Borussia Dortmund surprised their fans with something of a transfer shocker on Thursday, announcing long-serving midfielder/defender and fan favourite Sven Bender will leave the club for Bayer Leverkusen, pending a medical.
The 28-year-old is set to pen a contract until 2021 at the Rhine side, with reports estimating the transfer fee at €15 million.
Bender joined Dortmund from 1860 Munich in 2009 for only €1.5 million, while the Black and Yellows also relinquished remaining transfer rights for right-back Antonio Rukavina.
The versatile midfielder turned into one of the best signings in club history going by value for money, with Bender proving instrumental in the successes under Jürgen Klopp. A no-nonsense, hard-working player, Bender won two Bundesliga championships, two DFB-Pokals and advanced to the UEFA Champions League final with the Westfalenstadion club.
Injuries unfortunately always played a huge role in Bender’s Dortmund career. He appeared in a total of 224 competitive matches for the club but could easily have reached 350. An illustration of that, the 28-year-old has not eclipsed 24 Bundesliga appearances in a season since the 2010/11 campaign.
Thanks in large part to those injuries, Bender became a less and less viable option in midfield, but an intriguing one at the heart of defence, where Thomas Tuchel used him almost exclusively during his two seasons in charge of the Black and Yellows.
However, with continuous injury problems nagging him and a lot of competition at centre-back in fold, Bender faced an uphill climb for regular playing time. Apparently, the fan favourite realised that himself, seeing as the transfer was only agreed to by Dortmund at his sincere request.
Said Bender on Tuesday:
I approached Aki Watzke and Michael Zorc a few days ago to ask to be allowed to experience a new challenge after eight years at BVB. Since I was a young boy all I ever cared about was being on the pitch. Partly due to injuries, I failed to pick up games with regularity in recent times. I’m very grateful that Borussia Dortmund honoured my request — despite the absolute wish to keep me here. I consider this a big show of appreciation.
Sporting director Zorc added:
It’s very hard for us to let an absolute leader such as Sven Bender go, not only for sporting but also personal reasons. It was the explicit wish of the player to tackle another challenge. [All attempts of convincing him to stay] unfortunately failed. It’s not a normal transfer for me personally, but we wanted to honour the great service of a player of outstanding merit.
Dortmund lose not only a fan favourite but also a great leader and integrative figure in the locker room. On the pitch, however, the loss should not be felt too badly. Not least because of his injury problems, Bender’s on-field influence has diminished to a large extent. In all likelihood, he would have been the fourth-choice centre-back under Peter Bosz this campaign.
That is not enough for a player with the competitive nature of Sven Bender, who will not only get more playing time at Leverkusen but also fulfill a dream — after eight years apart, he will once again team up with twin brother Lars.