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Borussia Dortmund

Can Adrian Ramos replace Robert Lewandowski at Borussia Dortmund?

It was almost widely accepted for about a year before Lewandowski’s move to FC Bayern was made official that the Polish striker would probably head to Bavaria at the end of his contract with current club Borussia Dortmund. In similar – but not identical – fashion, it’s been almost universally considered a certainty that Hertha BSC’s key man, Adrián Ramos, would as a result head over to Nordrhein-Westfalen to trade leading the line in the capital city to one of the most industrial areas of the country for roughly €10m.

The Colombian international is, at 28, in the form of his life and probably nearing his peak, but questions have been asked about whether he’ll properly replace the outgoing Lewandowski, who at 25 years old is already rightly regarded higher by football fans across the globe, and still has his best years ahead of him.

It’d be unfair, however, to compare Ramos’ game to that of Lewandowski’s. They are different players – Ramos more physical, better in the air, winning 169 headers over 29 Bundesliga games this season, compared to Lewandowski’s 110, and is comfortable at holding the ball up, while Lewandowski works better with the ball at his feet, and can seemingly finish from any vaguely threatening position on the pitch. What is similar, however, is that both players bring the best out of others around them, and lead their teams forward even without the need of great service for a full 90 minutes – both having a good record at taking on defenders with the ball at their feet, beating their man more times than not. Lewandowski has still had an impressive season statistically despite a slow start in the goalscoring charts, currently sitting on 17 goals (alongside Bayern’s Mandzukic) and 11 assists – astronomically higher than any other all-out striker in the league. He’s led die Schwarzgelben through some tough patches this season, whether through injury or lack of form in players behind him, and has truly proven his salt as a big game player, with goals in some games single-handedly dragging them to a likely second place finish with four games to go.

Similarly, Ramos has been the driving force for Hertha BSC this season, his form reaching such heights that he must surely be considered one of the main men for highly-feted World Cup contenders Colombia this summer – especially in view of Radamel Falcao’s injury leaving Colombia a man short up front. Having been newly promoted from the 2. Bundesliga with Hertha BSC after a season outside of the top flight, Ramos is a part of a talented squad, who had spent wisely in the summer and have a talented manager in Dutchman Jos Luhukay, but seemingly lacked a proven goalscorer to keep them afloat during poor form. Having only ever scored 16 Bundesliga goals before – over the course of two seasons, in which die Alte Dame were relegated both times – Ramos was by no means guaranteed to be that man for them, especially having not exactly set the 2. Bundesliga alight the previous season. However, in a season that has sent his stock stratospherically high, Ramos has proven any pre-season doubters wrong with another 16 Bundesliga goals – in one season this time – with an additional seven assists proving his talent at bringing other players into the attacking play, which at a team like Hertha, who have scored only 38 goals overall, leaving a mere 15 in which Ramos was not directly involved in creating or finishing.

With this in mind, Ramos should fit well into Borussia’s front line, feeding the likes of Reus, Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan and Blaszczykowski behind him, as well as finishing the chances they’ll create for him. However, it’s not that straightforward. As a key man for Hertha, Ramos’ playing style is very much catered for by the style of the rest of his team’s play, who look to get the ball into the box and pose defenders a question in aerial duels with the burly Colombian frontman. While it’s not entirely fair to label Ramos entirely as an aerial player – he scores more goals with the ball at his feet than with his head – his five headed efforts constitute a much larger part of his 16 goals in total than Lewandowski’s one from 17. Dortmund, who prefer to keep the ball on the ground, especially when in the final third, have a lot of other big names, and perhaps would be less willing to cater exactly to Ramos’ playing style. While the playing style at Dortmund is not set in stone by any means, changing their style entirely for one player is unlikely. Instead, we’ll perhaps see Ramos’ transfer adding a plan B for Dortmund’s attack if their attacks aren’t penetrating the opposition’s defence as effectively as Klopp and the rest of the managerial team would like. What may work in Ramos’ favour is that he is stronger on both feet than Lewandowski, who is much more likely to use his right. This means he’ll maybe score from opportunities in which Lewandowski would not have done, even if the ball is still on the deck. Additionally, his skill at winning the ball back, relatively at least for an attacking player, will fit in well to Dortmund’s counterpressing style of play without the ball.

Taking into consideration the already-confirmed signing of Dong-Won Ji (likely a back-up), and the seeming desire to sign yet more strikers, with the likes of Nürnberg’s Josip Drmic already linked – it looks more likely that Ramos won’t act as a straight swap for Lewandowski, instead replacing him as the main goalscoring outlet and improving the squad in terms of adding a plan B, with another new forward player also helping spread the load following the Pole’s move – something that the club have missed ever since the departure of former striker Lucas Barrios following the double win in 2012. That will be a key factor in seeing if Dortmund can sustain a better push across all three competitions in 2014/2015 – something they’ve not quite managed to strike a balance with yet, since returning to the Champions League fray three years ago.

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