OK, here’s a quick quiz question. Name the striker with the best goal-scoring record this calendar year – and I’ll give you five guesses. Cristiano Ronaldo, you say. No. What about Messi. Well, no. He’s scored most goals, but his goals per game ratio is far inferior. Aguero? Nope. Costa. Nope. last guess. What about Ibrahimovich then? Er, no. I’m afraid not. I know what you’re thinking, but no, this isn’t a trick. I’m not looking for the name of a player from the third division of the Albanian league. This guy plys his trade in the Bundesliga, but he doesn’t play for Bayern Munich. Give up Currently, Europe’s most prolific striker plays for Wolfsburg and goes by the name of Bas Dost.
The Dutch striker, from the town of Deventer – also the birthplace of the celebrated Ajax and Holland libero Barry Hulshoff – currently has no less than 11 goals to his name in the six games he has played in this year. Lionel Messi has netted a round dozen, but it has taken him nine games, and according to Opta, that makes Dost the most prolific striker in European football on current form. His haul includes a St Valentine’s Day goal-massacre at Bayer Leverkussen, when Dost netted four times.
The striker was picked up from Dutch club Heerenveen by Wolfsburg in 2012 when, at the time, he was also being strongly linked with a £7million move to Aston Villa. The Midlands club instead opting for Belgian powerhouse striker Christian Benteke. That choice looked to have been astute until fairly recently when Benteke’s form has fallen off following a serious injury, while Dost has entered the richest of seams of goal-scoring form.
Whilst Dost’s story is romantic enough to warm the heart of fans and encourage every aspiring, but underachieving, footballer making his way in the game, his club are looked upon much less warmly in Germany. Founded and funded by the Volkswagen corporation whose headquarters are nearby, Wolfsburg are one of only two German clubs to have official exemption from the celebrated Bundesliga ’50+1′ rule that ensures a measure of fan ownership. Funded just after the Second World War, they now appear to be the only semi-realistic threat to the hegemony of Bayern Munich, sitting eight points behind the perennial champions from Bavaria, and a full ten clear of third place Borussia Monchengladbach. For that at least, the Bundesliga should be grateful to Wolfsburg.
If his club are less than universally liked however, Dost himself is becoming something of a cult hero. The striker with a name that sounds like he should be featuring alongside Han Solo as some wronged character visiting a rightful vengeance on the Empire by blowing away a few dozen Imperial Stormtroopers in the next Star wars epic, is instead however contenting himself by ripping up various Bundesliga defences, after a period in the shadows of more illustrious strikers at the club.
All stories such as these should have a turning point; a moment when the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, when the ugly duckling becomes a swan – a metamorphosis moment. For dost, it happened around Christmas time. dost had been pottering around amongst the also-rans of Wolfsburg’s increasing star-ridden squad. It was a frustrating time for the Dutchman with injuries and the success of others barring any route to first team football.
Then, Hamburg, struggling in a fight against relegation at the foot of the table approached Wolfsburg to take Dost to the Imtech Arena. It’s been reported that the player himself was keen on the move, seeing it as a chance to play some first team football. Wolfsburg’s coach Dieter Hecking vetoed the move, persuading Hamburg instead to take the more celebrated Croatian striker Ivica Olic instead. to many it seemed a strange decision at the time to back dost over the much more experienced Dost. as it panned out however, it’s probably been a decision that Hecking has been patting himself on the back over ever since.
With Olic departed, Dost’s only competition for the striker’s role at the club was former Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner, and with opportunity came success. sporting what has become a trademark stubbled chin, offering something of a Desperate Dan appearance, Dost began devouring chances with the same relish as the cartoon character polished off cow pies.
There’s a certain enigmatic charm in the fact that every one of Dost’s goals this season have been the classic striker’s ‘one touch’ finish, and whilst the January transfer window served Dost well by removing Olic, it brought in former Chelsea wide-man Andre Schurrle. With another former Blue, Kevin de Brune, already at the club, ex-Stamford Bridge men are now serving up the sort of chances that Dost is feasting on.
Over recent times, Wolfsburg have developed and then sold both Edin Dzeko and Mario Mandzukic, but Dost is offering the sort of promise that suggests he could surpass both of those stars, and is now chasing down his compatriot, Bayern’s Arjen Robben, to become the Bundesliga’s top marksman. Whilst Wolfsburg are unlikely to catch Bayern in the race for the league, the odds are becoming increasingly tighter that Dost will pass his compatriot. Next season may then be an entirely different story in the race for the league title.
(This All Blue Daze article was originally produced for ‘theaspirer’ website).