As far as comebacks go, the tale of VfL Wolfsburg’s Bas Dost is almost dismissible as completely unrealistic, a story which might be relatively fun to read in a footballing novel, or raise a smile when hearing of a friend’s Football Manager career, but not something which actually happens in the real world. At least, that’s the way his resurrection in recent weeks has been represented, both by the footballing media and fans of the Bundesliga. That the former Heracles Almelo and Heerenveen man is a talented finisher has never – or at least should never have been – in doubt, but doubts over whether he could cut it in one of Europe’s biggest leagues have remained ever since he made the switch to Germany back in the Summer of 2012.
However, regardless whether you rated him as a good striker or not before his recent purple patch, Bas Dost’s at the very least managed something quite rare; he’s somehow traversed his way from the doldrums of perceived failure to a starting role in one of the Bundesliga’s most impressive sides of the season so far, and with his fourteen goals in just nine games so far in 2015, he’s become him one of the most obvious faces of the Bundesliga to not just fans of the league, but also within a worldwide context. It’s perhaps unsurprising that Dost has managed to return from what many may call the scrapheap – but it’s remarkable that he’s done it in the matter of a few months.
That’s right. Bas Dost didn’t even start a league game for die Wölfe until December, his only appearances from the start before then coming against FK Krasnodar and Heidenheim. The Dutch striker hadn’t had the worst few years when actually appearing in a Wolfsburg shirt, but his form for the club had been patchy until recently.
There were brief sparks showing why Wolfsburg shelled out €7m to snag Dost from Heerenveen in his native Netherlands, but those moments were interspersed with the natural struggles of a striker plying his trade in a tougher league, and also by terrible luck with injuries. Dost’s first term in Germany – in which he still scored twelve goals in all competitions, more than his countryman Luuk de Jong who’d made a similar move at the same time – may have not been the most exciting first year of a striker in the Bundesliga ever, but there were signs that Dost could, and probably would, improve. Unfortunately for Dost and Wolfsburg, the chance to improve was snatched by injury. Dost only managed fifteen appearances last season due to his injuries, even then managing one goal in every three games, but Wolfsburg’s style of play had adapted in the absence of Dost and also due to the addition of Kevin de Bruyne. Ironically enough, de Bruyne is probably the one single player who has had the biggest hand in helping Dost to his incredible run recently, but initially was part of an attack which kept Dost mostly to the sidelines.
At the start of the season, Wolfsburg boss Dieter Hecking preferred to play Ivica Olic or Nicklas Bendtner at the tip of his attack, with a combination of two players from Daniel Caligiuri, Vierinha, Maximilian Arnold, Aaron Hunt and Ivan Perisic joining Kevin de Bruyne in dictating the play in attacking midfield. This obviously worked very well – Wolfsburg were relatively clear in second place in the Bundesliga by Christmas – but thanks to the departure of Olic to his former club Hamburg, and Bendtner’s relatively goal-shy start to life in Northern Germany, with the Dane scoring just one Bundesliga goal to date, Hecking’s hand has been forced somewhat, meaning Dost – initially a squad player at the start of the season – eventually received his chance.
A good performance against Heidenheim in the DFB Pokal at the end of October was an early sign of what was to come, with Dost getting on the scoresheet and setting up two of the other goals for his teammates, but was hardly proof in itself of a great Bundesliga standard forward – Heidenheim, after all, aren’t a particularly big club, and sit in the lower-mid table region of the 2. Bundesliga, closer to relegation than promotion (even if both aren’t very realistic prospects). The real catalyst of change was a 25 minute cameo against Hannover, in which Dost grabbed the winner. It wasn’t just his first Bundesliga goal of the season, but his first crucial goal since opening the scoring in a win over Leverkusen last February. Where Dost might have felt a peripheral part of Hecking’s plans for most of the first half of the season, he at least now had the evidence he could prove the difference when push came to shove in the Bundesliga.
The statistics ever since speak for themselves. A brace in Wolfsburg’s dramatic win against Bayern put Dost’s name firmly into the headlines, with a Viererpack (four goals) against Leverkusen probably one of the most incredible single feats by a player in the Bundesliga so far this season. Goals in pretty much every game since have followed, with Dost proving the difference against Bremen, Sporting Lisbon, Hoffenheim and Hertha, and there’s no sign of this incredible run of form ending any time soon. He’s even been touted with a call up to Guus Hiddink’s next Netherlands squad. Dost is, as yet, uncapped, and at 25 is probably a little older than the majority of international debutants would usually be, but with his scintillating form at club level currently, is hard to ignore, especially as Hiddink looks to turn around a poor start to Euro 2016 qualifying. Previously, Dost had only been included in the Dutch squad once, not seeing action against Belgium back in 2012.
Dost’s cause has been backed by Bayern’s Arjen Robben – praise indeed, coming from arguably the Netherlands’ best attacking player at the moment. Robben was quoted as saying “I’m delighted that he’s on a roll. He deserves it. Maybe soon we can score goals together for the national team” in interview with Sky Deutschland, and given his relative importance within the Dutch camp, it’s probably a good bet that Dost will be making his debut in the weeks to come.
So, whether this form is finally a fulfilment of the promise his move to Wolfsburg back in 2012 seemed to hold, or a resurrection of a career harmed by a move to a big move too early, Bas Dost’s stock is – quite rightly – on the rise. Wolfsburg face a big run-in – they’re unlikely to win the title, or even drop from their current position of second, but will want to establish themselves as German football’s current second force, and remain in contention for the DFB-Pokal and the Europa League titles – and Dost could be central to that. After all, die Wölfe are yet to lose a game that Dost’s played this season.