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Dortmund’s Surprising Search for a Striker

The Black and Yellows are in the market for a forward.

Borussia Dortmund Training Session Photo by Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

As the transfer window nears a close, rumors have begun to swirl about the BVB boardroom investigating further firepower in the number nine position. Sebastien Haller will depart the team for AFCON in January, and his absence will be sorely felt if his goalscoring record from last season continues into 2023/24. Still, BVB have Moukoko, right? Well, maybe that’s not enough for Terzic and co.:

If we look at the offensive side, we don’t have many players over 1.80m. We know Haller is likely to travel to the Africa Cup similar to Ramy Bensebaini.

That was Edin Terzic when asked about transfer rumors last week. Clearly Terzic appreciates Haller’s profile, and his desire to add an additional tall, powerful player into the fold spells trouble for BVB’s prodigious young striker.

BVB swapped between Youssoufa Moukoko and Sébastien Haller in 2022/23, with arguably decent success. Moukoko filled Haller’s shoes while the Ivorian underwent cancer treatment, but it could be argued that Moukoko’s role in the attack diminished the success of his counterparts, Adeyemi and Malen. The three simply lacked chemistry, and Moukoko bore the burden of most goalscoring responsibility.

January created tension at the #9, with Haller returning triumphantly to the squad, and Moukoko entering the final months of his contract. Dortmund, in a tight situation, opted to extend their prodigy on far more lavish terms. Despite his extension, Moukoko saw his playtime dwindle down the final stretch of the season, as Haller’s chemistry brought more goals and success to the team. Clearly, Terzic has an ideal profile for a forward, and Moukoko just doesn’t fit it.

So which names have been circulated? An interesting chorus of outsiders and Bundesliga expats. Hugo Ekitike was the first name across the boards, which comes as no surprise. The powerful Frenchman was well within the sights of BVB after Erling Haaland’s departure, having produced a solid season for his former team, Stade de Reims. Dortmund eventually moved on, likely due to his relative lack of experience. The Frenchman moved to PSG — a club notorious for developing and never discarding young talent — where he actually accumulated a respectable 32 appearances, but only four goals. Despite Dortmund’s renewed interest, Ekitike apparently expressed a desire to be a starter, making a transfer to BVB unlikely.

Jean-Philippe Mateta of Crystal Palace has also been mentioned, a former Mainz player. Mateta moved from Mainz to Palace on loan in 2021, playing 16 matches before Palace made the move permanent in January 2022. Since then, Mateta has notched seven goals in a further 51 games. Not great returns for a center forward, but Mateta certainly fits the profile Terzic is looking for. At 193 cm (6ft-4in), Mateta is a sizeable figure in the box and unlike Modeste, he has decent mobility and pace. Mateta is currently playing second-fiddle to Odsonne Edouard at Palace, which could incline the player toward a departure for a single-digit millions fee.

Hearing these candidates brings us back to the option within the squad, Moukoko. Sure, Moukoko is not the physical presence that Mateta brings into the penalty box, but he has proven capable of finding the back of the net. Despite the dissimilar profiles, swapping out one of German’s most promising young stars for a player who has failed to nail down a spot at Crystal Palace seems misguided. Moukoko has extraordinary talent for his age and has shown his ability to change a game. Even if he is not going to win a header in the 90th minute, Dortmund’s time and energy would potentially be better spent unlocking the aspects of Moukoko’s game that would make him more similar to Haller — movement between the lines, link-up play, and keen positioning — than discarding him for simply being too short.

More than likely, the board will continue on their quest to find another big, burly striker to occupy space in the box. But scraping away more of Moukoko’s minutes for a better tactical fit could prove a mistake when he leaves in frustration come January or May. It would not be the first case of “what could have been” in the striker role at BVB.