When we talk about Borussia Dortmund, perhaps the first thing that comes to our minds is the club's impressive youth system. Recent seasons have seen Die Schwartzgelben providing the stage for young and exciting talents to showcase themselves in front of the football world.
Borussia Dortmund's trust in youth is closely related to their success as a club. The 1990s saw the club enjoy their biggest success with names like Mattias Sammer, Michael Zorc, Juren Kohler and many others donning the famous black and yellow jersey.
In this article, we take a look at the top ten Borussia Dortmund Academy graduates in Bundesliga history.
Top ten Borussia Dortmund Academy graduates:
10. Marcel Schmelzer
Marcel Schmelzer belongs to the rare breed of footballers who have represented just one club in their career. The German has been a part of Borussia Dortmund since moving to the club as a 17-year old.
Schmelzer held the left-back position for most of his time at the Signal Iduna Park before making way for Achraf Hakimi last season. Now in his 12th season at Borussia Dortmund, Schmelzer has made 366 appearances, which is the eighth highest in the history of the club, and has been a part of two Bundesliga and DFB Pokal-winning teams.
A fan-favourite of the Schwartzgelben, Schmelzer will likely end his relationship with Borussia Dortmund once his contract expires at the end of next season.
9. Thorsten Fink
Signed at the age of 16 by Borussia Dortmund, Thorsten Fink spent three seasons at the Schwartzgelben Academy but failed to make an appearance for the first team. In a case of a late bloomer, Fink made his debut in 1989 for the second division side Wattenscheid - helping them win promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history.
Fink would make his name during the latter half of his career after joining Bayern Munich at the age of 30. During his time in Munich, Fink enjoyed Bundesliga, International, European, and domestic cup success before retiring from the game in 2006 after suffering injuries.
The former Borussia Dortmund Academy product is arguably one of the best players never to have made an appearance for the national side.
8. Nuri Sahin
The Turkish international, Nuri Sahin, is arguably one of the best talents to come out of the Borussia Dortmund academy in this millennium. A wonderkid, Sahin made his debut for Borussia Dortmund as a 16-year-old in 2005, becoming the youngest player in the history of the Bundesliga.
The arrival of Jurgen Klopp during the mid-2000s proved to be the catalyst for Die Borussen and Sahin. The midfielder soon became an integral part of the Borussia Dortmund first-team. The Turkish international played a vital role - winning the Bundesliga Player of the Season award - as Borussia Dortmund won their first Bundesliga title in ten years in 2010.
Sahin played his best football under the German manager, but poor career decisions, injuries, and loss of form saw the midfielder fade out from the scene. The 31-year-old played most of his career in Germany and made over 200 appearances - in two spells - for his boyhood club Borussia Dortmund.
Nuri Sahin ended his relation with Schwartzgelben at the end of last season after moving on a free transfer to Werder Bremen. Known for his vision and passing skills, Sahin will go down in history as one who failed to realise his potential.
Mario Gotze had the world under his feet when he scored the injury-time winner against Argentina to win the 2014 World Cup for Germany, but since then has seen a fall from grace.
Signed as an eight-year-old, Gotze came through the ranks at Borussia Dortmund and made his debut in 2009. Under the brilliant Jurgen Klopp, Gotze formed one-third of Borussia Dortmund's lethal attacking trio as the team dominated the Bundesliga in the early 2010s.
An unsuccessful move to Bayern Munich in 2013 proved to be the first nail in the German's coffin. Injury concerns and loss in form saw Gotze returning to Borussia Dortmund in 2016.
Mario Gotze will end his Borussia Dortmund career at the end of this season, having made over 200 appearances. Once quoted by the great Mattias Sammer as one of the best talents in the history of Germany, Mario Gotze has fallen far from his perch.
Despite his illness and injury problems, at 28, Gotze could still be the game changer for any club he may join at the end of this season.
6. Dieter Kurrat
One of the first superstars to play for Borussia Dortmund, Dieter Kurrat, was part of the first BVB team that played in the Bundesliga. Nicknamed ''Hoppy'', Kurrat joined Borussia Dortmund at the age of 15.
With a height of 1.62 m, Hoppy is the shortest player ever to have played in the Bundesliga. Despite his short stature, the German was a menace to the opposition due to his never surrendering attitude. His ability to play in defence and midfield also made him one of the most versatile players in the league during his time.
Sadly though, Kurrat never made an appearance for the national side due to then-coach Helmut Schon's preference for taller players.
One of the highest appearance makers in the history of Borussia Dortmund, with 612 appearances, Hoppy spent 14 years at the club, winning the European Cup Winners Cup and the German Championship - the predecessor of the Bundesliga- during his time.
Dieter Kurrat sadly passed away in 2017 at the age of 75.
5. Miroslav Votava
Miroslav Votava joined Borussia Dortmund's Academy at the late age of 17. He spent just one season in the BVB academy before joining the Borussia Dortmund first-team in 1974. Despite his young age, Votava was one of the very first names in the Borussia Dortmund team list during his first seasons as a professional.
Miroslav "Mirko" Votava spent eight seasons with the Schwartzgelben but arguably produced his best during his days with Werder Bremen. The naturalised German joined Bremen in 1985 after a three-year stint with Atletico Madrid.
At Bremen, under the watchful eyes of legendary manager Otto Rehhagel, Votava ushered in Die Werderaner's most successful era. Under his captaincy, Bremen won two Bundesliga titles, two DFB Pokals and the UEFA Cup Winners Cup.
Mostly used as a defensive midfielder, Votava was known for his tactical awareness and stamina. A European Championship winner with Germany, Votava played well into his 40s and made 546 Bundesliga appearances, the fifth-highest in the history of the German top flight, before retiring from the game in 1996.
4. Eike Immel
Eike Immel is the best goalkeeper to have emerged from the Borussia Dortmund Academy. Signed at the age of 15, Immel made his Bundesliga debut at the age of 17 following Horst Bertram's departure to FC Bocholt.
One of the first names throughout his career at Borussia Dortmund, Immel spent eight seasons at the Westfalenstadion. A lack of silverware at Borussia Dortmund, however, saw the shot-stopper move to Stuttgart for a then-record transfer fee for a goalkeeper.
It was during his time at the Neckarstadion, the present day Mercedes-Benz Arena - that Immel enjoyed his only Bundesliga success. In nine seasons, the goalkeeper won the Bundesliga title once and finished runner-up in the UEFA Cup.
Following Rolf Fringer's preference to play Marc Zieglar, Immel moved to Premier League side Manchester City before injuries forced him to retire from the game in 1997.
A goalkeeper who preferred to punch the ball rather than catching it, the German was renowned as one of the best shot-stoppers in the game during his career. Despite retiring from international games at the age of 28, Immel was part of two FIFA World Cup runner-up teams and was a part of the European Championship-winning German squad.
Scorer of one of the most iconic goals in the history of Champions League finals, Lars Ricken is one of the greatest to have played for Borussia Dortmund. One of those rare players who represented just one club in their professional career, Ricken spent 14 seasons with Borussia Dortmund before taking up the role of youth coordinator at the club.
A local lad, Ricken signed up for BVB at the age of 15 before making his debut two years later, becoming the then youngest player to make his Borussia Dortmund debut. A player renowned for scoring in crucial matches, Ricken was one of the stars of the Borussia Dortmund side that won the UEFA Champions League in 1997.
Sadly though, the final of the Champions League was the peak of his career. The midfielder struggled with injuries subsequently and struggled for consistency later on in his career. Injuries finally got the better of him as Ricken retired from the game in 2007 at the age of just 32.
Die Schwartzgelben will forever remember Lars Ricken as the man who scored one of the most iconic goals in their history.
2. Marco Reus
Dortmund-born and bred, Marco Reus, is now the captain and the poster boy of Borussia Dortmund. The German joined the Borussia Dortmund youth academy at a very early age and spent ten years at the academy. Unlike many in this list, Borussia Dortmund made a blunder and let go of the young Reus.
Reus graduated from the Rot Weiss Ahlen academy and made his Bundesliga debut in 2009 for Borrusia Monchengladbach. It took the Schwartzgelben three years to rectify their mistake. The German has been a permanent fixture ever since at Borussia Dortmund.
One of the best players of this generation, Marco Reus has displayed an extraordinary love for his boyhood club. Despite receiving offers from many European giants and watching most of his co-stars leaving Borussia Dortmund, Reus has remained faithful to the Schwartzgelben.
A highly versatile player, Reus can play in all attacking positions. His speed, intelligence, shooting and technical ability has helped him become one of the best players in the Bundesliga. Sadly though, injuries have deprived Reus of many achievements, including the 2014 FIFA World Cup where Germany won the tournament.
1. Michael Zorc
A man who epitomises Borussia Dortmund, Michael Zorc is arguably the greatest player and academy product in the history of the club. The German started his relationship with Borussia Dortmund in 1978 after joining the club's academy at the age of 16.
A defensive midfielder during his playing days, the German was known for his ball distribution and defensive prowesses. His accuracy from the spot made him Borussia Dortmund's first-choice penalty taker.
Nicknamed 'Susi', Zorc captained Borussia Dortmund to consecutive Bundesliga titles, DFB Pokal and their only UEFA Champions League and Intercontinental Cup. The midfielder ended his career at the end of the Champions League-winning season in 1997 after making 572 appearances and scoring 159 goals in the Bundesliga.
A first-team regular throughout his career, Zorc spent seventeen seasons at Borussia Dortmund before retiring and taking the role of Sporting Director.