He has been the runaway top scorer in two different countries and is currently on a ratio of a goal per game in the league, but Bas Dost reported to Netherlands duty this week with the feeling that he still must prove he can put the ball in the net.
"I came here with the idea wanting to damn well show you what I'm worth now,” he told Fox Sports as he arrived hoping to make a good impression on new coach Ronald Koeman in the upcoming games against England and Portugal.
The Sporting CP striker has built on last season’s 34-goal haul in the Primeira Liga to score 23 in as many games this term from just 52 shots and 30 on target, netting back-to-back hat-tricks along the way. Had it not been for injuries, he likely would have even more and be breathing down Mohamed Salah’s neck in the Golden Shoe chart just as he did Lionel Messi’s for most of last year.
Yet, for all his proficiency in Portugal, the 28-year-old has struggled to make an impact on the national team. In 17 caps he has scored just once – in a 3-2 win over Wales in 2015 – and has only started two games since, watching Vincent Janssen and latterly a revitalised Ryan Babel fill the role instead. But a defiant Dost is ready to take his chance should Koeman call upon him as one of two strikers in the squad alongside debutant Wout Weghorst from AZ.
“I am a bit tired of the story that I score so much in Portugal, but I don’t like it in the national team, as is always said by the outside world,” Dost added. “In the beginning of my international career I had a lot of substitute appearances and later I was in the starting XI a few times. So far that has been my time with Oranje.
“I’m very confident and ready to score goals. If you don’t do that as a striker, you will not have done anything worthwhile, that's the way it works."
Dost can count himself a bit unlucky when it comes to his national career. Injuries and the presence of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Robin van Persie prevented him from making his debut until he was almost 26. Netherlands have only plummeted to new depths since then, yet Dost is still to impress in a side that has lacked any organisation for almost four years.
But the biggest hindrance to his quest to make the striker role his own has been a contrast of style. At Sporting, the striker is the focus of the attack and has one key job, in which his height and robustness help make him an expert. Dost stays focused on getting into the box, hustles defenders and relying on his great positioning to feed on crosses, through passes and loose balls.
He is hardly lazy or immobile, just a specialist. Teams like Heerenveen and Sporting, who have played to his strengths as a No.9, have benefited immensely from his style, but with Netherlands, where he is expected to become more involved in the build-up and bring other star forwards into attacks, his situation resembles more of his Wolfsburg struggles. Even the German side showed they could bring out good spells from him, however, seeing him go on a run of 12 goals in seven Bundesliga games.
In the two weeks leading up to his arrival for national-team duty, he recovered from an injury to fire Jorge Jesus’ side to consecutive victories with goals that were classic Dost. Within six minutes of his introduction from the bench against Chaves, the Dutchman put his side in the lead when he was well positioned at the back post to rise above the defender and win the header. He went on to consolidate the win late on as Rodrigo Battaglia’s square pass at the end of a neat dribble left him with a simple finish.
Against Rio Ave, as Sporting dallied around the box, Dost managed to find space between two defenders on the six-yard line to divert it beyond the goalkeeper, having previously set up Gelson Martins for the opener with a backheel.
He now has an incredible 66 goals in 80 games for Sporting, notching 57 in 54 in the league alone, making him a near miraculous presence in his new country.
And Jesus said unto reporters: “He is a top-class finisher in the area, there are not many players like him.” But if Dost has delivered goals by the basket-load to convert those in Portugal to a strong belief in his miraculous talent, the multitude in his homeland are yet to be satisfied despite witnessing his chart-topping 32-goal season for Heerenveen in 2011-12.
After the departure of their most important star, Arjen Robben, Netherlands are desperate for a new attacking shepherd to emerge and lead them to confidence-boosting wins as they look to claw their way out of a disastrous situation.
The younger forwards Memphis Depay, Quincy Promes and Janssen still seem far away from assuming the role as the next messiah, but as one of the oldest in the squad, Dost can prove to Koeman that he can be relied upon to hit the net regularly. If he can replicate some of those Primeira Liga heroics against England and Portugal, the Dutch may finally embrace the Dost Gospel.