski would have been a shoo-in for this spot if Piszczek had not been the only logical choice at right-back, opening the door for others further ahead on the wing. 

Christian Pulisic and Ousmane Dembele could well work their way into this XI if they keep developing, but for now, the spot belongs to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, even though the Armenian only played to his full potential for one season before moving to Manchester United in the summer.

The 27-year-old explained his resurgence under Thomas Tuchel in a recent piece for The Players' Tribune: "When you are happy, good things happen on the pitch. That season, we played with enthusiasm. We played a crazy, super-attacking style, and we enjoyed every minute on the pitch."

Mkhitaryan would add flair, dynamism and goals to our side while also doing his team-mates' yeoman's service off the ball.


Playmaker No. 1: Tomas Rosicky, Czech Republic

Tomas Rosicky was a magician in Dortmund's midfield.
Tomas Rosicky was a magician in Dortmund's midfield.MARTIN MEISSNER/Associated Press

Speaking of flair, this XI would not be complete without perhaps Dortmund's best No. 10 of all time. Tomas Rosicky would be the centrepiece of our attacking play, receiving balls in the half-spaces and releasing team-mates with deadly accuracy.

Something died in every Dortmund fan when the then-26-year-old with the boyish looks left for Arsenal in 2006, even though his sale was vital to the club's financial recovery under chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke.

Affectionally called Schnitzel because he always looked as though he could stand to gain a few pounds to hold up better against defenders trying to rough him up, Rosicky would bag assist after assist playing in our attack-minded team.


Playmaker No. 2: Shinji Kagawa, Japan

Whereas Rosicky is the type of playmaker who pulls the strings from afar, Shinji Kagawa plays best when he is right in the thick of the action. The Japan international excels in tight spaces thanks to his balance, making him an ideal player for combinations against deep-sitting defences.

The 27-year-old, much like Sahin, has not hit the lofty standards he set during his first stint at Westfalenstadion since his return in 2014, at times struggling to even make the squad under Tuchel, but there is no denying the impact he had on the team that won back-to-back Bundesliga championships in 2011 and 2012.

"He's an offensive midfielder with one of the best noses for goal I ever saw," Jurgen Klopp said about Kagawa in 2013, per the Guardian's Donald McRae, and that endorsement is enough for us. 

Ivan Perisic, Shinji Kagawa and Ilkay Gundogan celebrating Dortmund's last silverware in 2012.
Ivan Perisic, Shinji Kagawa and Ilkay Gundogan celebrating Dortmund's last silverware in 2012.Michael Sohn/Associated Press


Left-Winger: Ivan Perisic, Croatia

The spot opposite Mkhitaryan was easily the hardest to fill. It is a position that has been held almost exclusively by Germans for Dortmund, with Kevin Grosskreutz and, in the last few years, Marco Reus occupying it for the better part of a decade.

It would not be an enormous stretch to put Dembele or Pulisic there, so slim are our pickings. However, with both of the teenagers not even completing a single full season for Dortmund's (senior, in Pulisic's case) team, the spot in our XI fell to Ivan Perisic.

The Croat only spent one-and-a-half years with the Black and Yellows, but at least he played a super-sub role in the double-winning season of 2011/12. He is in this team more because of what he has done since leaving the club than what he did during his time in the Ruhr valley.

Be it for VfL Wolfsburg, Inter Milan or Croatia, Perisic always brings energy, has solid counter-pressing abilities and will chip in with goals here and there. He will have to do in this scenario.


Striker: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Gabon

If left-winger were the hardest position to fill because of a lack of qualified candidates, the lone striker spot is at the exact opposite of the spectrum. There are so many strikers who could fit into this team.

Some of them became ineligible when other positions were filled. Lewandowski could well go down as the best striker to have played for Dortmund, for example, while Chapuisat, Frei or Jan Koller would also have been good shouts.

Ultimately, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was an easy choice. Not only is he a bona fide striker, he is also the only Gabonese to have played for the Black and Yellows.

As discussed in an earlier piece, the 27-year-old will have every opportunity to become the highest-scoring centre-forward in club history if he stays at Westfalenstadion for another two seasons or so.

We can already picture the lightning-quick Aubameyang getting on the end of a patented Rosicky through ball. He would score even more than he does in real life!


We have chemistry in defence, incredible playmaking ability in midfield and a deadly striker. But did we miss someone? Who would make your BVB XI if you could only choose one player from each nationality? 


All transfer and performance data via Transfermarkt.

Lars Pollmann also writes for The Yellow Wall. You can follow him on Twitter.


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