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. Danny Welbeck gets off the mark for Arsenal, links up with Ozil superbly

    Sep 20, 2014, 1:50 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    Can Welbeck and Ozil click and become Arsenal’s main offensive weapons?

  2. At the half: West Ham builds 2-0 lead, Liverpool pulls one back

    Sep 20, 2014, 1:21 PM EDT

    West Ham United v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Raheem Stirling has narrowed Liverpool’s deficit to 2-1 at halftime in a Saturday afternoon thriller on NBC.

  3. Cisse salutes cancer-battling Jonas, Pardew defends job as Newcastle drew Hull

    Sep 20, 2014, 1:14 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    “It’s not lost on me that I get accused of being arrogant but I’m also a proud man to be manager of this football club and I’m going to fight to keep it,” Pardew said.

  4. VIDEO: Real Madrid smash eight past Deportivo; Cristiano Ronaldo bags hat trick

    Sep 20, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT

    RC Deportivo La Coruna v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Watch Real’s masterclass, as the Spanish giants batter Deportivo in La Liga.

  5. Burnley 0-0 Sunderland: Third-straight scoreless draw for Clarets

    Sep 20, 2014, 12:05 PM EDT

    Burnley v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Clarets and Black Cats still searching for first win of the season after stalemate.

  6. Swansea City 0-1 Southampton: 10-man Swans can’t hold off sub Wanyama

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

    RC Celta de Vigo v Southampton - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    The loss drops Swansea to fifth place on nine points, while Saints jump into second place with 10 points.

  7. Newcastle United 2-2 Hull City: Cisse’s brace saves embattled Magpies

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Cisse AP

    Cisse revealed an undershirt message of “Always looking forward Jonas” for his teammate Gutierrez, who revealed cancer struggles earlier this week.

  8. Aston Villa 0-3 Arsenal: Red-hot Ozil, Welbeck fire Gunners to victory (video)

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:53 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Three goals in three first half minutes do the business for Arsene Wenger’s men.

  9. Watch live: West Ham United vs. Liverpool (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT

    Liverpool v West Ham United - Premier League Getty Images

    Liverpool will start Fabio Borini and Mario Balotelli up top after their last-gasp Champions League win over Ludogorets midweek.

  10. VIDEO: Arsenal score three goals in three minutes, as Gunners explode

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT

    Aston Villa v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    Ozil and Welbeck rip Villa apart in stunning three-minute spell for the Gunners.

  11. Premier League half time update: Arsenal on fire, Swansea down to 10

    Sep 20, 2014, 11:02 AM EDT

    Swansea City v FC St Gallen - UEFA Europa League Getty Images

    Action at Villa Park, while a Swan sees red at the Liberty.

  12. Watch Live: Burnley vs. Sunderland (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT

    sean_dyche Getty Images

    Both clubs go in search of their first win of the season. Watch live, right here.

  13. Watch Live: Aston Villa vs. Arsenal (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:48 AM EDT

    Can Arsenal kick on and cap a fine week with a win at Leicester? AP

    Can the Gunners grab their first win since the opening day of the season? Will Villa stay unbeaten? Watch live, right here.

  14. Watch live: Swansea City vs. Southampton (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:47 AM EDT

    FBL-ENG-PR-SOUTHAMPTON-SWANSEA Getty Images

    Bafetimbi Gomis has been relegated to the bench for the hosts, while Shane Long gets the start up-top with Graziano Pelle for the Saints.

  15. Queens Park Rangers 2-2 Stoke City: Kranjcar’s cracker saves QPR

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:39 AM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Kranjcar’s curler saves the day for Rangers, as Stoke are thwarted.

  16. Watch Live: Newcastle United vs. Hull City (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:19 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Tigers midfielder David Meyler, recipient of a Pardew head butt last season, will start on the bench.

  17. Jose Mourinho wants Manchester City’s title taken away, points deducted

    Sep 20, 2014, 9:04 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Mourinho: “Are the fines fair? I don’t think so. What is fair is to remove points and titles.”

  18. Louis van Gaal: No player is a guaranteed starter at Manchester United

    Sep 20, 2014, 8:15 AM EDT

    VanGaal Getty Images

    LVG lays down the law ahead of United’s trip to Leicester on Sunday.

  19. Watch Live: Queens Park Rangers vs. Stoke City (Lineups)

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:27 AM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Stoke City - Premier League Getty Images

    Can QPR bounce back from last weeks drubbing and beat the Potters? Watch live, right here.

  20. WATCH: Premier League online via NBC Sports Live Extra – Week 5

    Sep 20, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

    Live Extra

    How and where to watch every single PL game live online or via the app.

Featured video

Breaking down Man City vs. Chelsea