March 23, 2017

Dönergate … and the Fall and Rise of Kevin Großkreutz

I once had the chance to have a little private chat with Kevin Großkreutz and directly was able to notice one thing. I was pretty sure that he will never would reach a master degree in something like rocket science. Nevertheless – the player Kevin Großkreutz seems to be way smarter than some of his colleagues in professional football.

When this article was discussed, some writers of Bundesliga Fanatic talked about a possible headline. Something like “Rise and Fall of Kevin G.” The first look seems obvious. In summer 2014 he was nominated for “Die Mannschaft” and although he never really contributed anything to win the title, Kevin could call himself “Weltmeister”. Until then the career of Dortmund’s all-rounder went straight to the top. He was born in 1988, played for youth teams of Dortmund and then transferred to Rot-Weiß Ahlen (a city more or less near Dortmund), where he played with Marco Reus. In 2009 Kevin Großkreutz came back to Dortmund and was part of the “BVB-Renaissance”, won three national titles and became one of the few professional footballers, who never lost their connection to the fans and always seemed to bring a bit of authenticity into professional football.

Never black and white…

kev grosskreutzIn comparison to Munich or Berlin, Dortmund is a small town where people know each other. Kevin Großkreutz was born and raised in Dortmund-Eving. People talk. And when people talk about famous sons of the city the border between truth and rumour often seems to be very permeable. Until 2014 it seemed that Großkreutz had committed few errors in his career. Is that right? At this point it is always difficult to assess the rumours. The possibility is there that people who talk about Kevin Großkreutz often are driven by envy and may exaggerate what really happened. Is it true that the club Borussia Dortmund had to pay a (more or less) sum of money to a local newspaper to avoid a sensitive story about Großkreutz drinking too much alcohol during his time in Rot Weiß Ahlen?

Dortmund won titles and the celebrations were (if you compare it to Munich’s Parties) a bit out of control. The player Großkreutz was always at the epicentre of celebration and was here and there seen in the bars together with fans having some beers. It is possible there is more to say to the problematic relationship between a professional sport star and alcohol. But did the performance ever suffer? No, Kevin Großkreutz was always one of the pillars of Dortmund’s success and obviously enjoyed his beer when the time was right – at least after 2009 when he was in focus of media and under the guidance of Borussia Dortmund management.

Before 2009 the lines between truth and rumours are too foggy. I once talked to his former youth-coach – Christian Wück. Only one thing is sure. Although Kevin was not allowed to make use of his “season-ticket” in Borussia Dortmund and certainly not to attend away-matches of Dortmund, he was very often among BVB-fans during his time in Ahlen.

“Dönergate and Pee-Scandal”

Two stories were discussed in German media and almost everybody already knew the circumstances. During a night in Cologne the versatile Großkreutz was accused of throwing a Döner (a very popular Turkish/German-meal that can be classified as fast food) towards another person. His former colleague and BVB-player Julian Schieber confirmed that Großkreutz threw the Döner to the ground and not towards a person. After the final of DFB-Pokal 2014 he followed the orders of coach Klopp to drown his sorrow in alcohol. Kevin did “what he was told” but obviously overstated. He peed in a hotel lobby and started a fight with another hotel guest. But once again his star rose in Rio. He barely played, but was a part of the team that won the World Cup against Argentina in July 2014.

The season 2014/15 was not good…. not for Borussia Dortmund, not for Jürgen Klopp and not for Kevin Großkreutz. The following summer, new coach Thomas Tuchel did not want him and he was obviously (it is not quite sure until now) told to look for a new club. He found an iconic club, Galatasaray Istanbul – a dream connection together with another icon of authenticity, Lukas Podolski! The time ended, however, without Großkreutz ever wearing the jersey of “Gala”!

…fall of Kevin?

Großkreutz transferred to VfB Stuttgart last winter after a trying time in Turkey and was part of the short but intense wave of success in late-winter 2015. Stuttgart – some experts foresaw – had a chance to reach Europa League. But Großkreutz was injured and could not participate during the season’s stretch run for Stuttgart, a stretch that saw the club slip into direct relegation.

The question here is simple – is it really a fall when a “World Champion” will play 2. Bundesliga next year. One the one hand, yes! It is obviously worse than before. On the other hand, no! The explanation is simple. Kevin Großkreutz is not as slick (and boring) as Philipp Lahm (surely not as successful), but he is a true figure in football (and not so media-driven). A few weeks ago he announced via Instagram that he would even be part of VfB Stuttgart squad in 2. Bundesliga.

There are thousands of examples where players want to leave after relegation – look at Hannover, look at Großkreutz’ VfB teammate David Didavi, for example, who signed with Woflsburg even before the Swabians’ fate was decided. But Kevin will (in his own words) “help to repair what broke down”!

From a sporting point of view it is really something like a fall. But Großkreutz is, in a world of “logo-kissers” and players who break promises to fans, someone that football needs and even something that has gone missing in the period of (football) globalization. He is a shining example of everything what is still right with football in a world where money is more important than actual play on the field, where players longing for a new and better contract exit and where captains prefer to join the enemy than to become a club-legend.

Some personal words

Even if his “Good Bye” in Dortmund was a logical step, many fans miss him. He is a player that always gave everything (as he will do in Stuttgart next season). He was a figure of identification who was told (also “Kuba” and probably Subotic) to go away. In Dortmund they may have found the right ways to be a successful club in Europa. But they also found ways to lose identification. I personally would always prefer Kevin to come back, rather than a certain Mario G.

kev

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Dennis Liedschulte

Dennis works as a journalist and author of fictional novels in Germany. He is a regular visitor of the German Bundesliga. He worked for several newspapers and online magazines and reports directly from Germany for bundesligafanatic.com. Follow at @NummerSieben7