Benjamin Franklin once said there were only two certain things in life: death and taxes. But from Lucas Barrios through Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang and Michy Batshuayi, Borussia Dortmund’s ability to replace their leading man might be regarded as a third.
Paco Alcacer is the latest BVB striker hoping to levy a toll on Die Schwarzgelben’s Bundesliga opponents, and a quick perusal of recent No.9s to light up the Signal-Iduna Park suggests he needn’t look too far for inspiration.
Lucas Barrios (2009-12)
Games: 82, Goals: 39
Honours: Back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2011 and ’12; double of Bundesliga and DFB Cup in 2012
Successor: Robert Lewandowski
Paraguay striker Lucas Barrios arrived in North-Rhine Westphalia in July 2009 after plundering 37 goals for Chilean outfit Colo Colo the previous year – a haul which saw him named top scorer of the year in the world by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics.
Slotting straight into the first team, Barrios took until October to open his Dortmund account, but rarely looked back from thereon, concluding his first season with 19 league goals and 23 in all competitions. With another 16 the following campaign, Robert Lewandowski – who joined in 2010 from Lech Poznan – might have been cursing the Icelandic volcano eruption that purportedly curtailed his own move to Blackburn Rovers.
Barrios was spirited away by Guangzhou Evergrande in the Chinese Super League in 2012, by which time Lewandowski had overtaken the Argentina-born hitman as BVB’s primary goal-getter.
Robert Lewandowski (2010-14)
Games: 131, Goals: 74
Honours: Back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2011 and ’12; double of Bundesliga and DFB Cup in 2012; DFL Supercup in 2013; Torjägerkanone in 2014 (with 20 goals)
Successor: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
A relative unknown when he signed in June 2010, Lewandowski had earned the first of his now 91 Poland caps two years earlier, and helped Lech win their first Polish Ekstraklasa in 17 years the campaign before. It took an injury to Barrios before he was thrown in, though, making a first-team spot his own in the 2011/12 season.
Lewandowski’s 30 goals in all competitions were central to the double of Bundesliga and DFB Cup won under Jürgen Klopp in 2012, a campaign in which he set a new club record by scoring in 12 consecutive league games, surpassing Toni Konietzka's record which had stood for 47 years.
Watch: All 74 of Lewandowski's Bundesliga goals for Dortmund!
Lewandowski became the first player in history to score four goals in a UEFA Champions League semi-final the following April: a 4-1 victory over Real Madrid which ultimately paved the way for the all-German final between Dortmund and Bayern Munich, which Lewy’s future employers won 2-1. Only Cristiano Ronaldo outscored the Pole on the continent that season; and the following year he was bound for Bavaria.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (2013-18)
Games: 144, Goals: 98
Honours: DFL Supercup in 2013 and ‘14; DFB Cup in 2017; Torjägerkanone in 2017 (with 31 goals)
Successor: Michy Batshuayi
Having contented himself with a place on the wing in the lone full season he played alongside Lewandowski, Aubameyang rebranded himself as a goalscorer supreme once his friend and future Torjägerkanone rival was gone, adding a killer instinct to his already blistering pace.
Whether or not Auba is faster than Usain Bolt remains up for debate – the player himself maintains that he was clocked covering 30 metres in 3.7 seconds whilst in the AC Milan youth set-up – but he raced to 100 goals in all competitions by December 2016. He finished the 2016/17 Bundesliga campaign with 31 goals – the best top scorer’s haul in the German top flight since Dieter Müller’s tally of 34 for Cologne in 1977.
Watch: All of Aubameyang's league-leading 31 goals last season!
Unlike Barrios and Lewandowski, a league title may have eluded Aubemeyang, but with an African Player of the Year gong, a pair of DFL Supercups in 2013 and ’14 as well as the DFB Cup in 2017, his trophy cabinet is a glistening one nonetheless.
Michy Batshuayi (January-June 2018)
Games: 10, Goals: 7
Successor: Paco Alcacer
Michy Batshuayi scored a brace on his Bundesliga debut against Cologne, setting the right tone for a successful, if short-lived stay in Westphalia. He added a further five strikes during just six months in a Dortmund shirt, but each one proved precious as BVB qualified for the Champions League.
Indeed, whenever Batshuayi scored - against Hamburg, Frankfurt, Hannover and Stuttgart - Dortmund picked up all three points. Considering Dortmund only made it into Europe's elite club competition on goal difference ahead of Bayer Leverkusen, Batshuayi's contribution cannot be understated.