Skip to content

Mario Götze’s gone, but for Borussia Dortmund, Robert Lewandowski’s loss will hurt more

May 27, 2013, 2:44 AM EDT

Germany Soccer Champions League AP

For a German club that’s become the Bundesliga counterweight to Bayern autonomy, losing Mario Götze carries a particular sting for Borussia Dortmund. Only 20 years old, the attacking midfielder’s promise and present cast him as the brightest star on the German fußball landscape, making his capture particularly precious for Bayern Munich. For a team so readily associated with the German national team, buying what may develop into the country’s biggest star could be a point of great pride. That they sprung it on their current rivals makes the swoop all the more significant.

Götze, however, is replaceable. To a small extent, we saw it on Saturday. While having a full, first choice team would have improved Dortmund’s chances, BVB competed with the world’s best without their injured playmaker. Kevin Großkreutz is no Mario Götze, but if Marco Reus slid into a permanent spot behind that striker, BVB would be fine.

They’ll fine, that is, if they keep Robert Lewandowski, but that’s looking less and less likely by the day. Early spring brought the first reports that the Dortmund striker had agreed terms with Bayern, but through April and May, links to Manchester United (among others) persisted. Reportedly only making £20,000 per week (roughly $1.5 million per year), the 24-year-old  looks set to capitalize on his 36-goal season with a lucrative move, whether it’s to Bayern or some other club that can afford his inevitably heavy wages.

Lewandowski’s loss would be much more damaging than Götze’s, and not because there’s no Großkruetz-esque replacement waiting in the wings. It’s not because his loss will come on top of Götze’s move or Lewandowski might be the better player (he’s probably not). It’s because of how perfect Robert Lewandowski is for Dortmund’s style of play.

This is a bit of a chicken-egg situation. Dortmund haven’t played like this forever, and Lewandowski’s been a huge part of enabling this style. His ability to (a.) play the lone striker, (b.) in a press-heavy 4-2-3-1, (c.) on a team competing for major honors requires a rare skill-set, one that you see in Napoli’s Edinson Cavani and few others. Cavani is more tenacious, is better in the air, and has a physical quality Lewandowski doesn’t possess, but Lewandowski’s superior on the ball and a more dangerous passer, qualities that make him a great fit for a Dortmund. BVB’s style has come to depend heavily on its number nine’s ability to make the Götzes and Marco Reuses of the world more dangerous.

Lewandowski’s what German journalist Raphael Honigstein recent called labeled the best “footballing” forward in the world. Honigstein didn’t necessarily mean the Dortmund forward was the best at his position; more readily, he was describing the Polish international’s proficiency across multiple disciplines. In an evermore 4-2-3-1 world — a world where a forward’s versatility is more valuable than any singular, standout trait — the Lewandowski, Cavani-level talents become even more valuable.

Suffice to say, Dortmund’s not going to go out and get Edinson Cavani. And it’s unlikely Mario Mandzukic will end up at the Westfalenstadion in a Lewandowski swap. BVB could go out and buy another capable striker, like Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko (linked with Dortmund or at least six months), but he only offers part of Lewandowski’s skill-set, as do a slew of other players the former champions could pursue.

Broadly, it seems there are two possible paths. Dortmund could go out and get a workhorse that can press, potentially hold up the ball, and provide some value on set pieces, but such players tend to lack the nous capable of collecting 36 goals in a season. Or, Dortmund could go for a Dzeko-type player who’s more likely to produce goals yet isn’t as good linking play or gliding through the pressing game. Because the type of players that give them the whole Lewandowski, Cavani, Suárez-type package? They require the same wages that are prompting Lewandowski’s move.

Depending on which route Dortmund take, they’ll either have to adapt their style, get more goals from Jakub Blaszczykowski and Großkreutz, or play in a way that doesn’t fit their new personnel, all of which leads to Dortmund 2013-14 not being the Dortmund so many have volunteered to love. While those problems may present themselves with the mere loss of Götze, the change is much more certain if Lewandowski forces a move.

If you’re starting a new team and had to choose between Götze and Lewandowski, you might go with Götze. But if you’re Dortmund and have to choose between the two, you let Götze go.

Unfortunately, it’s inevitable that Dortmund will lose both.

Latest Posts
  1. Premier League Saturday recap: West Ham stuns Manchester City, Sanchez braces Arsenal

    Oct 25, 2014, 7:23 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Short recap and highlights of Saturday’s Round 9 Premier League matches.

  2. Premier League Sunday preview: Manchester United vs. Chelsea headlines

    Oct 25, 2014, 7:08 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    With three games on the slate, here’s what you can look forward to on Sunday.

  3. MLS Snapshot: Montreal Impact 1-1 DC United

    Oct 25, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT

    Marco Di Vaio, Patrice Bernier, AP

    Final: Montreal Impact 1, D.C. United 1

  4. Chicago Fire pleased with former Tottenham Hotspur trialist Jaime O’Hara

    Oct 25, 2014, 5:23 PM EDT

    ohara_1496113c Getty Images

    The Chicago Fire are seeking to bolster the strength of their roster, examining the possible signing of ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jaime O’Hara.

  5. Seattle 2-0 L.A. Galaxy: Pappa the hero again, Sounders win 1st Shield

    Oct 25, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT

    MLS Galaxy Sounders Soccer AP

    A sleepy game for over an hour, Seattle and L.A. used the last hour to stage a contest worthy of a trophy-winning event.

  6. Gerard Pique calls his handball ‘unintentional’ in El Clasico defeat

    Oct 25, 2014, 4:29 PM EDT

    Pique Getty Images

    Pique speaks of his handball in Barcelona’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid: “It was unintentional.”

  7. LIVE ON NBC: Scoreless half has Seattle 45 mins from Supporters Shield

    Oct 25, 2014, 3:47 PM EDT

    @lagalaxy @lagalaxy

    The L.A. Galaxy and Seattle Sounders are scoreless through 45 minutes at CenturyLink in Washington.

  8. Leeds United ax manager Darko Milanic after six games at the helm

    Oct 25, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    darko_3045587b Getty Images

    Leeds United have fired manager Darko Milanic after only 32 days leading the squad.

  9. Bundesliga wrap: Dortmund’s freefall continues, 9-goal thriller in Frankfurt

    Oct 25, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

    FBL-GER-DORTMUND-HANOVER Getty Images

    Several fun games whet the appetite for a massive top of table Sunday tilt between Bayern Munich and Borussia Monchengladbach.

  10. Swansea City 2-0 Leicester City: Bony brace tames timid Foxes in Wales (video)

    Oct 25, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT

    Swansea City v Leicester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Wilfried Bony scored both goals for Swans, 2-0, who cruised to the win against the suddenly-struggling Foxes.

  11. Watch Live: Seattle Sounders vs. L.A. Galaxy (Lineups and Live Stream)

    Oct 25, 2014, 2:07 PM EDT

    Obafemi Martins, Robbie Rogers AP

    Will the Sounders handle the Galaxy and expectations to clinch home-field throughout the playoffs?

  12. Southampton manager Ronald Koeman: “It’s fantastic” to be in Premier League’s second place

    Oct 25, 2014, 1:54 PM EDT

    Southampton v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    “Maybe they [Stoke] created two possibilities, not chances and that’s a great team effort,” Koeman said of his Saints.

  13. Real Madrid 3-1 Barcelona: Real win El Clasico, Suarez returns

    Oct 25, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT

    Pepe Pepe

    Despite going behind earlier, Real came roaring back to win the first El Clasico of 2014-15.

  14. WATCH: Bony and Sigurdsson team up for beauty versus Leicester on NBC

    Oct 25, 2014, 1:28 PM EDT

    Reading v Swansea City - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    Watch and enjoy, then follow the second half live on NBC and online via Live Extra.

  15. LIVE – At the half: Neymar, Cristiano Ronaldo have Real Madrid, Barcelona level

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:59 PM EDT

    Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga Real Madrid CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga

    Neymar and Ronaldo stealing the show so far, as four on yellows for Barca. Live updates, here:

  16. VIDEO: Manuel Pellegrini “not disappointed” by Manchester City’s defeat

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:48 PM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-WEST HAM-MAN CITY FBL-ENG-PR-WEST HAM-MAN CITY

    Pellegrini magnanimous in defeat, but City could be eight points off top spot by the end of the weekend.

  17. Liverpool 0-0 Hull City: Clean sheet small consolation for rigid Reds (video)

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT

    Reds thwarted by stubborn Tigers, as Balotelli fires a blank once again.

  18. West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Crystal Palace: Baggies find deserved point (video)

    Oct 25, 2014, 12:04 PM EDT

    West Bromwich Albion v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    West Brom won the shots battle 17-8 and carried nearly 70 percent of the possession by the time all was said and done.

  19. Southampton 1-0 Stoke City: Dominant Saints only need one goal (video)

    Oct 25, 2014, 11:59 AM EDT

    Southampton v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    It was 1-0 at half, and it was all the Saints would need.

Featured video

PST Extra: Can United beat Chelsea?