When Thomas Meunier ran out onto the pitch at SIGNAL IDUNA PARK in February he was wearing a Paris St. Germain shirt. His club at the time went head-to-head with BVB in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League, and the Belgium international was able to get his first taste of the stadium’s special atmosphere.
"I enjoyed the moment, the noise, the atmosphere. The fans are so close to the pitch and you really have a sense of where you are,’’ says the Belgian. "On the pitch, I was grinning like a little kid. You could probably see as much on the television." That game had a big influence on his decision to sign for BVB for next season. The new signing will be able to savour the atmosphere in Dortmund once more as soon as the Coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
He compares BVB to his first professional team, Club Brugge: "Both clubs are very popular, they have a lot of fans all over the country and the same mentality. You don't need to describe Dortmund. You can already see on TV how it is to play for BVB. That's what I was looking for. It's that simple."
The 28-year-old, who has signed a contract with BVB until 30 June 2024, is, according to sporting director Michael Zorc, "a player who has proven his quality at the highest level, including in the Champions League and international football, over a long period of time. He will give us a real boost with his experience.”
Meunier started his professional career at Club Brugge, where he won the Belgian league and cup. In 2016, he moved to Paris St. Germain in France. With the top French club, Meunier won the cup twice (2017, 2018) and the league three times (2018, 2019, 2020). The defender has made 17 appearances in the UEFA Champions League (3 goals). The Belgian international brings the experience of 40 international matches (7 goals) to BVB.
In Dortmund, he will link up with his national teammates Axel Witsel and Thorgan Hazard, who have already been able to tell him a lot about the Black & Yellow family. "First of all, of course, about the fans and the atmosphere in the stadium. But also about the team," said Meunier. "Dortmund have very good players. A team like BVB would be in the top two along with PSG in France."
Thomas Meunier comes from Lavacherie, which is made up of three villages with a total population of 2,500, named after the French for "cowshed", and located in the southernmost province of Belgium. He moved to the Standard Liege academy in 2004, but wasn’t considered one of the top talents at the club famed for its work with young players. There were others above him in the pecking order, including a certain Axel Witsel, two years his senior. At 15, Meunier was told his time at the club was over. The disappointment was so great that the youngster considered hanging up his boots for good. His mother Véronique then arranged a trial for him at Excelsior Virton. Thomas duly scores ten goals in a 15-3 friendly win. "What number do you want on your shirt?" the coach asked after the game.
He made his debut for Virton’s first team at 17, playing in the Belgian second tier. In the 2010/11 season, he developed into a sensation. Ten goals attracted the interest of the first-division team in the Ardennes. Unbelievable, because Meunier had already completed his education and was pursuing a good honest job: after his studies in Bastogne, he would get up at 5 a.m. every morning to deliver the post.
At FC Brugge, the right-winger was converted to a defender. ''I wasn’t sure if this position was for me. But I wanted to play.'' Driven on by the powerful right-back, Club Brugge won the Belgian Cup in 2015 and the league one year later. Meunier starred for his country at Euro 2016 in France and moved to PSG after the tournament.