Cologne - On 14 February 2015, the football world - save perhaps the 25,000 or so home fans at the BayArena - fell in love with VfL Wolfsburg striker Bas Dost.
The inimitable Dutchman scored four times against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Bundesliga Matchday 21 to take his personal tally to nine league goals for the campaign and wrap up an unforgettable 5-4 win in one of the finest individual displays in living memory.
“Dost was phenomenal today, that goes without saying,” enthused new wolf-pack member at the full-time whistle. “If a striker - or any player for that matter - scores four goals, it’s unbelievable. That’s not something you see every year and that’s why he was the standout player on the pitch today.”
The former Leverkusen favourite isn’t exaggerating either. Each one of Dost’s four goals was of the highest order: the first, a wonderfully executed diving header; the second, an audacious near-post flick, the third, a textbook poacher’s finish; and the fourth, another silky touch in front of the goalkeeper - and just two weeks after grabbing a brace in a similar, headline-grabbing win over FC Bayern München at that.
For some, the 25-year-old’s renaissance has come as a great surprise, while for others it has been a long time coming. The former Dutch Under-21 international moved to the Volkswagen Arena from Eredivisie outfit SC Heerenveen in summer 2012 with a staggering 52 goals in 73 appearances to his name, only for a dip in form and a string of injuries to swiftly see him cast in the role of Wolfsburg’s forgotten man.
The turning point came late in 2014 when Dost stepped off the substitutes’ bench to bag his first Bundesliga goal in nigh-on nine months in a 3-1 win over Lower Saxony rivals Hannover 96 - and only his 14th in Wolfsburg colours. He hasn’t looked back since. “Bas was injured for almost seven months,” explained coach Dieter Hecking. We put a huge amount of faith in him and he is repaying that. It’s not just a purple patch, he’s always had it in him.”
Love and affection
Dost’s reputation as a late bloomer is common knowledge back in his native Holland, particularly in light of his pre-Heerenveen days at Heracles Almelo. “Bas had problems adapting, both physically and mentally, and many people didn't believe in him,” recalled Henk van Schuppen, chief sports editor at De Twentsche Courant Tubantia. “Then Gertjan Verbeek came in as coach in 2009. He needed a mentor like him.” Heracles finished sixth that year, but when Verbeek moved on, so did the 15-goal Dost.
At Heerenveen, it was only in his second season at the Abe Lenstra Stadion that he began to blossom, famously sinking five goals against Excelsior Rotterdam on 10 December 2011, before switching to Wolfsburg seven months later. The 6’5” frontman hasn’t always had an easy time of things at the Auto City club, although it would appear the only player to score four goals in a single Bundesliga game in 2014/15 at long last has his feet firmly under Germany’s top table.