Erik Durm’s career reads like a fairy tale: just two years ago, he was facing promotion from League 3 meanwhile he’s been fighting for a regular place in the national team as a left-back. With just 19 Bundesliga matches under his belt, he managed to get into the World Cup winning squad.
Like so often in life, luck has been a big part of Erik Durm’s story. The young man describes the moment when his career changed massively: “I was playing in the Borussia Dortmund second team when, one day, late in the second half of the 2012/13 season, Jürgen Klopp came to me after training and said that he could see me as a Bundesliga defender”. Until now, he’s been a striker. He made an immediate decision: “when a manager like him says something like that, well that’s huge! My goal was always the Bundesliga, so it didn’t take me long to think about it. At the time, I wasn’t particularly well-rated; now I’m forcing Robert Lewandowski out of the Dortmund front line.”
This was the start of a learning period that’s still on-going. “I had to learn how to be a defender basically from scratch. I’d been a dyed in the wool striker since I was 14. Yes, you do have to do some defensive work, but it’s completely different when someone like Gareth Bale is running towards you…” He had support from skilled players Lukasz Piszczek and Marcel Schmelzer, with whom he’s formed a friendly relationship. “I’ve learnt a lot from them and from Lahm’s XI. I’ll be learning for a long time; I learn something new every day.”
Since his move to the back of the pitch, the outside wing is his fast lane, where he’s permanently on the move, never losing his footing. After his second appearance in the UEFA Champions League, Durm was asked whether he was the new Lahm. He merely took note of this: “It wasn’t the case that I was letting this go to my head.”
It’s worth noting that he can occupy not just the role of a pupil, but also both sides of the pitch, without having to resort to dirty tactics: in 37 Bundesliga matches, Durm received just two yellow cards. In his own words: “I like being on the left, as I can pick up my speed better that way. What’s most important, however, is that I can play at all.”
Durm’s first team was SG Rieschweiler in Rhineland-Palatinate in the summer of 1997. Ten years later, he went to FC Saarbrücken and in 2010 he made the move to FC Mainz 05, where he scored 7 goals in 10 appearances for the second team in the 2011/12 season. He swapped a contact with Mainz for Dortmund’s Under 23s team, and he made his Bundesliga debut on 10 August 2013. Just two years later, on 9 May 2015, he scored his first goal in the 2-0 victory over Hertha Berlin. His first international appearance was on 1 June 2014.
Erik Durm got into the World Cup team at the last minute. Despite not seeing any action in Brazil, he came back to Germany a world champion. “I’ll never forget the moment when the medal was hung around my neck, and then when we were being presented with the cup. Nor will I forget how I felt standing up there - that I was even allowed to stand up there. I never expected to be allowed to hold the cup in my hands.”