With all the speculation regarding Robert Lewandowski’s immediate future at Borussia Dortmund, here are the Bundesliga Fanatic editorial’s contrasting views on it. Should he stay until the end of the season or should he be sold in January?
Personally, I think that if it hadn’t been for Götze’s departure to Bayern last season, Lewandowski would have been sold. However, letting go of your team’s two best stars after a fantastic season like they had would have been a massive anti-climax at the Signal Iduna Park. Dortmund’s ‘policy’ of losing one star per season (first Şahin, then Kagawa, then Götze; with Hummels and Lewandowski the likely ones to follow) would have been broken if he had been sold in the summer, but was it a good move to keep him?
Lewandowski has never really stated his desire to prolong his contract at Dortmund and he and his agent Cezary Kucharski made it abundantly clear that his future was elsewhere. Actually, not just elsewhere but a few hours down the road at the Allianz Arena. Kucharski said in May that his signing for Bayern would be closed “in a matter of weeks” and after the rivalry that both sides have endured in recent seasons, culminating in a Champions League final loss last May in London, the taste was even more bitter for the Dortmund faithful. Having said all of this, do Dortmund really want to hold on to a player who is willing to jump ship to their rivals without any remorse? Götze did it and we saw the reaction from the Yellow Wall but some might say that the young German star is a Bavarian and that he was a Bayern fan all of his life. Lewandowski’s story is quite different. He was signed from Lech Poznań and brought to stardom by Jürgen Klopp. Yes, his performances have had a lot to do with it but Klopp’s faith in him, even after the excellent form of Lucas Barrios during their first title in the Klopp era, have helped, as he also adapted the team’s style of attack to suit his strengths.
Another aspect to consider is the economic one. There’s no doubt that, in normal circumstances, if Lewandowski were to be transferred, it would be for a fee of around 50-60m€. However, Dortmund are now looking to let him go for free at the end of the season when they could get a fee of around 10-12m€ in the Winterpause for him. Clubs such as Barcelona, Real Madrid and some in the Premier League and Serie A have been linked with him (in fact, every big club under the sun has) so, taking into account how well Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have settled in, losing Lewandowski to any of them won’t be as much of a blow, especially if the club they sell to is not Bayern. With 10m€ or more in the bank, there are strikers that Dortmund could sign for that kind of price who could replace Lewandowski and become potential Bundesliga stars. A man who has been in fine form this season is Heerenveen’s Alfreð Finnbogason. The Icelandic striker has managed 11 goals in 10 matches in the Eredivisie this season and his price would be around the 10m€ mark. With his finishing being the strongest part of his game, just like Lewandowski’s is, he would fit in perfectly in Klopp’s team with the added plus that we’ve seen how integration hasn’t been hard this season for new players who have come from leagues that are a lot more different to the Bundesliga than the Eredivisie is, such as Ligue 1 and Ukrainian Premier League.
All in all, losing Lewandowski on a free is madness on principle. Yes, his goals could be invaluable for their league campaign but if they accept bids from outside the Bundesliga for him, Dortmund fans might not have to endure the visual strain of watching him celebrate in Bayern’s red shirt next season. With Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan on song as well as the ever-improving Reus, the blow would be a lot softer, especially if they sign a replacement straight away who can chip in with a few goals in the Rückrunde. Cashing in on a player who has clearly stated he doesn’t want to play for the club beyond the summer and wants to join their rivals shouldn’t be a strenuous decision if the right offer comes in. It’s a risk but Dortmund have coped well so far after losing their stars, improving as a team and enjoying more success year after year despite of that. That shouldn’t change even with Lewandowski being the next one to leave.
Before this season, I was of the school of thought who believed that strikers/forwards are fairly replaceable, given their diminished skill in the context of contemporary football’s reliance on attacking midfielders, false nines, flexibility, and flowing systems. So I would have been less worried about BVB losing Lewandowski than I was about the loss of Götze, who embodies many of the traits valued in contemporary attacking footballers.
Now, I’m not so sure – at least in the case of Lewandowski and Dortmund.
Here’s why. First the numbers. BVB is off to a blazing start in Bundesliga play – 9 wins, 1 loss, 1 draw, and a league-leading 22+ GD. These outcomes are built on an attack producing a league-best average of 21.5 shots per match (9.1 on target!). With his league-best 9 goals, followed by 3 assists, Lewandowski has been absolutely essential in leveraging BVB’s attack into winning results. Indeed, he’s responsible for roughly 30% of BVB goals so far. We usually attribute Lewy’s value to his goal-scoring, but it’s his other attacking contributions that make him equally as valuable. His 3 assists, so far, this season stem from the 16 shots he’s assisted on. He’s even created 3 “big chances,” which Opta defines as goal-scoring chances with a very probability of success for teammates. Furthermore, his presence in the final 3rd (touches and passes) lies at the heart of Dortmund’s swarming attacks” yellow attacks we all are accustomed to seeing this season. Finally, he plays defense with aplomb – pressing the ball, challenging for the ball, and creating turnovers. He works hard.
The numbers matter because, without Lewy’s work, it’s hard to imagine BVB being so successful this season. To get more mystical for a second, Lewy is invaluable because of his incredible “chemistry” with Reus – even Mkhitaryan, Şahin, and Großkreutz – during BVB’s breathless attacks once possession of the ball is recovered. Currently, is there another one-two attacking punch you’d take in Europe outside of Lewy and Reus? Not very many. This Lewy-Reus chemistry is finally bearing rich fruit after last season’s acclimation. Can you imagine what the Lewy-Reus partnership will look like, come April? Yikes!
Alright, you might agree, but counter that – despite’s Lewy undeniably on-pitch value – it’s worth the money to deal him during the winter. I’m not so sure. Think about it like this: keeping Lewy (and his attendant on-pitch contributions, goal scoring, chemistry with Reus, etc.) keeps BVB in the running, again, to make a very deep push in the Champions League, which equals more money won for the club. However, even more important than a UCL payout is the possible longer-term ramifications that back-to-back successful UCL runs could have for Dortmund’s reputation. I’d guess this kind of sustained success generates more future success by luring more top shelf talent to Dortmund (especially in light of Klopp’s contract extension), which in turn keeps the cycle going – a cycle that’s necessary for BVB to someday leave the ranks of stepping stone clubs, albeit even if the club is currently a stepping stone club on steroids. Keeping Lewy for this season’s Bundesliga and UCL run might be what BVB needs to cement more success down the road. Selling him during the winter could tamper with what has become a feared fußball machine both in Germany and Europe.