Why Adrian Ramos Is the Borussia Dortmund Player Who Must Step Up in 2016

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Why Adrian Ramos Is the Borussia Dortmund Player Who Must Step Up in 2016
Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Being second behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can be difficult for football players these days. Just ask Manchester City star Yaya Toure, who called the Gabonese's win of the 2015 African Football of the Year Award "a shame to Africa," per RFI’s Felix Sohounde Peperipe (h/t Tom Coast of Sport Witness).

A lot less salty but quite possibly just as frustrated about playing second fiddle to Aubameyang is Adrian Ramos, Borussia Dortmund's back-up central forward. 

2016 will be a make-or-break year for the 29-year-old, whose career at Dortmund firmly hangs in the balance. If he doesn't prove to be a valuable member of the squad, the Black and Yellows are likely to invest in a replacement for him and an eventual successor to Aubameyang.

The job as a back-up striker is thankless in these modern days. Unlike in the Premier League (via B/R's Sam Tighe), the classic 4-4-2 formation hasn't gone through a revival in the Bundesliga, and thus, opportunities for the back-up are far and few between.

NORBERT SCHMIDT/Getty Images
Adrian Ramos and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang haven't spent much time on the pitch together this season.

That's especially the case when one backs up a marathon man such as Aubameyang. The 26-year-old has missed a grand total of four games because of injuries in his two-and-a-half years at Signal Iduna Park, per Transfermarkt.co.uk.

Aubameyang's impressive conditioning and his amazing season so far are the reasons why Ramos hasn't played a lot: Appearing in 20 of his side's 30 games across all competitions doesn't sound half bad, but he's been in the starting lineup a meagre four times. Those four starts came in the UEFA Europa League and the DFB-Pokal to boot.

It's not a complete coincidence Dortmund lost both Europa League games that Ramos started, 1-0 at FC Krasnodar and at home against PAOK; although, to be fair, the Colombian had been his club's talisman before. BVB hadn't lost any of the 14 games he appeared in prior to the game on November 26, per Opta's Twitter account for German football.

Much like his entire time with the Ruhr side—he joined the Black and Yellows in the summer window of 2014 for €9.7 million, per Transfermarkt (link in German)—Ramos' performance in that loss against Krasnodar can be summed up with one word: unlucky.

Clive Rose/Getty Images
Ramos was a player Jurgen Klopp was glad to add in 2014, with mixed results.

As ESPN FC's Stefan Buczko noted: "The striker was extremely unlucky to see his shot from range, that lobbed the keeper, bounce off the crossbar and stay out of the open net." He also didn't put away two close-range headers, although Krasnodar's goalkeeper Andriy Dykan did very well, and he could have won a penalty for his side in the second half.

At the end of the day, however, it remained another opportunity he failed to really take advantage of, and it makes one wonder how many more he'll receive.

One thing that could work in his favour is the fact that Dortmund—as of right now, at least—have a shortage of attacking players in their squad. With the club having sold Jonas Hofmann to Borussia Monchengladbach earlier in January and agreed to cut the loan deal of Adnan Januzaj short this week, Ramos could see some action on the wing.

He's very quick and has at least serviceable technique, as one can see from his goal in the cup at Paderborn in the video below. Combined with his work rate, there's something to work with for head coach Thomas Tuchel. 

Ramos could also get a few more chances in his natural position up top if Tuchel decides to rotate his squad in what shapes up to be a busy schedule for the Black and Yellows in the coming months. Keeping Aubameyang healthy is paramount if Dortmund are to achieve anything this season, and that could thrust the Colombia international into the starting XI.

He'd do well to use these chances not only to convince his club that he can be trusted as the lone back-up to Aubameyang but also to keep his spot in the national team as Colombia prepare for the Copa America Centenario.

Ramos, who'll turn 30 on January 22, has been a regular member of his country's squad since 2014 but wasn't invited for two test matches in October, indicating his status as a fringe player in the plans of Jose Pekerman.

If he doesn't use the chances he's likely to get in the coming months, 2016 could very well spell the end of Ramos' career both at Dortmund and with the national team.

Lars Pollmann is a featured columnist writing on Borussia Dortmund. He also writes for Yellowwallpod.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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