Robert Lewandowski – Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Michy Batshuayi – Paco Alcacer – Erling Haaland. The line of succession at Borussia Dortmund is something to behold and the latest heir apparent, like his regal predecessors, is immediately after the crown.
Debut: Dortmund 0-2 Bayer Leverkusen (22 August 2010)
By Lewandowski standards, life in Dortmund got off to a fairly innocuous start for the then 21-year-old. He arrived in Germany from Lech Poznan as the Polish top flight’s leading scorer in 2009/10, but Lewandowski was reduced to a goalless 27 minute run-out on his debut in the defeat to Leverkusen. He would, however, get up and running two games later, scoring in successive substitute cameos in the Matchday 3 and 4 victories against Revierderby rivals Schalke and Kaiserslauten, respectively. Jürgen Klopp would finally hand Lewy a first league start on Matchday 15, an opportunity the Pole would seize as he scored in the 2-0 win over Nuremberg.
What happened next?
Lewandowski ended his first Bundesliga season with eight goals in 33 appearances as Klopp’s Dortmund won the first of back-to-back league titles. The following season saw Lewandowski switch gears, scoring 22 times as the Black and Yellows lifted that second Meisterschale in a row. He would go on to score 103 goals in 187 appearances for Dortmund before moving to Bayern Munich, where Lewandowski has become one of the greatest strikers in Bundesliga history. The Poland captain is the league’s record foreign goalscorer and sits third on the all-time list, is a seven-time Bundesliga champion, three-time DFB Cup victor and four-time Torjägerkanone winner. Lewandowski no longer sets the bar – he is the bar.
Watch: A tactical analysis of Lewandowski
Debut: Augsburg 0-4 Dortmund (10 August 2013)
Ahead of what would be Lewandowski’s final season in Dortmund, sporting director Michael Zorc snapped up the 24-year-old Gabon striker from St. Etienne. Aubameyang had only been outscored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Ligue 1 the previous season, and Dortmund were looking to put the disappointment of losing out to Bayern in the 2013 UEFA Champions League final behind them. The new signing gave fans immediate reason to look excitedly to the future. He came off the bench to lay on Dortmund’s fourth goal in the 4-2 DFL Supercup win that got immediate revenge over Bayern, before Aubameyang ripped Augsburg apart on his league debut by hitting a stunning hat-trick that put the competition on notice. It was only the sixth time a player had done so in the Bundesliga, and it would be the start of something special to come.
What happened next?
Searing pace, elusive movement, incredible composure and masks – loads of superhero masks. They were all hallmarks of Aubameyang’s goal-laden four-and-a-half seasons in front of the Yellow Wall, where he ended up with 141 in 213 appearances for Dortmund. His 98 goals in 144 Bundesliga outings came at a goal every 0.7 games en route to Aubameyang becoming the record African goalscorer in Bundesliga history before he left the club in January 2018. Described by Klopp as “one of the best counter-attacking players… on this planet,” Aubameyang still holds the record for most goals in a single season by any non-German player. His 31 strikes in 32 games that earned him the 2016/17 topscorer award are the most of any campaign since Dieter Müller hit 34 for Cologne back in 1976/77.
Watch: All of Aubameyang's Bundesliga goals
Debut: Cologne 2-3 Dortmund (2 February 2018)
Aubameyang’s departure on the final day of the January transfer window left Dortmund needing to replace a man with 13 goals from 16 league games in the 2017/18 Hinrunde. He was also the striker that had scored decisive goals in both the semi-final and final of their DFB Cup win the previous year. Not only that, Aubameyang was a character and would prove hard to replace. Or so we thought, until Batshuayi rocked up and declared: “Black and yellow are my favourite colours, because I love Batman and Spongebob Squarepants.” Signed on loan from Chelsea the same day Auba left for Arsenal, Bats was in the starting line-up for the Rückrunde opener against the Billy Goats just two days later. The handover was incredibly smooth as the Belgian scored a brace and set up André Schürrle for Dortmund’s third, an 84th-minute strike that sealed a 3-2 victory.
What happened next?
Batshuayi was at it again a week later, scoring in the 2-0 win over Hamburg before hitting his second double in three games in another 3-2 win. This time it was in UEFA Europa League action against Italian side Atalanta, with Batshuayi making it 2-2 in the 65th minute before grabbing a dramatic 91st-minute winner. With five goals in his first three matches, Dortmund were smitten with their temporary striker and he went on to finish up with seven goals and an assist from his 10 Bundesliga appearances. A torn ligament in his ankle would prematurely end Batshuayi’s spell at the club, which ended up as prolific as it was brief.
Watch: Batshuayi's sensational Dortmund debut
Debut: Dortmund 3-1 Eintracht Frankfurt (14 September 2018)
With Batshuayi going back to the English capital, Dortmund made their move for
Alcacer ahead of the 2018/19 campaign. Initially signed on loan from Spanish big boys Barcelona, he was another Dortmund striker in a hurry to score goals. It would take him just 21 minutes of Bundesliga action to break his Dortmund duck, leaping from the bench to score the third in Dortmund’s 3-1 win over the Eagles. It would be the beginning of a sensational run for the Spaniard, who scored another six times in his next three outings. That took his opening return to seven goals in his first four games, coming across 126 minutes of football and at an average of a goal every 18 minutes.
What happened next?
Alcacer’s first half of the season was truly remarkable, as he netted 12 goals in 17 appearances that included just five starts and saw him not once finish the full 90 minutes of a league game. Dortmund were flying and his winner in the crucial-looking 3-2 victory over Bayern on Matchday 11 helped Lucien Favre’s men go on to end the Hinrunde six-points clear of the record champions. Dortmund would eventually fall off the pace but Alcacer still ended the year with 18 league goals, a total only bettered by Lewandowski. Spanning a total of just 1,204 minutes, his return of a goal every 67 minutes made him the most clinical striker in Bundesliga history across a single season. He also claimed the record for most goals off the bench (12) by any player in any one campaign.
Watch: Alcacer seals dramatic Borussia Dortmund win in Der Klassiker
Debut: Augsburg 3-5 Dortmund (18 January 2020)
Alcacer started this season just as brightly – banging in five goals across Dortmund’s first four games – but has failed to find the back of the net since scoring in the 4-0 win over Leverkusen on Matchday 4. This prompted Zorc to work his magic in the transfer market once again, bringing the most exciting young striker in Europe to the club in the burly shape of Haaland.
And the 19-year-old immediately justified Dortmund’s foray into the winter window. With his side trailing 3-1 after 56 minutes at Augsburg, Haaland rose from the bench to hit a match-winning hat-trick. He took just three minutes and one shot for his first, 14 minutes and two shots for his second, and 23 minutes and three shots for his third.
Watch: Haaland's 23-minute hat-trick on his Borussia Dortmund debut
What happens next?
We will have to wait and see but if Haaland’s debut is anything to go by then he should replicate – or better – this quartet that he follows in the footsteps of. History suggests as much. His Bundesliga bow match was the first time any player has got a hat-trick on debut in the German top flight since Aubameyang six-and-a-half years ago; in the same shirt, against the same opposition. Haaland also hit three goals with his first three shots in the Champions League as an RB Salzburg player, and went on to score 28 goals in 22 appearances in all competitions over the course of the first half of 2019/20. It means Haaland arrives on German shores with more goals - and at a younger age - than Lewandowski [21 from 34 in all comps] had in 2010. He also has more league goals than Alcacer or Batshuayi [both 18] have managed in their best full seasons as professionals. Be excited Dortmund fans – for what’s to come from Haaland and beyond.