Remember the name: Marco Reus.
Last Wednesday, the Dortmund attacker cut through Manchester City’s defense like a hot knife through butter. The 23-year-old, at times, was impossible to mark, setting up chances and slipping through even the smallest of cracks in the Citizens’ back line.
Reus’ goal on the hour mark would have made the difference between Dortmund and a decidedly inferior City, but a dubious late penalty gave the hosts what Roberto Mancini admitted was an “undeserved” point.
For many, the City match was an introduction to Reus. For followers of German football, it was the long-awaited proof that not only Bayern can hold their own against the Premier League powers, but that several Bundesliga academies do indeed produce world class stars that can compete at the highest level and that Marco Reus is indeed worthy of the hype he’s received over the last year.
Wednesday’s match was no fluke. For years, Reus has been one of the Bundesliga’s brightest talents. Rejected by his hometown club in 2006 for being physically insufficient, the gifted attacker left Dortmund for nearby third division side Rot Weiss Ahlen.
Three years later, he joined Borussia Moenchengladbach, where he developed a reputation as the type of player who looked to be a YouTube phenomenon, but not a regular, reliable star.
In his first two seasons, he scored a modest 20 goals. As infrequent as his strikes were, in most cases, Reus’ finishes were spectacular: his highlights from that time include a 20-yard volley struck so hard that Manuel Neuer didn’t even flinch, and a run from inside his own half that conjures memories of Messi vs Getafe and Maradona vs England.
|2011-12 Club Season Stats|
|Goals (per app) ||Assists (per app)|
In 2011-12, however, Reus finally made the jump from "talented" to star. With 21 goals and 14 assists in 37 appearances in all competitions, the 23-year-old dragged Gladbach to the DFB-Pokal semifinal, and to an improbable fourth-placed finish in the Bundesliga.
Dortmund offered him a second chance, and despite an offer from Bayern, Reus chose to return the favor and go back to the Westfalenstadion. The versatile attacker has hit the ground running at BVB, and following his scintillating start to the season, it’s high time Reus is given the same widespread recognition as other world stars like Sergio Aguero and Eden Hazard.
Many will assert that Reus’ dribbling does not quite dazzle on the level of Aguero, or that he’s not quite as creative as Hazard. But what sets the German apart is the vast array of skills he can call upon: he’s incredibly complete.
In the build-up, Reus can create play or burst past defenders on a solo run or with a 1-2 pass. In any situation within 30 meters, he’s a threat on goal, whether from a set piece, with a long-ranged drive, or a piercing run into the box with or without the ball.
Reus is also a proven big-game performer. As a Gladbach player, the 23-year-old faced Bayern seven times, always with a decidedly inferior team. And yet, he managed to score three goals and give two assists.
Hazard is largely unproven at a high level: he never faced such stiff opposition in France and has not played enough games against the Premier League’s top clubs to be fairly assessed. His performance in eight Champions League games still leaves something to be desired, though—he’s yet to score and gave a modest three assists.
Being older than Reus and Hazard, and having cut his teeth in a stronger league, Aguero has far more experience against top teams. While at Atletico, he was the bane of Barcelona and Real Madrid's respective seasons, netting nine times and assisting five more goals in 22 appearances.
However, despite the promise he showed in his earlier years, Aguero has contributed to Manchester City’s utter failure in Europe: he has only contributed to one goal thus far, which came against last year’s Group A whipping boys Villarreal. When he came up against Reus last week, there was no denying the Dortmund man was the better player.
Reus’ age may suggest that he has reached his peak, but given that he only recently signed with a top club, it’s fair to assume he has some room to develop. The same goes for Hazard, who is still just 21 and may need a year or two not only to acclimate to the Premier League but to mature as a footballer. The eldest of the trio, Aguero developed early and is already in his prime.
For all their talent, each of Reus, Hazard and Aguero still has plenty to prove, especially on Europe’s greatest stage. The German made a great personal leap in the City match last week, though, and following 14 months of top-class performances, he absolutely deserves to have his name in shining lights.