It is hard to understand sometimes when a player of Mesut Ozil’s caliber actually leaves a club like Real Madrid, but he isn’t the best player in the world, or the best one on the German national team. It’s not Mario Gotze, which was something Dortmund fans claimed for a couple of years. Marco Reus, usually in the shadow of the two, is the correct answer.
It’s hard being an attacking midfielder for Germany these days. Mesut Ozil has held on to the number one spot since the 2010 World Cup and slightly before that. Mario Gotze didn’t play for a club like Real Madrid; he was only on Dortmund, where injuries also became a problem for him.
Marco Reus was even harder to notice, coming from Monchengladbach, and playing better and more consistent than anyone on the team last season, but somehow hiding somewhat behind the stardust of Gotze and Lewandowski, who usually attract more attention.
While Reus doesn’t have the elegance of Ozil or Gotze, who fit the wonderkid(s) label a bit better, he’s a more complete player than both of them, only he doesn’t tend to draw too much individual praise. The hardest workers usually blend in the background, and are easy to ignore.
But Reus did end up scoring 14 Bundesliga goals last season, adding four more in the Champions League. The 2014 World Cup qualifiers have been his introduction to the national team’s lineup, and he is the side’s leading scorer so far in the campaign with 5 goals.
But it’s more than just numbers. Ozil has numbers, maybe better than anyone. He plays for Real Madrid, where almost every pass into the box becomes a chance, converted or not, by Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and previously Gonzalo Higuain. Ozil scores himself as well, but it’s usually about his misses when he enters the box.
And there’s the consistency issue. Reus doesn’t have to score in order to have a good game. Ozil, it seems, doesn’t really stand out if he didn’t create something for others. When his dribbles end up with nothing more than twice during a match, it usually means he’s having a bad day; one of those games where he almost disappears, and it seems like the intensity of that particular encounter is a bit too much for him.
Reus is different, also in his position. He usually plays on the left wing, cutting to the middle. He has a better one on one than Ozil, and while he doesn’t show moments that make you go “genius” as often as Ozil, he simply makes better decisions – under pressure and in general.
Ozil comes with more star power due to his Real Madrid time, but Dortmund are no longer in the shadow of Bayern Munich or some Champions League club no one expects anything from. More eyes will be pointed at Reus this season, more than ever. It might actually win him the recognition he deserves as the best player in Germany.