‘Lacked him a few percent confidence’
Borussia Dortmund seized the initiative in the Bundesliga last weekend by defeating Bayern Munich. One man is of great value in the yellow-and-black advance: Donyell Malen, playing like a reborn, makes Dortmund dream of its first title since 2012.
The 24-year-old striker scored six goals in the past five league matches and also provided three assists in them. “Malen confirms his form,” the authoritative magazine Kicker wrote last weekend after Dortmund’s 4-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt.
Malen scored twice in the match, earning a spot in the “Bundesliga team of the week. His goal tally in the league thus stands at seven, two more than all of last season, with five rounds of play remaining in the Bundesliga.
The footballer is now finally fulfilling the promise with his good series since he traded Eindhoven for Dortmund in 2021 for around 30 million euros.
Expectations were high. Malen had to succeed Jadon Sancho, who had left to Manchester United. That succeeded only sparsely: Malen did not manage to make his mark on the team in the past year and a half.
Short injury spells also threw a spanner in the works. The inconspicuous performance and aches also caused Malen to drop out of the Dutch national team and miss the World Cup in Qatar.
It was less than two years ago that former national coach Frank de Boer cried out after the lost European Championship match against the Czech Republic that Malen had too little substance to play ninety minutes. And that while Malen was fully fit at the time.
It was the match in the eighth finals of the European Championship in which Malen killed off the Netherlands’ best chance by hesitating eye to eye with the Czech goalkeeper.
Malen has seemingly become fitter in Germany after that: tight head, lightning-fast sprints and dribbles that follow each other at a rapid pace. Malen does now distinguish himself on Dortmund’s flanks.
Back in Orange
He also returned to the Dutch national team when he was called up as a replacement for the injured Steven Bergwijn for the European Championship qualifiers against France and Gibraltar in March. The 21-time international made a good impression in both matches.
For national coach Ronald Koeman, Malen was “one of the positive exceptions at Oranje.
Koeman: ‘Malen was positive exception against France and Girbraltar’
Anyone who puts his ear to the ground in Dortmund actually hears one magic word regarding the Oranje international: confidence.
According to coach Edin Terzic, Malen already had the upward trend in the fall of 2022, before the soccer season was interrupted by the World Cup in Qatar. Malen’s move to the right side has also worked out well.
“He just lacked confidence by a few percent. This is the best Donyell we have seen in the BVB shirt so far. Compliments for him,” the coach said after the 4-0 win over Eintracht Frankfurt, in which Malen scored twice.
“I saw for a long time in training how decisive he can be. He is now rewarding himself with this excellent series,” Terzic said.
Borussia Dortmund technical director Sebastian Kehl expressed similar words about Malen’s rise. “Donny has gained incredible belief in his own ability,” he said.
“With his play, dynamism and qualities as a striker, he adds an awful lot to our soccer. That was also our plan when we bought him. i am happy he is showing it now.”