The struggle to find a proper striker has become one that Borussia Dortmund fans have become accustomed to over the years. The club has tried a whole slew of players up top in the last few seasons, ranging from the likes of Michy Batshuayi, Mario Götze, and Paco Alcacer. Of these, Alcacer proved to be the most prolific, however his injuries often kept him sidelined, making him a liability at times for Dortmund. Despite this, Paco Alcacer had the most successful stint up top.
In moments where Paco was injured, Mario Götze was put in his place, and did an admirable job leading the line, but it was always clear that Götze was not a true striker. His role was much more that of a false 9, and while this worked in some matches, the lack of a true number 9 was clear in games where a striker’s physicality and mentality would have clearly made the difference.
During the winter transfer window, the club seemed to have learned its lesson. As 2019 came to a close, a new era began in Dortmund as Erling Braut Haaland signed for the club. The 19-year-old Norwegian was one of the hottest transfer targets of the window, and the fact that Dortmund managed to pull off this transfer in itself is impressive, but what is even more impressive is the start Haaland has had to life in the Bundesliga. While everyone knew he was a bright talent, no one expected the striker to score seven goals in three Bundesliga games for his new club, the first three coming off the bench in a comeback win against Augsburg.
One of the things that specifically brought attention to was the change in body language and overall structure of the team once Haaland entered the pitch. Having a true No. 9 that was hungry for goals allowed other teammates such as Jadon Sancho and Thorgan Hazard to focus on the creative aspects of their game and lessened the need for them to consider themselves the main goal threats for their side. The general structure of the team felt much more natural and less forced, which goes a long way to exemplify how important Haaland is to this Dortmund side. Even captain Marco Reus has been impressed, stating that the club haven’t had a striker in Haaland’s mould since Robert Lewandowski played for the club.
This importance also implies over reliance, however. While Haaland has shown he is integral to the squad, the lack of his presence when he isn’t in the starting XI is felt just as easily. In Dortmund’s DFB Pokal game against Werder Bremen, the club found it very hard to play against a Bremen side away, hell bent on turning their season around. It wasn’t until Haaland came on that the club’s luck changed. Haaland provided the extra threat necessary for Dortmund to be able to score crucial goals, and while it wasn’t necessarily enough to get them over the line in this game, it showed that the element of threat Haaland brings can be devastating to the opposition.
It is this exact over reliance that holds the threat of injury to Dortmund’s new striker like an anvil on a rope ready to snap and crush their title hopes. Before the transfer window shut, Dortmund parted ways with Alcacer, leaving the club with only one option in the striker position, and only Götze as cover. It is also likely that Götze will leave the club this summer if he fails to agree terms on a new contract. Dortmund will certainly have to be in the market for a backup striker to Haaland, especially if they wish to ensure that they have enough quality players to lead the line for the following season. Let’s look at some names that might be of interest to the Ruhr side.
The Loan Option – Luka Jović
The first name I’d like to put forward is former Eintracht Frankfurt and current Real Madrid striker Luka Jović. The Serbia international is a player that, during his time in the Bundesliga, tore up the league while on loan from then parent club Benfica. The player was part of one of the league’s deadliest attacking triads alongside Ante Rebić and Sébastien Haller.
During the 18/19 season, Jović was involved in 23 goals for Die Adler in the Bundesliga. The Serbian International amassed 17 goals and 6 assists in 32 appearances for the club. Since moving to Real Madrid however, Jović’s form has taken a dip for the worse. In 14 appearances for the club, Jović has only managed 1 goal and 1 assist, a dramatic dip in form that makes one question how long Zinedine Zidane will be patient with the player.
In terms of both the player’s development and Borussia Dortmund’s needs, a loan for Jović may prove a satisfying deal for both parties. For one, Jović will be returning to a league that he is familiar with, and he can continue to develop in more comfortable surroundings. For Dortmund, Jović will provide a good option off the bench to give Haaland competition and allow the Norwegian some rest at times. Dortmund’s good relationship with Madrid, as exemplified by the loan of Achraf Hakimi would certainly make the deal a bit more realistic. In the case of Jović, I feel his form is an instance where the lacking ingredient is confidence, something a stint with Dortmund could help install in him once again.
The Familiar Face – Alexander Isak
When it comes to the name Alexander Isak, most Dortmund fans will remember him as the striker brought in under Thomas Tuchel’s nose; as the player that never truly got a chance to show what he was capable of for the Black and Yellows. Following his transfer from Allsvenskan to Dortmund in 2017, the young Swedish striker was being compared to the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović. In his final season in the Swedish top flight, Isak bagged 10 goals and 1 assist in 24 appearances. Great things were expected of the young striker, but he never seemed to find his footing while at Dortmund. The player’s only goal and assist for the club came in the DFB Pokal in the 17/18 season.
After only 5 league appearances that season, Isak was shipped out on loan to Eredivisie side Willem II where he seemed to come to life, scoring 13 times and assisting a further 7 in the Dutch top flight. Having put in a solid performance, I for one thought that Isak would finally get his chance to properly fight for his spot in the Dortmund starting XI, however it was not to be. Dortmund sold their young striker to Real Sociedad, where he has become a crucial player for their side. In 23 La Liga appearances so far, Isak has scored 7 times and provided one assist. He has scored a further 7 times in the Copa del Rey and provided 2 assists in that competition as well, most notably scoring twice and assisting his teammates once in their clash with the mighty Real Madrid. For a player who couldn’t make it into the Dortmund starting XI, he is doing pretty well for himself.
It is these performances that may tempt Dortmund into activating their €30 Million buyback clause for the player, and I believe the club could do worse. Isak’s performances have shown he has matured enough to cut it in some of Europe’s top leagues, becoming an integral part of Willem II’s and now Sociedad’s setup. The club would likely have to do quite a bit to convince the player, but considering the quality Isak has shown it would certainly be worth a shot should his form continue in this vein until the summer.
Scottish league talent worth the investment- Alfredo Morelos:
Probably the most affordable striker on this list, Alfredo Morelos would be an interesting option for the likes of Dortmund to consider bringing in in the advent of their “strike option exodus”. The current Rangers front man has 12 goals and 3 assists to his name in the Scottish Premiership. The striker started his career with Deportivo Independiente Medellín, which was followed by a move to HJK Helsinki. On July 1, 2017, Morelos moved to Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow, and has quickly become a fan favourite among the Rangers faithful.
Morelos is a very athletic striker, often fond of finishing his chances from within the box in a poacher-like style, but it isn’t unheard of for the young Colombian to turn on the flair and make a darting run with the ball at his feet, or using his skill to round the keeper to score. Most of the time, however, he thrives off the creativity of those around him, finishing of chances by imposing on defences with his strength and intelligent positioning to receive a pass. Creative teammates are something he’ll have a plethora of if Dortmund were to snap up the 23-year-old.
The most interesting, and in some cases worrying thing about Morelos is that he is a striker that has been surrounded by controversy since joining Rangers back in 2017. The striker is known to pick up a card or two, recently picking up a red card in Rangers’ meeting with Celtic. El Buffalo, as he is known, is a fiery player that shows it on the pitch, frequently. In some ways, this is the type of player that Dortmund could perhaps benefit from. It has often been said that Dortmund lack the sort of players that are willing to fight or show some steel when the match calls for it. Having a fighter like Morelos would go in line with the recent transfers of Haaland and the impending transfer of Emre Can; players with a more aggressive and hungry mentality.
The purchase of Morelos should come fairly cheap, with the player valued at $16.5 million, per Transfermarkt. With recent interest by Barcelona being reported, however, his price is likely to rise slightly. Even if he were to come into Dortmund as their second choice striker, however, Morelos would certainly see more time on the field with Dortmund, as opposed to with the likes of Barcelona, which may give the Ruhr side a better chance of signing the player should any concrete links arise.
I think it is very clear to both Dortmund fans and the board that having more than one striker is crucial to maintaining healthy competition and depth within the squad. With the departure of Paco Alcacer and the potential imminent departure of Mario Götze looming, the threat of injury to Haaland is grave and not something Dortmund should take lightly when considering any future moves in the summer. It is never too early to plan for the future and the club should do its best to ensure it is able to sustainably compete on all fronts. The club itself is one that likes to get its business done early so I expect potential targets are already being put under the microscope, and the club to spring as soon as the summer market opens in July.
By Brian Szlenk.