An ode to Robert Lewandowski – the greatest striker the Prem never had

Date published: Tuesday 31st December 2019 5:16

Robert Lewandowski is quite simply a phenomenon – a goalscoring freak of nature who deserves to be regarded among the very best. But why doesn’t he get the recognition he deserves? Dave Tindall investigates…..

 

A trip back in time to Robert Lewandowski’s early life reveals a story that his parents – mother Iwona and father Krzysztof – decided on the name ‘Robert’ as it would be easy for foreigners to pronounce when he became famous.

 

“My husband knew we were going to raise a footballer. That’s why he is Robert,” explained Iwona. “Travelling through Europe, Krzysztof witnessed how important it would be to have an internationally recognisable name.”

Such a move may come across as slightly presumptuous but both parents were athletes themselves so realised their son came from strong sporting stock.

It’s a nice tale and clearly worked out well but imagine if they’d added an ‘o’ on the end and made up a backstory than the family were Brazilian.

Robert Lewandowski is a very famous and well-lauded footballer. But for one whose goalscoring feats are so astonishing, does the praise go far enough? Would it be different if he came from a traditional football superpower such as Brazil rather than a European middleweight like Poland?

After his fantastic first season at Liverpool, Mo Salah was being talked of as the one who could break the Ronaldo-Messi duopoly at the top of the footballing tree. But while he had some nice tricks and scored a few beauties, the thing that thrust Salah forward to be mentioned in the same breath was his sheer weight of goals.

Salah scored 45 goals in 53 appearances for Liverpool in that stunning debut campaign. The numbers dropped off in his second season although he still shared the Premier League’s Golden Boot.

Getting to 20 is impressive, 30 is magnificent while banging in 40 or above is in very, very elite territory.

And yet, Lewandowski does this year on year. After peaking with 36 at Borussia Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp – “he (Klopp) released that striker’s instinct in me,” Lewandowski once said. “I didn’t know that I still had so much potential inside of me. He saw something in me that I couldn’t see” – he’s reached the 40-goal mark domestically every season since 2015-2016.

 

The No. 9 scored 42 in that campaign, 42 the following season, 41 in 2017-2018 and 40 in 2018-19.

To do that four seasons running is extraordinary and also a tribute to his durability in a sport where so many in his position – think Harry Kane and Sergio Aguero – pick up injuries.

But, remarkably, despite the miles in those 31-year-old legs, he’s getting even better! It’s only just gone Christmas and Lewandowski has already smashed in 30 goals this season, 19 in the Bundesliga, one in the cup and 10 in the Champions League.

If you want to make those comparisons, that’s twice as many as Messi, seven more than Ronaldo and 17 more than Salah!

So, again, why do we not revere this goalscoring machine even more?

Could it be style? Roy Keane was once described as the most straightforward footballer to achieve world-class status. Keane didn’t have an astonishing turn of pace or possess mazy dribbing skills but he was absolutely worth his weight in gold.

Perhaps Lewandowski is along the same lines. He’s quick but not gazelle-like and won’t beat five men to score a goal. Watch highlight reels of his goals and it’s left foot, right, foot, header (lots of headers).

A first-time shot, or control, shift, hit. An economy of effort. Making the hardest and most important thing in the game – putting the ball in the back of the net – look ridiculously simple.

Darren Fletcher’s commentary on his wonderfully-taken goal in Bayern’s 7-2 romp against Spurs earlier this season definitely hits the nail on the head.

“Lewandowski, oh that’s brilliant. That is sensational. Looks so simple but was so effective. The one-touch finish from Lewandowski was world class.”

“Just passes it into the corner,” adds co-commentator Glenn Hoddle.

There does exist a ‘Robert Lewandowski – Magical Skills & Goals’ montage on YouTube but the tricks and flicks come across as more a means to an end. The art for Robert Lewandowki is scoring a goal; not trying something indulgent near the touchline that makes a showreel.

So what might it take for Poland’s most famous footballer to take the next step into mega, mega superstar status?

One way could be doubling his current tally of 30 goals to 60. Don’t put it past him. Or how about firing home a hat-trick in a Champions League final?

Bayern are a huge club but what would a move to Real Madrid do to his profile? It’s one that’s been mooted for some time. Lewandowski made a deep impression on the Spanish giants when blasting home all four goals in Borussia Dortmund’s 4-1 first leg win over Jose Mourinho’s Real in 2013. It hasn’t been forgotten.

And it remains an intriguing prospect as to just what damage he could he do on these shores. Surely he’d be a sensation in the Premier League.

The English top-flight is blessed with some great strikers but, on the assumption that he’d be playing for one of the top sides, the name R Lewandowski would surely be priced up as the favourite in every bookies’ Golden Boot betting.

As for the man himself, he has a message as clear and chilling as his finishing.

“I’ve worked very hard to get into this form,” Lewandowski told Germany’s Sport Bild publication recently. “Things are going perfectly right now and my body feels good. It’s good to have that in the back of your mind, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop there: I want to get even better.

“I know when I can do more and when I have to ease off a bit. My passport might say that I’m 31, but I don’t feel my age. I’m only just coming into my prime and hopefully, it’ll last few a few more years. The best is still to come.”

After never even making the top three in the Ballon d’Or awards, could 2020 finally be the year when Lewandowski gets the recognition his extraordinary feats deserve?

While you mull that… a reminder of some of his goalscoring records:

This season

Ibrahima Konate

He’s scored his 30 goals in just 25 games.

Lewandowski has averaged a goal for every 66.1 minutes on the pitch.

This is the seventh season in which Lewandowski has scored 30 club goals.

He’s scored hat-tricks in three different competitions: v Schalke in the league, v Red Star Belgrade in the Champions League and for Poland against Latvia in Euro 2020 qualification. All came away from home.

Since the beginning of 2019, Lewandowski has scored 48 goals in 48 games

All-time Bundesliga records

Fastest hat-trick: 3 mins 22 seconds

Fastest four-goal haul: 5 mins 42 seconds

Fastest five-goal haul: 8 mins 59 seconds

Most goals by a substitute: 5

Fastest foreigner to reach 100 goals (168 games)

International records

Robert Lewandowski: Scored twice for Poland

Most goals scored in a single Euro qualification campaign: Euro 2016 – 13

Most goals scored in a single FIFA World Cup qualification campaign: 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification – 16

 

By Dave Tindall – follow him on Twitter

 

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