Written by Dominic Smith (@dom93smith)
Several reports in the British, German and Dutch press in recent days have credited Newcastle with a strong interest in Wolfsburg's Bas Dost.
Whilst Dost is hardly a household name and rumours linking the Dutchman with a move to Newcastle are unlikely to bring genuine excitement to fans, it could be argued that this is in fact a highly ambitious move, considering Dost’s goalscoring history. His contributions last term, totaling 20 in all competitions, have been invaluable in a season in which Wolfsburg lifted the DFB Cup, reached the quarter final stage of the Europa League and secured Champions League qualification.
“Ambitious” is an adjective rarely heard in relation to Newcastle’s transfer activity in recent years. However, there are a few factors that make this deal more likely than it may initially seem. Despite securing a place in Wolfsburg’s side in the second half of the season and finishing the campaign with 16 league goals at a rate of one every 95 minutes, Dost’s place in Die Wölfe’s starting eleven for next season is by no means guaranteed.
Even after his great run of goalscoring form, Dost lost his place in the starting line-up to a certain Niklas Bendtner for the second leg of the Europa League Quarter Final against Napoli and remained on the bench for the next three league games. In this case, it’s likely that Dost was simply feeling the strain of a heavily congested fixture list and losing some steam.
However, before this improved run of form, he told the German media as recently as December that he was unsatisfied with his lack of playing time, and he also refused to rule out a January departure. Until his incredible run in 2015, the forward had struggled with injuries and a lack of form since moving to Germany. It certainly hasn’t all been plain sailing for Dost at Wolfsburg, and there is still doubt about his long-term future at the club.
Wolfsburg have already signed Max Kruse this Summer – a player previously linked to Newcastle – from Borussia Mönchengladbach, and rumours of a return to the club for Mario Mandzukic continue to surface. This does not necessarily mean that Wolfsburg are preparing to sell Dost – particularly as Kruse is not someone who is likely to lead the line alone – but it does suggest that they have doubts over Dost’s ability to bear the goalscoring burden in the long run.
At the age of 26, and back in form, he may feel the time is right to have a crack at the Premier League before injuries or a drop in form deprive him of another opportunity in the future.
Newcastle are right to at least be taking a look at Dost. He may have his doubters, but his goalscoring record speaks for itself: 52 goals in 68 games for Heerenveen, including 32 league goals in the 2011/12 season, and a ratio of just under a goal every two games for Wolfsburg.
There is also one key attribute that the current Newcastle side is in dire need of, and that’s height. After years of seeing the same set piece tactic fail time and time again (hopelessly angling the ball in the vague direction of Mike Williamson at the back post, for anyone who has somehow failed to notice) and being similarly vulnerable in the air when defending set pieces and crosses, a couple of tall signings (Dost is 6’5″) are an absolute must this summer.
Dost, though, is also more than capable on the ground, and his strong hold up play and ability to link up with those behind him was a key feature of Wolfsburg’s season. He is more of a six-yard-box predator than someone who is going to produce something out of nothing from the edge of the box.
However if, as rumours suggest, Papiss Cissé finally departs this summer, Newcastle will need someone to grab those predatory goals in the box – and Dost arguably offers far more than Cissé in terms of his all round play. The old “decent feet for a big man” cliché also applies, as Dost’s clever, improvised finishes, often scored with instinctive flicks at the near post, have become a feature of his play.
The Dutchman demonstrated this in a stunning 5-4 away win over rivals Bayer Leverkusen in February, when the striker scored four of his side’s five goals (look it up on YouTube – well worth the watch). He also scored twice in a home win over Champions Bayern Munich, as well as in the DFB Cup final win over Borussia Dortmund, demonstrating his calmness under pressure and ability to perform in the big matches.
This strength of character is something which has already been mentioned as a priority for Newcastle when considering any potential signings, as the club looks for players who possess the right attitude to cope with the demands of the Premier League. The Dutchman is also fluent in both German and English, something that would no doubt make his transition that bit easier.
Despite his qualities, there is no guarantee that Dost would be a success in the Premier League. Many a Dutch striker has failed to make the grade in England in the past (Luuk de Jong, anyone?) and until the turn of the year there were still strong doubts over whether Dost would ever cut it in the Bundesliga.
He has also benefitted from being part of a distinguished attacking line up at Wolfsburg including Kevin de Bruyne – who alone racked up a remarkable 28 assists last season – as well as the likes of Ivan Perisic, Daniel Caligiuri and Andre Schuerrle. Needless to say that Dost would find chances a little harder to come by at Newcastle, and he would certainly have to take them when they did come.
Some fans will be underwhelmed by the Dost rumours, and the cynics among us will feel that a deal for Dost would put an end to hopes of a second striker signing such as Charlie Austin. However, those that are even more cynical will see the Austin deal as an absolute non-starter anyway and know that a move for Dost is perhaps the more likely scenario.
Although it was first suggested that “buying British” would form the basis of a new transfer policy for Newcastle, it seems Mike Ashley is unlikely to change his policy of only sanctioning moves that represent good value for money, meaning imports from the continent are still more likely.
As Newcastle transfer rumours go, this one may actually have some legs and, whilst no signing is guaranteed to be a success, Dost does seem to have the right attributes. If, as expected, Newcastle are unprepared to partake in the inevitable bidding war for the highly coveted Charlie Austin, it may well be worth taking a chance on Dost.
You can read more of Dominic’s writing HERE