Marcel Schmelzer continues to progress. The left back extended his contract until 2021 last week. When this pact comes to an end, he will be 33 years old, and will have spent his entire professional career at Borussia Dortmund, a time span of 13 years. Eerily, this is the exact number of years his predecessor and role model, Dede, spent at the club.
"I am really pleased that I will remain a part of this characterful team and this incomparable club", said Schmelle after signing the new deal - and added, notably: "Borussia is and will remain my sporting home. And the region is, in any case, the place where I and my family have felt at home for many years now."
Home. Schmelzer, already an institution at Dortmund, can now serve as an inspiration for any aspiring footballer facing the difficult decision of whether to stay, or go. The left back rolled up at BVB in the summer of 2005 at the tender age of 17, from FC Magdeburg. He then worked his way through the ranks of the A-Youth Team and the U23s into the professional squad. Subsequently, he was both supported, and challenged to go further, by Jürgen Klopp. On 16 August 2008, Marcel Schmelzer made his debut in the Bundesliga. He has since gone on to make 195 further appearances for the club at this level, notable especially due to his successful navigation of two obstacles encountered along his career path.
The first was Dede, Schmelzer's predecessor, the highly praised fan favourite from Brazil who was almost deified by the match-going public. The second was Erik Durm, who had already received a World Cup winner's medal, and who looked to be Dede's chosen successor. Schmelzer, however, forced the elder out and the younger back. He came. He remained. He has been a constant over the years, and has become, with greater frequency, a reliable great.
A consistent and reliable great
"Schmelle has grown about 5cm over the last five years, and simply because he is drawing himself up to his full height." This ascertainment was uttered by Jürgen Klopp during the 2010/11 season. It says a lot about Schmelzer the man and his development as a player, a development that Klopp evaluated, with reference to both the player and his personality, as one "of the most incredible in my career". Schmelzer was more reticent then, shy even. His defining trait: a hoodie pulled up tight to his face. He is still withdrawn now, yet obliging at the same time. The difference is that Marcel Schmelzer is now the go to man for a talk, for both fellow players and match-report writers, should they win, or should they lose. First and foremost, though, he is at one with himself.
That he did not travel to the World Cup in 2014, but rather Erik Durm, the younger player, the newly emerging player who was just joining the party, and who since then has had the privilege of being able to call himself a World Cup winner, might have felled others. But Schmelzer hit back, the football pitch his ring. After a sluggish start in the accursed post World Cup season, the experienced left back would go on to appear in all but one competitive game from the 14th match-day on. During this time, Borussia Dortmund climbed from 18th in the table to 7th. This season, Schmelzer has made 24 appearances in the league, run 226 kilometres, won 55 percent of the tackles he has been involved in and has a pass completion rate of 82 percent, statistics that attest to his industry. It is Schmelle's best Bundesliga season in years.
"One of the strongest left backs in Europe, and a wonderful person"
The bosses are correspondingly satisfied. "Marcel Schmelzer is not just one of the strongest left backs in Europe, he is also a wonderful person who shows as much respect and affection for BVB as we do for him", said Chief Executive Officer Hans-Joachim Watzke. Sporting Director Michael Zorc was similarly gushing: "Marcel Schmelzer is a player whom we developed as part of our own youth programme. He is a genuine 'Borusse', identifies completely with the club, enjoys a high regard here due to his sporting prowess, and has once again made big strides forward this season."
Zorc added subsequently that he was pleased to be heading into the future together with the second longest serving player at the club after Roman Weidenfeller. This is, perhaps, obvious. Nothing succeeds like success. And the 28 year old has been a co-author of all the chapters that form one of the most consistently successful periods in the clubs history. In 2009, the 100 year jubilee, in 2010, the return to Europe in Lemberg, in 2011, the Bundesliga title and the consequent regaining of Champions League football, in 2012, the first double in the history of the club, and thereafter, appearances in four finals; after playing in Madrid, Manchester and Amsterdam, the Champions League final, and from 2014 to 2016, appearances in the DFB Cup Final. Should they be victorious on 21 May in Berlin against the Bavarians, then Marcel Schmelzer will have reached another milestone along with this generation of teammates - they would become the first group of players to win the cup twice playing for Borussia Dortmund. Neither Aki Schmidt, Michael Zorc, nor Sebastian Kehl achieved that, not to mention Dede.