Whether as the talismanic local hero or tragic figure plagued by injury, Marco Reus has embodied Borussia Dortmund over the last decade. On Saturday, the BVB captain could crown his career with the prize he desires most. With just under half-an-hour played in the first Revierderby of the season back in October, the raucous Westfalenstadion crowd suddenly fell silent. After an innocuous challenge with Schalke midfielder Florian Flick, Borussia Dortmund captain Marco Reus collapsed to the turf, clutching his left ankle with his right hand whilst punching the grass in pain and frustration with his left. The Dortmund faithful had seen this film before; Reus’ injury record over the last decade is as long and arduous as the Black and Yellows’ ten-year wait for a Bundesliga title. Since his 2012 move from Borussia Mönchengladbach to Dortmund — his home-town club and, at the time, German champions for the second consecutive year — Reus’ career has been plagued by injury after injury, while Dortmund have played a consistent second fiddle to Bayern Munich. Reus missed Germany’s triumphant 2014 World Cup campaign with an ankle ligament tear, Euro 2016 with a pubic bone injury and the 2017 Confederations Cup after rupturing his cruciate ligament. Now, after another a ligament strain in his 250th Bundesliga appearance, he was about to miss the 2022 World Cup too, and was stretchered off in tears. Fortunately, it wasn’t as bad as first feared and, seven months later, the 33-year-old could be seen darting through the Augsburg defense and into the penalty area. His shot was parried into the path of teammate Sébastien Haller and the Ivorian striker tapped home Dortmund’s second of three goals to bring the Bundesliga trophy, the Meisterschale, within touching distance. In December 2018, Lucien Favre’s side found themselves nine points clear of Bayern after 15 games, only to collapse in February, with Reus absent for two damaging draws against Hoffenheim and Nuremberg with a groin injury. They ultimately surrendered top spot after a 5-0 thrashing in Munich, the fifth of nine straight defeats in Bavaria by an aggregate score of 37-8 and counting, before Schalke put the nail in the coffin with a 4-2 derby win. Reus was sent off and Bayern won their seventh consecutive title. In Dortmund, criticism was mounting and questions were beginning to be asked – but there was one accusation that captain Reus would not accept, a topic which has since become known around the club as the M-word. “You’re really getting on my nerves now with your ‘mentality’ s***!” Reus snapped at a reporter after Dortmund had conceded a last-minute equalizer away at Eintracht Frankfurt the following season. “Are you serious? You think that goal was down to a mentality problem?” Dortmund went on to finish the coronavirus-interrupted season 13 points behind Bayern, but given what Reus and his teammates had been through over the previous two years, the captain’s aversion to suggestions that they somehow lacked mental strength was understandable. Having been out for a month, Reus wasn’t in the Dortmund squad for the Champions League quarterfinal first leg at home to Monaco, and therefore wasn’t on board the team bus when its windows were shattered by deadly projectiles from three roadside explosions ahead of kick-off. The decision by UEFA to play the game the next day — with the acquiescence of the BVB hierarchy — contributed to an irreparable break in the relationship between chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke and head coach Thomas Tuchel, with Watzke refuting Tuchel’s claims that the team was effectively forced to play. Reus, it emerged, had also played a key role, with German broadsheet Die Zeit reporting that the then vice-captain had stood up at the team meeting and informed Watzke on behalf of the team: “I think it’s wrong that we’re playing tonight.” While Watzke insisted that the players had been given until the afternoon of the game to raise their objections, but that none had, Reus stuck to his claim that he had spoken out in favor of an alternative date — but denied any dispute with Watzke. Dortmund played and lost 3-2. But the sporting defeat paled into insignificance compared to the human cost. Spanish defender Marc Bartra had a broken arm, goalkeeper Roman Bürki said a week later that he was “still waking up at night” while captain Marcel Schmelzer said that “the feeling has not got a lot better.” But Reus was one of the people they could turn to. “I’ve tried to help the younger players since the attack, asking them if they want to talk about anything,” said the then 27-year-old, fit again ahead of the second leg, where he captained the team and scored in a 3-1 defeat. A week later, he scored one and set up another as Dortmund knocked Bayern out of the German Cup en route to lifting the trophy in Berlin. After what they’d been through, no-one could accuse Reus and his teammates of lacking the right mentality. But the other issue remained, as Reus hobbled up to the podium with his right knee in a yellow bandage: cruciate ligament. He would be out for another 220 days. “Wir sind alle Dortmunder Jungs!” sing Borussia Dortmund’s supporters to players they feel a particular connection with: “We are all Dortmund lads.” That applies more than most to Reus, the boyhood BVB fan who grew up in the suburbs of Körne and Wickede to the east of Dortmund city center, spent five years in the club’s youth academy and has gone on to score 161 competitive goals for the club — only 16 shy of club legend Adi Preissler. And yet, as bizarre as it will seem if Reus does hold the Bundesliga trophy aloft on Saturday, his association with Borussia Dortmund was in the balance just one month ago, as negotiations over a contract extension briefly stalled and an end-of-career move to Saudi Arabia was even mooted. In the end, Reus reportedly accepted a €5m pay cut and stayed on for one more year — a decision which made not only emotional but also sporting sense given his return to form in recent years. Remaining comparatively injury-free, Reus starred as Dortmund won the German Cup again in 2021 and produced two impressive performances — and a key goal — as Edin Terzic’s team were narrowly beaten by Manchester City in the Champions League. Last season, he upped his output to nine Bundesliga goals and 16 more assists. On Saturday, Reus will lead his team back out at the Westfalenstadion knowing that victory over Mainz will end ten years of hurt — both for Borussia Dortmund and for himself. And the crowd will be anything but silent. To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web browser that supports HTML5 video