11 Strikers to Replace Robert Lewandowski at Borussia Dortmund
For the majority of a year, Robert Lewandowski's transfer from Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich was the worst-kept secret in football. Earlier this month, the Poland international confirmed his summer move to the south of Germany, officially kicking off the race against time for BVB to find a suitable replacement for the goal-scoring machine.
A large multitude of names have been linked with Dortmund; forwards of many different playing styles, maturity levels and price tags. Generally, they can be categorized as young prospects, mature backups, mid-range stars and big names.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for a look at the 11 strikers most closely linked with Dortmund to replace Lewandowski.
Young Prospects: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Michy Batshuayi, Dong-Won Ji
Having found Lewandowski in the Polish Ekstraklasa and Shinji Kagawa in the Japanese second division, Dortmund are renowned for their scouting. Jurgen Klopp will want a striker who will be reliable immediately following his signing, but it's entirely possible that BVB will also sign a young prospect. This is especially a possibility if they are unable to land an established star and aim to use Marco Reus or Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a frontman, as CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke recently revealed was an option under consideration.
Among the candidates for BVB are Aleksandar Mitrovic, Michy Batshuayi and Dong-Won Ji. Dortmund scouts were reported to have recently attended an Anderlecht match to see Mitrovic, who was named best player at last summer's U19 European Championship. After his Serbia team won that tournament, the 1.89-meter striker completed his €5 million move from Partizan to Anderlecht, where he penned a contract that will run until 2018. He's scored 15 goals in 36 appearances in all club and international competitions in 2013-14.
Batshuayi has been linked with Dortmund ever since December, when he revealed he "dreamed" of a move to either the German club or Arsenal. Like Mitrovic, the 20-year-old Standard Liege striker has a contract that expires in 2018 and is rated by Transfermarkt at €5 million. The Brussels-born forward is a Belgium under-21 international and has scored 18 goals in 37 appearances for club and country this season.
The third and most accessible young striker that has been linked with Dortmund is Dong-Won Ji, who will be out of contract at Sunderland by July. Great things were expected of the 22-year-old when he left his native South Korea for the Premier League, but he has hardly been used at Sunderland and did not entirely impress on loan at Augsburg. He may be the eldest and most experienced (he has 26 caps for South Korea) of the three youngsters on this list but like Mitrovic and Batshuayi, he has much to prove.
As of this article's publication, Transfermarkt rated the odds of Ji's move to BVB at 44 percent, higher than that of any other transfer. Probabilities for Mitrovic and Batshuayi were 29 and 28 percent, respectively.
Mature Backups: Adrian Ramos, Mame Biram Diouf
In December, Bild reported that Dortmund were in the market for two strikers to replace Lewandowski: one big name and one alternative of lesser cost. That report cited Adrian Ramos as a possibility for BVB. The Hertha BSC man is the Bundesliga's joint-top scorer this season alongside Lewandowski.
With his contract set to expire in 2015, Ramos can be quite a bargain. But BVB should not expect a world-beater in the Colombian, who as he approaches his 28th birthday is a well-understood quantity. Regardless of how he performs this spring, the onus will be on Ramos to prove himself if he indeed joins Dortmund.
Another option for Dortmund is Mame Biram Diouf. The latter was reported to be on BVB's radar even before he left Manchester United for Hannover. And last week Hannover boss Martin Kind revealed he was open to even allowing Diouf, whose contract expires at the end of June, to leave this January. The Senegal international would be a bargain, but like Ramos, the 26-year-old has limited upside potential and would likely be a secondary option.
Mid-Range Stars: Kevin Volland and Christian Benteke
Lewandowski may be irreplaceable, but Dortmund will aim to sign a player who upon his arrival can be expected to be ready for the pressure that will come with a starting role. One option is to sign a big-name star, but such players are extremely expensive, and BVB would have to overcome considerable competition if they are to land a player like Diego Costa or Jackson Martinez.
Two mid-range stars who have been linked with BVB are Kevin Volland and Christian Benteke. Bild reported in December that Volland is one of Dortmund's top targets, although his signing would not exclude the possibility of another top striker. A versatile forward, the 21-year-old can play in the center and on the wing. If he were to join BVB, he could pose a substantial scoring threat from the wing, easing the burden on the new striker. Alternatively, he could indeed serve as the No. 9. Volland would not come on the cheap, however: He has a contract at Hoffenheim that runs until 2017.
Another option is Christian Benteke, whose agent claimed BVB's interest last May. Kicker recently claimed the Aston Villa man remains a candidate, despite his modest tally of four goals in the Premier League this season. The 23-year-old would not be able to play on the wing like Volland, but is more of a like-for-like replacement for Lewandowski. Despite having a contract that runs until 2017, he would be more accessible than Diego Costa or Jackson Martinez.
Big Names: Diego Costa, Jackson Martinez, Karim Benzema, Edin Dzeko
The Bild report from December that linked Volland to Dortmund also insisted that BVB were in the market for a top striker like Diego Costa or Jackson Martinez. Other reports have linked Edin Dzeko and Karim Benzema with a move to the Ruhr area.
Costa has a buyout clause at Atletico and the club would be unable to stop him from joining BVB if a €38 million offer were tabled, but the hefty price of his transfer and the fact that they would likely have to out-bid Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea (who are also reportedly interested) in terms of wages offered means that a move for Costa is unlikely.
Similar to the situation with Costa is that with Martinez, who has an even higher buyout clause of €41 million. The striker has been linked with Arsenal and Chelsea, and wages would be a considerable hurdle for BVB to overcome.
A tertiary option who perhaps is less of a coveted commodity in the transfer market is Karim Benzema, whom Bild recently linked with Dortmund. A report claimed that Dortmund could swap Ilkay Gundogan (who has long been a top transfer target for Real) for the Frenchman in a deal that would also make Nuri Sahin free to sign a long-term deal with BVB without the club having to pay the €6 million cost of his release.
BVB still have not given up on an extension with Gundogan, however, and may prefer to take some €25 million rather than signing Benzema, whose €8.5 million-per-year wages are more than double those of any Dortmund player.
A final option is Edin Dzeko, who was initially reported to be a possibility for Jurgen Klopp's side when Lewandowski's decision not to renew his contract was announced. The trainer was clear in saying the Bosnian would have to take a pay cut in order to seal his move. Dzeko was again linked with Dortmund in November, although it still is unknown how willing he is to see his wages slashed in order to play with less competition.
Of the bunch, Dzeko (whose contract with Manchester City expires in 2015) is perhaps the most likely transfer. However, a price tag in excess of €20 million, plus a new club wage record, might push BVB towards a riskier but more affordable option.