Five years ago, Kevin Grosskreutz had won the World Cup and was a Borussia Dortmund regular. Since then, controversy has stuck with him as he fell down the leagues. Now he's set to meet his old side in the German Cup.
With 10 minutes remaining of extra time in the 2014 German Cup final, Kevin Grosskreutz was removed by Jürgen Klopp, as the Borussia Dortmund coach tried to take the game to penalties.
It wasn't to be. A last gasp Thomas Müller goal, along with Arjen Robben's 107th-minute strike, sent Dortmund's World Cup contingent off to Brazil on a downer and allowed Pep Guardiola's team to complete a domestic double.
Grosskreutz took defeat in what would turn out to be his last Dortmund game badly. He was found urinating in the lobby of the national team hotel in the early hours of the next morning. The fullback apologized, and Germany coach Joachim Löw kept him in his tournament squad with a warning that it shouldn't happen again, particularly given that Grosskreutz had reportedly thrown a kebab at a Cologne fan in the street months earlier.
Though he didn't play a minute at the tournament, Grosskreutz was a world champion. His relentless running, application and pressing also made him a vital cog in Klopp's Dortmund machine.
Still courting controversy in lower leagues
As career highs go, it could have been a lot worse. But Grosskreutz descent since those heady days has been rapid. His BVB peers Marco Reus, Robert Lewandowski, Mats Hummels and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are all close to Grosskreutz's 31 years and still playing at the top level. Meanwhile, the Dortmund-born defender is turning out for KFC Uerdingen in Germany's third tier.
His spell at the former Bundesliga club follows a difficult, gameless stint at Galatasary, an acrimonious departure from Stuttgart that saw Grosskreutz let go after a late-night brawl and an unremarkable second division spell with Darmstadt.
But he's still making headlines. On Wednesday, Grosskreutz received a four-match ban, with a further two suspended, after a violent off-the-ball incident where he raked his studs down an opponent. Fortunately for him, the ban is only for league games.
"That was rash from me," he said of his current suspension. But now only the game against Dortmund counts. We want to annoy BVB a bit."
It will be a tall order for Uerdingen, whose Grotenburg Stadium is less than 70 kilometers from Dortmund's much grander Westfalenstadion. But Grosskreutz, a boyhood BVB supporter who became a fan favorite, has bought his family and friends 200 tickets for his reunion.
Friends forgotten for 90 minutes
"I cannot wait," Grosskreutz, who also faced Dortmund in the Cup with Stuttgart in 2016, said. "It's a big game for me. I've been a fan of Borussia Dortmund since I was a kid, but for the 90 minutes, I do not know any of them as friends. Then I'll be a Dortmund fan again."
The versatile Grosskreutz has been mainly playing right back this term. He could have to mark Jadon Sancho, who dazzled in the second half of Dortmund's Super Cup win over Bayern last Saturday.
"I've always stood up to every opponent, I'm looking forward to the duels," Grosskreutz said of the young English winger.
Another potential adversary is Thorgan Hazard, who could make his Dortmund debut. Mats Hummels, Grosskreutz's old teammate, could make his second debut in yellow in black. BVB coach Lucien Favre said on Wednesday that both men were ready to go on Friday. But fitness doubts remain over goalkeeper Roman Bürki and midfielder Julian Brandt.
Inevitably, the Swiss tactician was also asked about Grosskreutz. "He had a great time here in Dortmund, he is still dangerous on the pitch today and a great person," Favre replied.
Most Dortmund fans making the short trip west on Friday would agree with Favre's character assessment, though it wouldn't be universally shared. Nonetheless, they will hope Grosskreutz doesn't have one more shock up his sleeve.