Paco Alcacer (l.) marked his Bundesliga debut in a Borussia Dortmund shirt with a goal against Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 3. - © © imago / Jan Huebner
Paco Alcacer (l.) marked his Bundesliga debut in a Borussia Dortmund shirt with a goal against Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 3. - © © imago / Jan Huebner

What Barcelona loanee Paco Alcacer will bring to the Borussia Dortmund attack

It was hard for Borussia Dortmund to mask the frustration as their second Bundesliga outing of the season in Hannover ended goalless. But salvation was on the way for Lucien Favre's side, as on-loan Barcelona striker Paco Alcacer marked his debut against Eintracht Frankfurt in style - with a goal.

Dortmund's success of recent seasons has generally been built around a reliable goal-getter. Robert Lewandowski hit 22 goals in the Bundesliga when they last won the title, in 2011/12, and followed up with returns of 24 and 20 before joining Bayern Munich in 2014 and passing the torch to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gabon captain quickly followed in the footsteps of his Poland counterpart, becoming his biggest rival in the annual quest to finish top of the Bundesliga scoring charts. 'Auba' notched 25 in 2015/16 and 31 the following season, enough to make him the second African winner of the Torjägerkanone. It was also the highest tally for a non-German player in a single campaign.


Aubameyang and Michy Batshuayi grabbed 20 goals between them last term – the latter arriving on loan after the former left for Arsenal – and that was enough for BVB to finish fourth and seal qualification for the UEFA Champions League. But after the Belgium international returned to Chelsea, it was hard for Dortmund to escape the fact that their squad boasted only one recognised centre-forward: 18-year-old Alexander Isak. And despite some early promise, the young Swede hasn't yet lived up to his billing as 'the next Zlatan Ibrahimovic', making only five Bundesliga appearances for BVB since he joined in January 2017.

Enter Alcacer. In the final days of the summer transfer window, Dortmund secured the 25-year-old's services on a season-long loan from Barcelona, with an option to make the deal permanent at the end of 2018/19.

"I'm really looking forward to playing in the Bundesliga," the centre-forward told BVB's official website. "It's one of the best leagues in the world, and the unbelievable fans and the famous Yellow Wall terrace make Dortmund something magical for any footballer."

- © gettyimages / Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

The Spaniard's arrival was no doubt met with a mixture of excitement and relief at the Signal Iduna Park. Make no mistake, Dortmund boast some of the brightest attacking talents in the Bundesliga and beyond: Marco Reus, Christian Pulisic, Maximilian Philipp, Jadon Sancho, Marius Wolf – but none of those players are out-and-out strikers, and it can sometimes be tricky trying to force square pegs into round holes.

Alcacer is very much a modern-day centre-forward: strong, mobile and boasting the quick feet and technical skills that have become a hallmark of Spanish youth academies over the past decade. If he were to be compared to his predecessors, he would be more of a Lewandowski than an Aubameyang, preferring to anchor play and link up with his teammates than attempt to outdo his opponents with sheer pace.  

A product of Valencia's youth system, Alcacer overcame the tragedy of his father dying just after watching him play a game at the Mestalla Stadium to emerge as one of the hottest prospects of his generation. He helped Spain to win the UEFA European U19 Championship in 2011 and 2012, before finishing as the senior side's top scorer in qualifying for UEFA Euro 2016.

- © gettyimages / CESAR MANSO/AFP/Getty Images

He also continued to go from strength to strength at Valencia, despite some turbulent times at the club. Having finished 2015/16 with 13 goals and six assists, the young forward earned himself a move to Barcelona, although opportunities were limited behind the 'MSN' attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar. Even after the Brazilian's departure for Paris Saint-Germain, he was never given a real chance by Ernesto Valverde, though the long hours on the substitutes' bench failed to blunt his striker's instincts. Overall, he netted 15 goals in 50 games for the Blaugrana, despite only being on the pitch for around half of that time.    

"He understands football," Dortmund coach Favre told kicker after Alcacer made his first appearance in black and yellow, in a 6-0 friendly win over third-tier VfL Osnabrück. "He moves forwards, he moves backwards, so we can use him to combine. It works with him."

With Alcacer as the focal point of his attack, Favre will be able to deploy his small army of wing wizards to greater effect. True, Dortmund did score four goals in their Bundesliga opener against RB Leipzig, but two were the result of set pieces and the fourth, a late effort from Reus, came when the game was already dead and buried. When they come up against deep-lying and well-organised defences – such as Hannover's – BVB will be relying on their new frontman to keep the opposition centre-backs busy and open up space for his teammates. The Spaniard's movement and ability to play in tight surroundings should make him a vital acquisition.

Watch: Reus scored his 100th Bundesliga goal as Dortmund saw off Leipzig on Matchday 1

Crucially, Alcacer will be giving Favre more tactical flexibility, and the BVB faithful will no doubt be salivating at the prospect of seeing him in action alongside Reus, Pulisic and the rest. The Swiss technician also knows a thing or two about resurrecting strikers who have lost their way, having worked wonders with Mario Balotelli in his time at Nice. If he can get Alcacer firing on all cylinders, Dortmund could be set for one of their most successful seasons in years.

"Paco has made a really good impression," explained Jacob Bruun Larsen, who returned from a six-month loan with VfB Stuttgart this summer and starred with four goals against Osnabrück. "He's a brilliant finisher. I expect him to succeed at BVB, and our job is to help him."

Help him they did, with Sancho teeing up the Spaniard to mark his debut in some style against Eintracht Frankfurt. Indeed, his first touch of the ball in a Bundesliga fixture was followed seconds after by his first celebration, the net rippling with the force of his deflected strike.

Alcacer has also endeared himself to the BVB fans, having given his shirt to a supporter who welcomed him with a banner at the end of the Osnabrück game. Ultimately, though, it will be his on-pitch impact that counts, and he'll be looking to make a flying start against the Eagles on Friday. The Yellow Wall loved Lewandowski and adored Aubameyang – perhaps it is only a matter of time before they are passionate about Paco.

Andy Smith

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