It's not easy to like Wolfsburg. They are one of two German clubs officially exempt from the Bundesliga's celebrated 50+1 rule on fan ownership. They were founded, and are funded, by a multinational automobile producer. They appear now to be finally making good on a long standing threat to buy success at home and in Europe.
It is quite easy, on the other hand, to like Bas Dost. There's his name, for a start, which lingers somewhere between second rate indie frontman and notorious reformed criminal. Then there are his goals. Thirteen in twelve league appearances this season. Thirteen in eight competitive games this calendar year. Two against Bremen on the weekend, four against Leverkusen last month. The man can't stop.
All thirteen of Dost's Bundesliga goals, meanwhile, have been one touch finishes. It's hard to overlook the glorious universal appeal of a man who is beloved of football hipsters, but who scores goals that evoke nothing of the sort . Dost lurks and poaches like a good old fashioned forward, and then thrusts his three day stubble to the sky in a hipsterian salute to the new age.
Most likeable about Bas Dost, though, is his sudden reincarnation. For two years, Dost had limped along at Wolfsburg, occasionally showing a flash of talent, but largely playing second fiddle to other, more reliable strikers. Persistent injuries didn't help, but the Dutchman was generally seen as a disappointment.
The hard times lasted right up until Christmas. It was around that time that Hamburg came a calling, interested in signing Wolfsburg's reject in a bid to stave off relegation. Dost wanted out, but his manager Dieter Hecking refused point blank. Hamburg conceded defeat, and settled instead for Ivica Olic.
That was to be the most fortuitous development in Dost's career. With Olic gone, the 25-year-old had only to compete with Nicklas Bendtner for the role of first-choice striker. He thus became undroppable. So long the nearly man, Dost suddenly regained all confidence, and started scoring his way to international fame.
In an interview with kicker last month, the Dutchman admitted that “there were times when I thought it would never get better”. It did. Having made three league starts before Christmas and having scored only two league goals, Dost is now hot on the heels of Alex Meier and Arjen Robben in the race to be this season's top scorer. “Now I am number one,” he told kicker.
Wolfsburg have a history of nurturing late blooming poachers. Edin Dzeko was 24 when he left the club for Manchester City. Mario Mandzukic was 26 when he was snapped up by Bayern. Both had only emerged into superstardom a few years previously. But there remains something unique about Dost. Mandzukic and Dzeko made immediate impacts at Wolfsburg. Dost toiled and struggled, before eventually proving himself at a club wealthy enough to have exiled him at any moment.
The money at Wolfsburg, though, has ended up serving the Dutchman well. The vast amount of money spent on Kevin de Bruyne and André Schürrle this year has provided Dost with the dream situation for a striker of his ilk. Good quality wide players who will spend all day putting in devastatingly accurate crosses. Even their understudies are high quality, as Daniel Caligiuri proved against Bremen last weekend. It is little wonder Dost only ever needs one touch to score.
After so much patience and so many setbacks, though, one cannot begrudge the Wolfsburg striker some good service. In this rampant Wolfsburg outfit, Dost is a man reinvented. He suddenly looks like he has a future. He has always remained coy about the prospect of international football. His poaching style is, after all, difficult to imagine in the bright orange of Holland. But at club level at least, Bas Dost has a glistening future. Wolfsburg are all but qualified for the Champions League already, and their new-look attack is unlikely to change drastically. If Dost stays at Wolfsburg and avoids injury, he can retain his form.
By the end of his contract in 2017, Dost will undoubtedly be attracting some attention from grander clubs. But the usual suspects should be warned. Last Christmas, Wolfsburg refused to let go ofBas Dost the failure. They are unlikely to be more obliging now that he has finally found success.
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