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Shopping for a Striker: Analyzing BVB’s Shortlist of Targets

Borussia Dortmund need a striker that can come in on short notice and get goals. But the market for someone like that doesn’t look great. Who should be their priority?

Juventus v FC Internazionale - Coppa Italia Final Photo by Mattia Ozbot - Inter/Inter via Getty Images

We’re still waiting on an update from the club about Sebastien Haller’s testicular tumour, but Sebastian Kehl has confirmed that the striker will miss “a few months”, meaning that BVB are going to start the season without their new striker. Looking at BVB’s forward line, you can see plenty of players that can be relied on to serve as good secondary sources for goals, but there’s no one that you’d feel confident relying on to be the primary outlet.

Borussia Dortmund’s managing director, Carsten Cramer, has more or less confirmed this thinking, stating that Borussia Dortmund will be in the market for a striker to fill in for Sebastien Haller while he is out.

Patrick Berger reported that Dortmund have already drawn up a shortlist consisting of Edin Dzeko, Mauro Icardi, Edinson Cavani, Krzysztof Piatek, and Arkadiusz Milik, while Marcus Thuram and Anthony Modeste were also floated.

I thought I’d take a closer look at some of the names on that shortlist, and also at some other strikers that they might want to consider.

The Striker Shortlist

In the interest of brevity, I’m going to shorten the shortlist, because there are several players that seem unrealistic, or that it has been reported that the club aren’t really pursuing.

Mauro Icardi is a locker room cancer that hasn’t looked remotely worth the trouble for a while now; reports suggesting Anthony Modeste wasn’t viewed as a serious candidate by the club; and I have a hard time believing that BVB would be interested in Krzysztof Piatek, given that he hasn’t been particularly good for about five years now.

So that leaves us with Dzeko, Cavani, Milik, and Thuram.

Edin Dzeko

I am firmly on Team Dzeko. He’s 36 years old but you wouldn’t necessarily know it if you looked at how he’s done in recent years. He’s still playing plenty of minutes, averaging more than 2,000 minutes a season over the last three seasons, and has continued to be productive in front of goal too, averaging 0.65 goals plus assists (minus penalties) per 90 (G+A-PK/90). He’s delivered the goods for both Roma and Inter Milan in recent years, and he has experience in the Bundesliga, with Wolfsburg earlier in his career (where he averaged 0.81 G+A-PK/90). His statistical profile still pops, and despite his age, it looks like he could contribute in and out of possession, in front of goal, and in the buildup.

There’s no doubt that age is going to catch up with Dzeko at some point, but it hasn’t yet, and I think that that’s the best you can ask for under the circumstances. Every player under consideration in this article has an element of uncertainty about them, Dzeko just has the least.

Edinson Cavani

In his prime, Edinson Cavani was a better striker than anyone else on this list, including Dzeko. He was possibly better than them all combined (okay maybe minus Dzeko in this case). He was brilliant. But here’s the thing... Cavani is old, old old. He’s very old. It’s not that he’s the oldest player on the shortlist (he’s a year younger than Dzeko), it’s that he looks like the oldest player when you look at his profile. He hasn’t cracked 2,000 league minutes in about five years, and last season he managed just under 800 league minutes. His struggles last season were due to injuries, but that’s not a good sign when you’re 35 years old. At that age, the inability to get on the pitch and play regular minutes is a real problem.

Yes, he has been relatively productive (0.69 G+A-PK/90 in the last three seasons), but given the very limited minutes, and the fact his best season in recent years was thanks to some very careful load management that saw him mostly coming off the bench when Manchester United needed a goal, I don’t think you can confidently say he’s “still got it”.

Even in that first season for United, where he was putting up good numbers, it was clear he didn’t have a lot left in the tank. The load management was a big part of the success, and when he was called upon to play more minutes, you could really see his age. And then the following season, he was barely able to make it on the pitch. I think Cavani is a big risk.

Arkadiusz Milik

My initial reaction was that Milik was nowhere near good enough to have a positive impact at Borussia Dortmund, but I’ve gradually softened on this idea having given it more thought.

I don’t think Milik should be the number one target, but I do think he could be a good shout if the better names don’t work out. He has maintained a decent, if unspectacular, rate of production at Marseille and Napoli in the last few years, contributing in the final third and in buildup play, and at 28 he should have the legs to play regularly for BVB.

The real issue with Milik is that he has always struggled to push on and become a consistent goal threat. He has had brief periods where he has been lethal, such as two seasons for Ajax where he averaged 0.96 G+A-PK/90, and he did average 0.75 G+A-PK/90 at Napoli, but that tailed off in his final season in Italy, and he hasn’t managed to reach those heights in France.

Marcus Thuram

I really like Thuram as a player. I think he has bags of talent, and he offers a really well-rounded skillset. At just 23 years old, I think there’s a lot you could potentially do with him. But the fact is we’re trying to bring someone in to score goals. We’d like someone that can do lots of other things too, but the goals are the real issue. That’s where Marcus Thuram becomes a risk.

Thuram has had moments of prolific goalscoring during his career, but he has never really looked like a lethal finisher, and I don’t think he’s a good like-for-like substitute for a player like Sebastien Haller. If we want to sign him in addition to bringing in another more prolific player on loan? I’d be all for it. But on his own, I think it is a risk.


The reality is that BVB definitely find themselves in a “beggars can’t be choosers” situation right now. They need someone that can come in and score goals right away, and they probably don’t have tons of money to spend on them, plus they would probably prefer a short-term loan rather than a permanent deal. Given all this, the options are limited. But I do think there are one or two other names the club should look at, in addition to the shortlist above.

Andrea Belotti

Belotti seems like the most glaring absentee from BVB’s shortlist. Perhaps it is because he is a free agent and would be looking for a long-term deal, and he won’t come cheap. But then it also seems strange that Belotti is still a free agent this late in the summer, so perhaps there are wider concerns about the player?

He’s a very solid target man that has been able to score a decent amount of goals given that he’s playing for a pretty poor Torino side. At just 28 years old he seems like he should be on the radar of numerous clubs around Europe, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. He did spend a good chunk of last season out with various injuries, so perhaps there is a sense that he might be over the hill.

File Belotti under “seems like he should be a great option but now I’m suspicious that no one else has snapped up that great option...”

Arnaud Kalimuendo

How about we get a kid in to help bolster the offense? Paris Saint Germain’s Arnaud Kalimuendo might be just the guy! He’s just turned 20, and has spent the last two seasons on loan at Lens, where he averaged 0.52 G+A-PK/90. He’s pretty quick, strong for a kid his age, and he’s decent in possession and with the ball at his feet. But he’s definitely pretty raw too.

I think there’s plenty of talent there, but there’s no doubt it would be a bit of a risk. BVB would need him to take an extra step in his development, become a bit more of a complete player (contribute more for those around him and out of possession), and grab a few more goals.

Unfortunately, there’s lots of interest in a permanent deal for the young Frenchman’s services, with Leeds United, Rennes, and Nice thought to be after him, so I don’t see it happening unless the club is willing to sign him permanently.

Danny Ings

Okay, maybe I’m not entirely serious about this suggestion. I think it would probably work on paper, but I think it’s highly unlikely that an almost 30-year-old player that has never lived or played outside of England would temporarily move to Dortmund. There’s lots of personal reasons why this wouldn’t make any sense.

He is surplus to requirements at Aston Villa since Dean Smith left the club as manager, as Steven Gerrard has never seemed particularly interested in him. But he scores goals, and he has something to prove. The only real downside with Ings is his inability to stay healthy, but that has seemed less and less of an issue in recent years.

All I’m saying is I’d enjoy rooting for a Southampton lad playing for BVB. Even if I know it’s not going to happen.

So Who Should Borussia Dortmund Sign?

My answer will be pretty obvious here: It’s Edin Dzeko. Go get Edin Dzeko. If he’s available, and he wants to come play for BVB for a season, and he won’t come at some extortionate price, he’s the very obvious choice. No one else on this list has been as consistently good at he has in the last few seasons.

If we can’t get Dzeko, then things get a little murkier. Cavani was obviously one of the best strikers in the world once upon a time, but now he is old, and he looks it (when he can even make it on the pitch); Milik has goals in him but he can’t necessarily be relied on, and Thuram is a really good player but not necessarily a great goalscorer. From the shortlist, I’d probably go with Milik. He feels like the least risky of the remaining strikers, though I don’t have a ton of confidence in any of them.

Even looking at my relatively meager list of alternatives, it’s clear that, beyond Dzeko, BVB are going to struggle to find someone that can really fill Haller’s shoes. I wouldn’t mind taking on Kalimuendo in addition to someone else, but then that probably leads to an unreasonably bloated squad and PSG probably wouldn’t be willing to do that and risk him getting no playing time later in the season.

I guess the conclusion is relatively simple: Get well soon Sebastien (both for your own personal wellbeing and also so that BVB can score some goals) and please come and join us for a little bit Edin.