Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich: What next for Lewandowski & Haaland - and is the Bundesliga in danger of falling behind?

By Constantin EcknerGerman football writer
Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland.
Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland.

Borussia Dortmund v Bayern Munich. Robert Lewandowski v Erling Braut Haaland.

It is a clash between Germany's two biggest clubs, the Bundesliga's top two and two of the world's best strikers.

The rivals meet on Saturday in Dortmund with the winners guaranteed top spot and it would be no surprise if the game is decided by Bayern's experienced Polish striker Lewandowski or Dortmund's sought-after young Norwegian frontman Haaland.

It would also be no surprise if this is one of the last encounters between these two teams with the pair on the pitch. In fact it might not be long before neither are playing for their current employers.

What next for Lewandowski and Haaland?

Dortmund fans all over the world were cheering last Saturday when Haaland returned to the pitch after a month-long absence through injury.

The 21-year-old did not need much time before he continued doing what he does best, scoring a goal against Wolfsburg and sealing the 3-1 win for Dortmund, who are currently a point behind Bayern.

The strike saw him become the youngest player to score 50 Bundesliga goals - doing so in just 50 appearances.

Supporters of the Black and Yellows are well aware their days with Haaland are numbered because a release clause coming into effect next summer is likely to pave the way for his departure.

Pursued by most of Europe's powerhouses, including Real Madrid, Manchester City and Manchester United, an exit from Germany is inevitable.

But Haaland might not be the only departing Bundesliga superstar in 2022, with Lewandowski, Bayern Munich's goalscoring machine and former Dortmund player, considering a major final move before his career winds down.

The 33-year-old just came up short in the Ballon d'Or voting, which many observers saw as an act of injustice given he was arguably the most consistent top player of the past 12 months.

Bayern are reluctant to lose their marksman and would demand a hefty fee to sell but, if Lewandowski has his heart set on switching countries, there are fears it could be difficult to keep him.

'Bayern could not pay Haaland's salary'

Lewandowski has been among the world's best footballers and a cornerstone of Bayern's trophy ambitions for the past five years. His departure from Munich would leave Bayern's hierarchy as tough a challenge to find a replacement as rivals Dortmund would have if Haaland left.

In packing their bags and moving abroad, it would also be a huge blow to the reputation of the Bundesliga. The German top flight has struggled to attract big names in recent times, due to the reputation of the league, limited financial resources and a mentality that considers economic health paramount.

Bayern have been able to make a few expensive signings in recent years, including Leroy Sane and Lucas Hernandez, but the German champions are usually not in the running for marquee names like Kylian Mbappe, as they shop a shelf below that.

Asked about rumours Bayern might pursue Haaland, reputable agent Volker Struth, who advises Toni Kroos and Timo Werner among others, said: "Even if Bayern Munich had the money, they would never do it. Such a salary is an impossibility here and also impossible to communicate to the public."

For Dortmund, things are even more complicated. They have earned a reputation as Europe's top-level jeweller, where rough diamonds are polished before they rise to the next level - but they are not in the position to sign adequate replacements.

Is the Bundesliga falling behind?

Lewandowski and Haaland were the only Bundesliga representatives in the top 30 selection for the Ballon d'Or. While one can always question the validity of such individual awards, the nominations have once again highlighted how the Bundesliga is clearly ranked below the English Premier League, La Liga and possibly Serie A.

Many argue performances in Germany's top flight do not count as much as other leagues in the eyes of observers - with Manuel Neuer and Joshua Kimmich notable absences from the list.

If the Bundesliga should lose Haaland and Lewandowski in one summer, it might solidify the league's status as second rate.

If Dortmund also lose England international Jude Bellingham or US midfielder Giovanni Reyna, two of the most promising teenagers in world football and very much in demand, the blow would be even more significant.

Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann was recently asked about the competitive standing of the Bundesliga and whether he thinks German clubs are in danger of falling behind.

"Yes, absolutely, that threat exists," he said. "It is a bit easier for Bayern Munich, yet still complicated. But for other German clubs, who play internationally, it is even more difficult."

The clash between Dortmund and Bayern will draw many eyes from across the globe - it is the marquee game of every Bundesliga season. But it remains to be seen how its attractiveness will be impacted by the frequent departures of superstar players.

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