What a difference a year makes: The curious case of Lucas Barrios
Borussia Dortmund striker Lucas Barrios had an up-and-down 2011 at Signal Iduna Park, with the ecstasy of winning the German top flight blighted by a dramatic fall from grace. From talisman, goal machine and Bundesliga winner to outcast in just six months, the Paraguay international was reportedly close to making a deadline day departure from the German champions; but what does 2012 have in store for Barrios?
Signed from Colo Colo in July 2009, Barrios quickly became an integral part of a young and exciting Dortmund team, continuing the goalscoring form which had seen him become a star his homeland. Barrios was the North Rhine-Westphalian clubÃ¢ÂÂs top scorer for his first two campaigns, and last season was the making of the South American marksman, as his 19 goals fired Jurgen KloppÃ¢ÂÂs men to their first Bundesliga title in nearly a decade.
BVB must have been rubbing their hands together after reviewing their capture of La Pantera (the Panther) for just over Ã¢ÂÂ¬4 million; rumours linking Chelsea with a ÃÂ£30 million move for the Paraguayan were rife in the summer of 2011.
But the promise of leading the line for the ambitious German club in this seasonÃ¢ÂÂs Champions League saw Barrios remain. He was on top of the world, but what goes up must come down.
Barrios was part of the Paraguay side that reached the final of the Copa America in the summer, but a thigh injury meant he had to start the last game from the bench, and returned to Germany unfit after the tournament. A poor pre-season compromised by injury meant the striker missed the start of the 2011/12 campaign, and his replacement Robert Lewandowski grasped the opportunity to play with both hands. The Polish striker has bagged 18 goals in all competitions already this term and has cemented himself a place in Die Schwarzgelben's first XI.
Barrios has only started one game in 2011/12, and is yet to score in his 11 appearances for Dortmund. Frustration is clearly setting in for the South American, Fulham were reportedly close to sealing a ÃÂ£7 million deal for him on deadline day, while Liverpool have also been reported to be monitoring his situation.
Despite this, BarriosÃ¢ÂÂ dramatic fall from grace should be taken with a pinch of salt; the hitmanÃ¢ÂÂs goal record proves testament to his class and quality. With a reported asking fee of less than ÃÂ£10 million, it is surprising that other bigger clubs did not make more of an effort to sign the striker, with the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal in need of attacking reinforcements.
The next year is an important one for Barrios, as at 27-years-old he is can ill-afford to spend the bulk of his time getting splinters and losing sharpness on DortmundÃ¢ÂÂs bench. The German champions should not forget BarriosÃ¢ÂÂ heroics in last termÃ¢ÂÂs title charge; given an opportunity he could well play a big part in retaining their mantle as the nationÃ¢ÂÂs top team this season.
With 18 months left on his contract, Jurgen Klopp may well be tempted to sell Barrios this summer if his fringe status continues; if this is the case clubs in England, Italy and Spain should take note.
The old adage that form is temporary and class is permanent applies here, and BarriosÃ¢ÂÂ suitors need only to take heed of the forwardÃ¢ÂÂs tally of 84 goals in the four seasons before this one as an indication of his enduring quality.
One thing is for sure; he is too good not to be playing regular first-team football in a leading European league. Whether that is with Dortmund or not remains to be seen.