Borussia Dortmund confirmed on Thursday that long-serving defender Neven Subotic has left the club. The 29-year-old centre-back has joined French side AS Saint-Etienne.
In an acknowledgement of the Serbian’s massive contributions to the club’s recent history, Dortmund have passed on a transfer fee, instead agreeing to a contract termination.
Subotic had joined the Black and Yellows in 2008 from then-2. Bundesliga side FSV Mainz 05 for €4,5 million, which at the time was a fairly large transfer fee for Dortmund. He re-joined Jürgen Klopp at his new club and became an integral part of the team that would have a formative influence on German football for the better part of a decade.
Forming a borderline symbiotic partnership with Mats Hummels, dubbed the “Kinderriegel” after a popular German candy bar (“Kinder” translating to kids), Subotic’s athleticism and strength in duels was a perfect complement to the Germany international’s more elegant way of playing the position.
In total, the former Serbia defender played in 263 matches for Dortmund, scoring a respectable 18 goals.
His value diminished in recent years, not least because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in 2013 that saw him miss over 50 competitive matches. Subotic never recovered to his prior form and gradually lost his spot as an automatic starter to Sokratis Papastathopoulos, who had arrived in the summer of 2013 from Werder Bremen.
Subotic’s role marginalised extremely in the last two years. He has not played a single cup match for BVB since 2015, for example, and only appeared in one UEFA Champions League game in that time. This season, the 29-year-old suddenly was brought out of the woodwork by Peter Bosz during the horrendous run of results in autumn but, naturally, was unable to turn things around for the Dutch head coach. He has played one minute of football under Peter Stöger this year.
Subotic had entertained changing clubs before, reportedly failing a medical with Middlesbrough in 2016 and joining Cologne on loan in January of 2017. Given his lack of playing time, this permanent move to France makes perfect sense for the defender.
Any report on the Serbian would be remiss if it failed to mention his incredible work off the pitch. Subotic is a fan favourite not only because of his devotion to his colours on the field, but also his charitable work.
Unlike most players, who spend their holidays on yachts in various Gulf states, Subotic actively works with his foundation, aiming to provide clean water in the poorest regions of the globe.
Through his foundation and the bond he has made with club, colleagues, decision-makers and fans, Subotic will remain a Borusse for life even if he laces his boots for Saint-Etienne from now on.
Subotic told BVB’s homepage:
I want to give gratitude from the bottom of my heart for the nine years at BVB. In those years we have experienced a lot, mourned and celebrated together. I will forever carry this time in my heart. Thank you to all the Borussen for this wonderful time, because without your support it would not have been possible. It was an honour for me to slide-tackle balls and celebrate huge successes for our team and with the entire city. Those moments have tied me to the club and, particularly the people around it. This bond will remain forever.