10 years ago Borussia Dortmund signed a promising centre-half from SC Preußen Münster. He was an instant success. The same season saw the young West German win his first national cap. The following he brought home the 2002 Bundesliga title, and played in the World Cup Final. Now at the age of 29, he has had a career littered with injuries, poor form, occasional spells away from the national scene, and a somewhat failed move to a Spanish giant. So why did a boy with so much ambition and talent find himself ever so slightly cast aside ten years later?
This isn’t necessarily a straightforward hero to zero type affair. Christoph must know full well by now that nothing goes to plan. Yet, those 7 years at Borussia Dortmund seem comparitively stable in the context of his later problems. As part of both a talented Dortmund side (Lehmann, Wörns, Reuter, Rosicky, Koller etc.), and an equally talented German national side (Kahn, Hamann, Klose, Frings, Bierhoff etc.) he made a name for himself. Yet his breakthrough was marred by persistent, recurring injuries. So much so that he missed the whole of the 2002-03 season with an achilles problem, requiring multiple operations.
Over the course of the next 7/8 years, Metzelder suffered numerous foot injuries. A 2003 report and a 2008 article, both on the Uefa website, highlight the neat persistence of his setbacks, each time requring lengthy, frustrating spells on the sidelines and away from the action. Yet his 126 appearances for Dortmund (equating to under 20 per season), and able partnership with Per Mertsacker in the German team saw him earn a move to the mighty Real Madrid.
Yet once again, Metzelder was forced to curse his bad luck. A player known for his aerial ability, and innate defensive skills, was again sidelined with persistent injuries. Appearances at one of Spain’s biggest clubs don’t come easily, and the likes of Pepe, Cannavaro and Ramos sought to keep him benched even when fit, only finding a spell in the first team due to Pepe’s justly awarded 10-game ban in the 2008-09 season.
In June 2010, it was announced that Christoph was to leave Madrid after three disappointing campaigns, and when footballers find themselves lost and lonely in the professional game, they, more often than not, return home. In Metzelder’s case it was home to both Germany, and to the team who’d released him as a youth – Schalke 04.
But if you were looking for a fairytale ending it hasn’t come as yet. Schalke sit bottom of the new 2010-11 Bundesliga, whilst Dortmund sit second top. For all their close-season dealings (Schalke also bought Raul, Huntelaar and promising Olympiakos defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos), they haven’t impressed. Neither too has Metzelder. Whilst his return to the Ruhr valley may have put him at ease, his past injury problems and current form issues haven’t.
What may hit hardest was Germany’s fantastic performance at this summer’s World Cup Finals, because Metzelder wasn’t there. The likes of Bayern’s Badstuber and Jansen and Hertha’s Friedrich put paid to his chances of making the squad, and his current international exile seems personally worrying.
But for Christoph one thing remains constant, his beard-growing passion. A quick google search reveals pages of in-action and off-field shots of both a clean shaven and a heavily facial haired Metze, but of course I echo the sentiments of whoever made this:
And so, for all his career woe, Christoph might just sleep easier at night knowing that at least two people think his beard-growing is something to be proud of, and that’s worth something right?