Robert Lewandowski was destined to become a sportsman, but no one could’ve predicted that he would become one of the greatest strikers of his generation.
Born to a mother who played volleyball and a father who was a former judoist, Lewandowski was born into circumstances which aided his course to professionalism. His youth career began at Varsovia Warsaw at a tender age of 9, where he honed his abilities for 7 years. By 2006, the then 18-year-old joined Znicz Pruszków, helping them win promotion to the second division. That same season, he led the Polish third division in goals (15) displaying a clinical nature beyond his youth. The next season, Lewandowski again took home top scorer in the Polish second division, bagging an even more impressive haul of 21 goals. In June 2008, renowned Polish side Lech Poznań signed the teenager for a fee of 1.5 million złotys, the equivalent of about €350K. Sporting Gijón had previously rejected the Polish youngster before he signed a contract with 95-year-old Polish club. He proved his resourcefulness in his debut, a UEFA Cup qualifier versus Khazar Lenkoran, where he netted the only goal of the match. Lewandowski had no trouble finding the back of the net in the first division, coming second in the goal-scoring charts during his first season.
Next season, he transcended his achievements of the previous year, leading Lech Poznań to a league title whilst simultaneously taking home the scoring title with 18 goals. After 2 seasons, Lewandowski departed Poland, joining Borussia Dortmund for €4.5M in June 2010. The Pole began establishing his reputation as a clinical striker during his second season, taking advantage of injuries to gain a spot in the starting XI. Finishing the campaign in Germany’s top league with 22 goals and 6 assists, Lewandowski guided Dortmund to the club’s first league and cup double. Throughout his following years with Dortmund, the striker continued to develop his skills, and cemented himself as one of the best players in the league. In his last two seasons with BVB, he netted 24 goals and 20 goals, respectively. His legacy at Dortmund could best be defined by his Herculean performances for Dortmund in the 2012/13 Champions League. Not even favorites to move on from their group, which included Real Madrid and Manchester City, the German club advanced as undefeated group leaders – with Lewandowski netting 3 goals.
Perhaps his most memorable Dortmund performance came in the first leg of the club’s semifinal against Real Madrid at the Signal Iduna Park, where Lewandowski tore the Madrid defense to shreds and netted an astonishing 4 goals. Although Dortmund fell one step short as Bayern defeated them in the final, Lewandowski had shocked all of Europe, with his unique display of strength, intelligence, and awareness. It was announced in January 2014 that the Polish striker would be joining the Bavarian giants Bayern Munich next season on a free.
His overarching ambition fueled this controversial move, and Dortmund were forced to give up their main striker – who scored 57 goals in 82 games over his last 3 seasons – on a free. His last 3 seasons with the German champions have been fruitful to say the least: Bayern has won the league each of the years he has been with them, and Lewandowski himself has continued to put himself in contention for the title of “the best striker in the world.” The Pole has been paramount to the success of the Bavarian club. Whilst the squad around him has continued to age, Lewandowski has become ever so important to Bayern’s attack and instilled fear into any defense that faces him, due to his dynamic playstyle and tremendous goalscoring record (110 goals in only 147 appearances for Bayern since joining).
Perhaps one of the most well-rounded forwards in the modern game, Lewandowski possesses most of the attributes of a traditional #9: strength, height, pace, and ambidexterity. However, it is some of Lewandowski’s unique traits that place him in the category of elite: his quick feet and excellent technical skills, his superb vision, and his extraordinary positional sense. These traits, along with many other subtle attributes, are why Lewandowski has experienced tremendous success in the Bundesliga. Coming off a 30-goal, Bundesliga-winning season, expectations were high for the Polish striker in the 2016/17 campaign. And, as all world-class players do, he didn’t disappoint. Lewandowski is capable of playing as a lone striker, dropping back to free up space for teammates, running in the half-space, and at holding up the play.
In the 2016/17 Bundesliga season, the 28-year-old striker finished second in the scoring charts behind Gabonese international Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, netting 30 goals in 33 games. He led the league in goal contributions (35) and scored five hat-tricks for club and country across all competitions. The Polish striker also hit his 100th goal for Bayern this season, quite an achievement for a player who only joined in 2014. Beyond the numbers, Lewandowski’s playing style is fascinating to analyze. Not limited by a lack of technical skill, he isn’t merely a one-dimensional poacher; rather, he exhibits a multi-faceted game, adept not only at finding the back of the net, but also threading a pass between the lines to a teammate.
A paradigm of the quintessential no. 9, the Pole excelled at finding the net in a variety of circumstances, whether it be his last-minute, game-winning volley after a chest trap versus Freiburg, or his superb left-footed dink against Ingolstadt. His technicality is graceful for a player of his size, elegantly drifting past defenders with an array of skills he maintains in his arsenal. However, his gracefulness shouldn’t overlook his brute strength, capable of holding of multiple defenders and winning important aerial duels. His vision with his back towards is second to none, summed up by his assist to Thiago in the Champions League.
As the ball was played in, Lewandowski flicked the ball in behind to Thiago, splitting the Arsenal defense with just a slight look over the shoulder. His work ethic is hailed by many, and he is persistent in a dogged-like fashion when he pursues defenders. Lewandowski’s positional awareness is superb, constantly making well-timed runs to be played in on goal or to free up space for a teammate. Sitting on the shoulder of defenders, he often finds the half-space to run into at the perfect time. All the aforementioned assets make Lewandowski the ultimate modern no.9, and for such reasons the Polish striker should be placed in the conversation of the greatest strikers in the world.
By: Brandon Duran/@Alcxntara6