Underappreciated Lewandowski ageing like Ronaldo

first_imgJust six months after finding himself on the losing side in the 2013 Champions League final, Borussia Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski revealed that he had agreed to join Bayern Munich on a free transfer.The Polish frontman had played a pivotal role in Jurgen Klopp’s side reaching Wembley by becoming the first player to score four goals in a Champions League semi-final – against Real Madrid, no less.However, Dortmund were ultimately defeated in the tournament decider in London by Bayern, the same side that had consigned them to second place in the Bundesliga and eliminated them on the way to completing a historic treble by winning the DFB-Pokal. Article continues below Editors’ Picks What is Manchester United’s ownership situation and how would Kevin Glazer’s sale of shares affect the club? Ox-rated! Dream night in Genk for Liverpool ace after injury nightmare Messi a man for all Champions League seasons – but will this really be Barcelona’s? Are Chelsea this season’s Ajax? Super-subs Batshuayi & Pulisic show Blues can dare to dream Since moving to Bavaria, Lewandowski has won the Bundesliga title every single year and lifted the top scorer trophy on three occasions.However, he has never got as close to winning the Champions League as he did with Dortmund.Bayern have reached the semi-finals three times during the Lewandowski era, losing to Spanish opposition in each of those ties, as well as losing a quarter-final clash with the eventual winners in 2016-17, Real Madrid.Last season, they were also knocked out by the side that went to win the tournament outright, Liverpool, but their limp last-16 exit only cast further doubt on Bayern’s ability to compete with the very best teams in Europe.After the decisive second-leg loss at the Allianz Arena, Lewandowski hit out at coach Niko Kovac’s tactics, which had left the centre-forward isolated and frustrated in attack, unable to add to his record of 53 Champions League goals in 80 appearances.That figure puts him sixth in the all-time top scorer list for both European Cup and Champions League, just three goals behind Ruud van Nistelrooy, whom he should overtake this season.That will leave just Karim Benzema (60 goals), Raul (71), Lionel Messi (112) and Cristiano Ronaldo (126) ahead of Lewandowski in the all-time list.All four of those players above the Pole have won the competition multiple times, which appears to be why Lewandowski is rarely mentioned in the same breath as his rivals.The chances of Lewandowski moving up to fifth in the all-time rankings are very high, though, especially if he continues his scoring ratio of 0.66 goals per game in the tournament.He turned 31 in August, but has shown no sign of slowing down, scoring all five of Bayern Munich’s goals in their first two games of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season.Like Champions League topscorer Ronaldo, Lewandowski has adapted his game and even improved his all-round performance as he has aged.Whereas other clubs rely on multiple options at striker, Bayern have not recruited an experienced backup for the Poland international, with Jann-Fiete Arp signed this summer but utilised on the wing in pre-season, such is the faith in Lewandowski’s fitness and ability.In 2018-19, his improved all-round game was illustrated by the fact that he provided 10 assists on top of his 22 league goals; he had created just two goals the season before.GFX Coutinho on LewandowskiLewandowski’s influence, then, is only growing, meaning he will be even more important to Bayern’s upcoming bid to win a sixth European Cup.The Bavarians have signed Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic in the past few weeks and these attacking additions should provide them with the kind of creativity that was so conspicuous by its absence against Liverpool last season.Barcelona loanee Coutinho is certainly looking forward to working with Lewandowski, admitting that he has already been blown away by the 31-year-old’s quality and work ethic.“He’s incredible, just world-class,” Coutinho told reporters after the 3-0 win at Schalke at the weekend. “It’s incredible, the way he trains.”I’ve been here a week and watching him up close he’s so much better than you think on TV. He had a great game, a great hat-trick and he deserves it.”Indeed, Lewandowski is essentially reaping the rewards of a relentless, Ronaldo-esque pursuit of perfection, which unsurprisingly endeared him to former Bayern boss Pep Guardiola, a coach who always demands the very highest standards from his players.”He is the most professional player I have ever met,” the Catalan said in 2016. “In his head, he thinks about the right food, sleep and training 24 hours a day.”He is always there, never injured, because he focuses on these things. I was always very, very pleased with him, from the first moment.”Zurücklehnen und genießen! 😍@lewy_official #FCBayern #MiaSanMia pic.twitter.com/3PfkwHqSVC— FC Bayern München (@FCBayern) August 27, 2019With athletes like Ronaldo and NFL superstar Tom Brady still putting in peak performances late in their careers, Lewandowski has followed a similar path thanks to a personalised nutrition plan designed by his wife, karate champion and fitness expert Anna Lewandowska.The footballer has cut sweets and chocolate out of his diet as well, as alcohol and cow’s milk, and sometimes finds steak tartare on his daily breakfast menu.”I write his nutrition plans. I have deleted dairy products from the diet, as well as gluten,” Lewandowska told Fit and Fun. “Depending on the training phase, there is porridge made from millet or protein in the form of tartare for breakfast. Otherwise a lot of seafood and fish. We love pumpkin noodles.”Former Poland manager Adam Nawalka saw Lewandowski single-handedly take the team to the 2018 World Cup, with 16 goals in qualifying, a new European record. In total, he has 57 international goals in 106 games – only one active European has more: Cristiano Ronaldo.”He’s the best striker in the world,” Nawalka said last year. “He’s always developing and making progress and I don’t believe there’s anyone who can stop him.”Lewandowski is a long way away from Ronaldo’s 126 Champions League goals, and will find it difficult to add that trophy to his collection, but this season he will move into the top five European Cup goalscorers of all time and finally get the appreciation he deserves as one of the world’s best strikers.last_img

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