Erling Haaland’s departure from Borussia Dortmund appears to be getting closer, with Manchester City, Real Madrid and Barcelona the frontrunners to pay the €75 million exit clause in his contract. With a remarkable scoring ratio of a goal per game (80 goals from his 80 appearances for the club in all competitions), the Norwegian’s boots are going to be big ones to fill.
They must be filled nonetheless, though, so who could possibly replace 21-year-old Haaland as the primary goal threat at Westfalenstadion? With a long-standing tradition of launching high-scoring, out-and-out goal scorers — Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are two prime examples from the past decade, though Ciro Immobile didn’t quite work out — Dortmund’s attacking brand of football often proves kind to a sharp No. 9.
While summer signing Donyell Malen, who joined from PSV Eindhoven for around €32m, has failed to get going properly and 17-year-old Youssoufa Moukoko is still struggling to claim a regular spot in the side, the void left by Haaland might have to be filled from the outside. Here are a few names that Dortmund might consider.
Karim Adeyemi, 20, FC Salzburg | Transfer value: €35m
Although Adeyemi — incidentally, Haaland’s replacement at Salzburg — is already a well-established target, Dortmund’s interest seems to have dwindled with the 20-year-old’s recent drop in form. Having enjoyed a formidable start to the season, including a debut senior goal for Germany, Adeyemi has struggled to make a similar impact since the turn of the year. (His only goal came from a last-minute penalty in the league against Altach).
According to media reports, Dortmund are reluctant to pay the €42.5m transfer fee demanded by the Austrian champions. The occasional goal drought is not uncommon for young forwards, and Adeyemi has previously proved that he possesses the quick finishing technique, pace and strength of a budding top-level striker, plus intelligent off-the-ball running. If it’s not Dortmund for Adeyemi this summer, he’s certain to be picked up by a big club sooner rather than later.
Darwin Nunez, 22, Benfica | Transfer value: €40 million
The performances of Nunez might suggest that he’s about to move into a category of players who are off limits for all but a dozen European elite clubs, which means that Dortmund’s chances of landing the powerful Uruguayan are quickly fading. When it comes to playing style, Nunez has the mobility and powerful right foot that fits the profile of many elite strikers, but does share a few similarities with Haaland in particular: he’s at his best when the game opens up and there’s the chance to make quick, sharp early movements across the opposing defensive line.
With his accelerations, excellent balance and command of his body in one-on-one situations, he’s a master of capitalising in the transitional phase when the ball has just been regained. Similar to Haaland, Nunez — the top scorer of the Primeira Liga with 20 goals — is also bursting with raw potential and the promise of more to come. What makes him especially intriguing is his preference to go for the unexpected and improvised rather than the schoolbook movement of the polished academy product. Rather than pretending to be the complete centre-forward, Nunez comes properly to life when he faces a goal.
Luka Jovic, 24, Real Madrid | Transfer value: €20 million
Very little has worked out for Jovic since he left Eintracht Frankfurt in 2019 following an exceptional campaign. At just 20, the Serbian striker scored 19 Bundesliga goals and contributed significantly to his side’s journey all the way to the Europa League final. Having been rewarded with a €62m move to Real Madrid, the once-prolific goal scorer has seen only sporadic glimpses of his former self. A loan move back to Eintracht Frankfurt last season proved unsuccessful and since returning to Spain, Jovic has managed only the odd substitute appearance under Carlo Ancelotti.
While already branded a one-season wonder in certain quarters, it’s worth pointing out that Jovic was remarkable during that one season: dominant in the air, a brilliantly skilled finisher with either foot, agile and full of enthusiasm, bravery and unpredictable movement. With the 24-year-old in obvious need of recapturing those dizzy heights of three years ago, Dortmund might be the right place for it to happen.
Gianluca Scamacca, 23, Sassuolo | Transfer value: €20 million
The Italian might not fit the bill for a movement-based forward who’s looking for the room behind the defensive line to exploit, but Scamacca would offer the traditional center-forward skill set. Ever-present on the shortlist of Italian powerhouses (he was hotly tipped for a move to Juventus before they signed Dusan Vlahovic), the ex-PSV academy player was rewarded by Roberto Mancini with his first senior caps for Italy earlier this season after impressing in Serie A, as well as for Italy under-21.
In addition to being an excellent hold-up player — he’s particularly hard to dispossess as he shields the ball so well thanks to his sturdy frame and well-developed body strength — he’s strong in the air (wins 50% of his aerial duels ) and is a scorer of spectacular goals. His chested down volley on the turn against Napoli in December is certainly a candidate for Serie A goal of the season.
Sasa Kalajdzic, 24, Stuttgart | Transfer value: €22 million
The towering, 2-metre-tall center-forward returned to action only after the Bundesliga winter break following a shoulder injury that kept him out for nearly half a year. A signing from Admira Wacker in the summer of 2019, Kalajdzic is a late bloomer who first properly announced himself at the highest level with 16 Bundesliga goals last season.
With Stuttgart currently third-bottom on the table — and Kalajdzic having just one more year to run on his contract — there’s expected to be plenty of interest in the summer for a player who has scored three goals from six league matches since returning from injury. Deceptively fast — he often gets to the tap-ins ahead of the presumably quicker center-backs — he thrives on crosses, possesses good heading ability for knock-downs and flick-ons, and demonstrates an attack aerialing dominance not seen at Dortmund since the days of Jan Koller.