Borussia Dortmund have been prepared to give 17-year-olds Giovanni Reyna and Jude Bellingham their chance to shine at the start of the new season and have been rewarded with some excellent displays. Five years ago, Felix Passlack was given his chance as a 17-year-old, but it has taken the Bottrop-born player a number of years to find his feet. Could this be the season when the BVB youth product finally settles at the club?
A falling star
It was back in the 2015-16 season that Felix Passlack was promoted to the Dortmund first team from the U-19’s by Thomas Tuchel along with a certain Christian Pulisic. He made his debut against Darmstadt on matchday 24 and then appeared twice more before the end of the season.
Having won the Fritz Walter Gold medal in the U-17 category, Passlack was earmarked as a highly promising youngster. He had already won the German Championship twice with the U-18’s – in 2014 and 2015 – and then repeated the feat in 2016 with the U-19’s.
The following season saw him make 10 Bundesliga appearances while he also made a name for himself by becoming the youngest German to score in the Champions League when he got on the scoresheet in a big win over Legia Warsaw. Despite his versatility at playing in number of positions, injuries and a lack of game time saw him sent out on loan to Hoffenheim.
He struggled to break into the first team with Czech full back Pavel Kaderabek firmly ensconced ahead of him and he had to be content playing in the Sinsheim club’s B team for much of the season. When BVB signed Achraf Hakimi on loan from Real Madrid, his chances at the club dwindled even more especially with veteran Lukas Piszczek still performing at the highest level.
Former Dortmund II coach Daniel Farke then took him to English Championship side Norwich on loan. His time in East Anglia was a disaster and he made just one brief substitute appearance amounting to 7 minutes. The emergence of highly rated Max Aarons (reportedly now a Bayern Munich target) saw Passlack demoted to third choice.
It was off to the Netherlands next with Fortuna Sittard the next club where the youngster attempted to get the game time and make the breakthrough. At this stage, his fellow BVB U-19 teammate Pulisic had signed for Chelsea in a €64 million deal. At Fortuna Passlack did make 25 starts for the Limburgers.
A star reignited?
Back at Dortmund for pre-season, many observers believed it was just a case of which would be the next club to receive Passlack on loan, but his attitude and efforts in training were rewarded with games. In fact, across the entire BVB summer program it was the 22-year-old, who amassed the most combined minutes on the pitch.
On matchday 1 with Thorgan Hazard only lasting 19 minutes in the left wingback role before injury, Passlack was sent on for his first Dortmund appearance in three years. He played superbly and very nearly scored and provided an assist.
“I paid Felix a big compliment right after the game was over for the performance he showed,” Sebastian Kehl, head of BVB’s licensed player department revealed. “Getting into a game like this after 20 minutes was not easy, especially in his situation. That also shows what kind of character the boy has. I was pleased that he got these minutes and was able to show what he can do.”
Sporting director Michael Zorc was equally as delighted saying, “I was personally very happy for him, he was rewarded for giving his best from the first day of training. He did his job really well. We are glad that he is with us.”
A full 90 minutes in the German Supercup defeat to Bayern followed and then his first Bundesliga goal for the club in Dortmund’s 4-0 win over Freiburg.
Passlack looks set to stay at the club and provide some much-needed cover for Lucien Favre. He can stand-in for Raphael Guerreiro as the left wingback and also on the right should Thomas Meunier need a rest. He is also versatile enough to play out wide in a more attacking role.
Regular starts and a first-team spot are going to be beyond him, but Passlack has shown he is ready to step up when required and wants to finally make himself part of the Dortmund squad. He may not have lived up fully to the potential he showed along with Christian Pulisic in the U-19’s, but after going around the houses at Hoffenheim, Norwich and Sittard, he is back home and ready to play.