Wout Weghorst is currently enjoying one of his most prolific seasons ever as a professional, and the Dutchman is arguably the main reason why Wolfsburg are sitting pretty in the top four over the winter break.
The 28-year-old scored 17 times in his debut Bundesliga season with the Wolves in 2018/19, and followed that up with a 16-goal haul last term. This time around he already has nine from 13 league outings, while he added a brace in the second round of the DFB Cup to fire Wolfsburg past Sandhausen just before Christmas.
“He’s the most dangerous player in front of goal that I’ve ever coached – at least as head coach,” said Wolfsburg tactician Oliver Glasner.
The fact he felt compelled to add that little suffix is likely because he also worked with Sadio Mane during his time as assistant coach in Salzburg, but it is telling that Weghorst is now thought of in a similar bracket to the Liverpool forward.
So good is Weghorst that he has found the net seven times in his last seven league games. And of his overall Bundesliga tally this season, five have been scored with his preferred right foot (55.6 per cent), three with his head (33.3 per cent) and one with his left (11.1 per cent).
Not even the Bundesliga’s – and indeed world football’s – apex predator Robert Lewandowski can match him for that kind of variety: the Polish forward has scored 65 per cent of his goals with his right foot, 24 per cent with his head and 11 per cent with his left.
Watch: Wout Weghorst's top 5 goals
Even Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick, who is used to observing Lewandowski up close every day, is a fan of Weghorst, calling him “one of the best strikers in the league” prior to Wolfsburg’s 2-1 defeat at the Allianz Arena on Matchday 12. “He’s hungry for goals, he always wants to score. He’s a really good weapon,” added the 55-year-old.
In Wolfsburg they are just as appreciative of their leading man. Managing director Jörg Schmadtke was particularly impressed with the 6’5” forward for his role in the 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 11, a game in which Weghorst admitted he “didn’t play very well”.
He still scored a late brace, however, helping the Wolves come from 1-0 down to pick up three more points. “It’s a special quality to have as a striker that even if you’re not particularly in the game, you still manage to score,” Schmadtke said. “He always just keeps going because he knows that the next situation could be decisive. He doesn’t carry it [not playing well] around as a burden in situations like this; he tries to stay calm. That’s a good quality to have.”
That kind of mentality shows that there is plenty more to Weghorst than merely putting the ball in the net – even if he does do this very well. The Wolfsburg No.9 also works hard defensively for his side and is every bit a team player.
“He feels very settled here and you can tell that by the level of commitment he shows,” Glasner said. “He’s a player who sacrifices himself for the team, and someone who covers an unbelievable amount of ground to help out defensively. He’s becoming increasingly involved in our game, and that’s a good thing.”
Weghorst is also becoming an increasingly significant player in the club’s history. In just two-and-a-half years at the Volkswagen Arena, he has scored 51 goals in 97 competitive games, putting him eighth in Wolfsburg’s all-time list.
Not only that, but only four Wolfsburg players have scored more often in the Bundesliga (42 in 79 matches), while his average of 0.53 goals per game is bettered in the VfL annals only by 2008/09 title-winning duo Edin Dzeko (0.59) and Grafite (0.53).
Last season Weghorst, who signed a contract extension through to 2023 in summer 2019, scored the same number of league goals as Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and Dzeko. Furthermore, there are currently only eight centre-forwards out of 98 teams in Europe’s top five leagues that have scored more than Weghorst, and two of those players – Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Boulaye Dia have played more games (14 and 15 respectively) than the Dutchman.
It is clear, then, that Weghorst deserves to be in the conversation when it comes to the continent’s best strikers. And while he is aware of how big his role is at Wolfsburg, he also knows that more is still to come.
“I think it’s evident that I’m important for my team,” he said. “But I think I can – and must - still improve on some things when we’re in possession.”
So whether or not Weghorst gets the recognition he deserves elsewhere is debatable, but at Wolfsburg – and continental kings Bayern, no less – they appreciate full well just how very good he is.