Pitchside Europe

Where did it all go wrong for Nuri Sahin?

There were scenes of utter jubilation as the Dortmund team paraded in front of the massive 'Yellow Wall' that backs them so passionately at every home game after they had clinched the title against Nuremberg in 2011. However, surely I wasn't the only one whose admiration for the achievements of that side was tinged with genuine sadness that Nuri Sahin, the supreme on-pitch architect of that triumph, was leaving for Real Madrid.

As the Turkish international hobbled round the pitch, injured leg in brace and arms raised to applaud in the unique way of footballers, I was desperately sorry that I would not have the privilege of seeing him almost every week the following season. Greater fame and even greater feats appeared to beckon for one of the most brilliant footballers I had ever seen. And yet, Sahin is now back at Dortmund, his time at Real Madrid and Liverpool squibs that couldn't have been damper had they embarked on a trans-Atlantic swim in lederhosen. Where did it all go wrong?

"Sahin was not helped by the fact he was injured when he arrived at Madrid. He couldn't recover his fitness and in the meantime Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira were established as the first-choice pairing in central midfield," former Real Madrid TV journalist Andy Scott told me. The fact he didn't make his first Liga start till Week 34 of the season and played just four league games all season is sufficient testament to Sahin's Castilian travails.

It was a similar story (though undoubtedly very different weather!) at Liverpool where his season-long loan was ended six months early with Sahin's only palatable souvenir from his spell at Anfield the fact he got to play alongside Steven Gerrard. With Brendan Rodgers playing him out of position, further up the pitch, Sahin's spell in the north west was a waste.

"The disagreement was so great that it led to him saying after he left to return to BVB: 'Thank God I've left Brendan Rodgers,'" said Angus Torode, Eurosport Bundesliga commentator. "It was ironic as he'd said when he first arrived at Anfield that the reason he'd gone to Liverpool was because of Rodgers."

Reunited with Jürgen Klopp, Sahin is clearly not quite the player he was, luxury goods damaged in transit via Madrid and Liverpool on the round-trip from the Ruhr Valley.

In Wednesday's Champions League win at Marseille, he was merely another cog in the machine, not the motor at the heart of it as he once was. Perhaps not helped by Henrikh Mkhitaryan often dropping so deep he made Sahin redundant - something Shinji Kagawa and particularly Robert Lewandowski, in 2010/11 playing behind Lucas Barrios, didn't often do - the Dortmund number 18 only once looked like the maestro-of-yore when he clipped a brilliant ball forward early in the second half to allow his Armenian team-mate to send in a dangerous cross.

"Even after returning to Dortmund he's taken ages to get back into it and is still struggling to regain his previous form on any sort of consistent basis," stated Eurosport Bundesliga commentator Ben Harris, confirming the impression Sahin gave at the Stade Vélodrome where he largely contented himself with short, sure passes to team-mates and did not offer the 'verticality' he used to with incisive balls forward.

Maybe that will come with time as he re-settles in at Dortmund where - it must be said - Ilkay Gündogan has out-Sahin-ed Sahin since the latter's depature. After a sticky start following his move from Nuremberg, Gündogan has almost had Dortmund fans asking 'Nuri who?'.

It is unlikely Sahin would have played so often this season had Gündogan not been injured, though with the latter surely set to soon move on - will he befall the same fate as his predecessor, I wonder? - we may yet see that sublime talent express itself fully once again, particularly as Sahin will most likely be at the Signal Iduna Park beyond the end of his loan deal next summer. "Of course Khedira is now out long term and Carlo Ancelotti is now the coach, but it's hard to see Sahin going back to Madrid, even if he is under contract there until 2017," said Scott.

Ian Holyman (Twitter: @ian_holyman)