Last week's 3-0 Champions League loss to Real Madrid gave Borussia Dortmund a grim glimpse of life after Robert Lewandowski. The Polish striker, who has already agreed to join Bayern Munich this summer on a Bosman transfer, was suspended for the trip to the Santiago Bernabeu and was sorely missed as his side crashed to a disheartening defeat.
Marco Reus was shunted up to lead the line for BVB, made to play an unnatural role - and the effects were obvious. As Jurgen Klopp's side desperately searched for an away goal, the coach sent on Julian Schieber, who was entirely unable to fill the void.
|SUMMER SHORTLIST |
BVB's options to replace Lewandowski
| ADRIAN RAMOS |
| EDIN DZEKO |
| CIRO IMMOBILE |
| MICHY BATSHUAYI |
| ALEKSANDAR MITROVIC |
It leaves Dortmund at a crossroads ahead of next season. The Pole has become irreplaceble over the years as he has blossomed into one of the world's best strikers.
Club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has in the past hinted that Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be moved up front permanently. "Incidentally, we have Reus and Aubameyang, who both played as strikers at their old clubs," he said in December.
However, last week's result in Spain highlighted the need to spend big in the summer, so who are the candidates to fill Lewandowski's sizable shoes?
The overwhelming favorite to become the next BVB striker is Hertha Berlin forward Adrian Ramos. The Colombian has been a revelation since the capital club returned to the Bundesliga, scoring 19 goals in his 26 games, including one as Hertha came from behind to beat Dortmund back in December.
The 28-year-old's agent has already confirmed that his client is likely to move to Signal Iduna Park, saying: "There is a big chance that Adrian will join Dortmund," but, despite his heroics in front of goal this term, there is a sense that the Champions League quarterfinalists need more.
Even with Lewandowski, they have been unable to compete with Bayern in the long-term and Ramos would be a significant downgrade and has no Champions League experience.
One name long linked with BVB is Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko. The Bosnian has been told that he can leave the Etihad Stadium in the summer and Dortmund is one of the clubs monitoring his situation. BVB will, however, have to see off competition from Inter, which is a vocal admirer of the player.
He may lack Lewandowski's tireless running but is a seasoned performer, having won both the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg and the Premier League with City. He would be an expensive option both in terms of transfer fee and salary but is a proven operator.
One player who has caught the eye in Italy is Ciro Immobile of Torino, a forward who is co-owned by Juventus. The 24-year-old has scored 18 goals in 28 games for Giampiero Ventura's men and his agent has confirmed that BVB has been monitoring him.
"Their interest shows how big my player is becoming," Marco Sommella said in February. "Dortmund are Champions League runners-up and they're now looking for someone who can replace a top player like Lewandowski."
Then, of course, there is the wildcard option. Dortmund plucked Lewandowski from Lech Poznan and molded him into one of the best strikers in Europe and Klopp has spoken of his confidence of doing the same again, saying: "Robert has developed so much, but others can and will do that at this club."
To that end, Dortmund has been scouring the Belgian leagues to keep an eye on Michy Batshuayi, who is enjoying a breakthrough season with Standard Liege, and Anderlecht's 19-year-old Aleksandar Mitrovic, whose agent has claimed interest from Signal Iduna Park.
Though there would be convenient parallels with Lewandowski, who himself arrived at the club as an unknown, Dortmund is in a different place these days as a Champions League regular and Bundesliga contender.
To pluck a youngster, however talented, and expect him to fill in for the Pole single-handedly would be putting a lot of pressure on an ill-prepared player's shoulders.
Whichever route Dortmund chooses to go down, it will have to think long and hard before making an investment. But, if BVB plays its cards well, it may just be able to replace Lewandowski.
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