The Fairy Tale of Robert Lewandowski

Gerd Mueller’s record finally broke. It took 49 years for someone to surpass his 40 goals in a single Bundesliga season. Robert Lewandowski, the Polish striker who turned 32 this season, broke the record on 22 May. Lewandowski now holds the most goals in the Bundesliga. He scored 41 goals in 29 games in 2020/21.

When he was over the age of three, Lewandowski actually had the best episode of his career. Last season, he won everything with Bayern Munich. This season, he broke Mueller’s “absurd” record and won the Torjagerkanone four times in a row. The last two seasons have been the most fertile season for the former Lech Poznan striker.

Breaking Mueller’s record is the pinnacle of his individual achievements so far. It’s just too hard to get close to it. The proof, this record has stood for almost half a century. Since 1971/72, when Mueller set a goalscoring record, no player — except for Lewandowski (2019/20), Dieter Mueller (1976/77), and Gerd Mueller himself (1972/73 — has come close to that record.

In fact, breaking the 30-goal Bundesliga limit in a season is very difficult for a striker. Only four players besides Gerd Mueller have scored 30 goals or more in a Bundesliga season since 1972. They are Jupp Heynckes, Dieter Mueller, Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

This confirms how legendary Gerd Mueller is. He was like a myth, nailing boundaries that seemed impossible for anyone to cross—until then Lewandowski came along. The former Dortmund striker is the only player who is expected to break this record. Although the Bundesliga knows sharp strikers like Karl-Heinz Rummennige, Miroslav Klose, to Claudio Pizarro, no one really invites talk about Der Bomber’s record until Lewandowski was managed by Hansi Flick.

“He [Lewandowski] has a fantastic team around him. That team was the key to breaking Gerd Mueller’s record. So, this is my prediction for 2021, Robert Lewandowski will break Gerd Mueller’s record and score more than 40 goals in the Bundesliga,” said Bayern legend Lothar Matthaeus at the start of the year.

Matthaeus dares to say so because Lewandowski continues to display his outstanding goal-scoring prowess. Last season, he was brilliant from the start of the season. The striker who grew up in Warsaw has scored 16 goals in his first 11 matches. However, he then missed three matches due to injury and card accumulation. Lewandowski ended 2019/20 with a record 34 Bundesliga goals, six fewer than the target. “I missed three games [in 2019/20]. Who knows what I can do if I don’t miss it?” said Robert Lewandowski at the end of last season.

This season, Lewandowski’s mission was also threatened by injury. He suffered a knee injury which ruled him out of four games in April, against RB Leipzig, Union Berlin, VfL Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen. Previously, the player had missed one Bundesliga match, being rested when his team faced FC Koeln in the first round.

The injury certainly disappointed Lewandowski. He had scored 35 Bundesliga goals by the April international break; when the ligaments in his right knee were injured. After working hard all season, Lewy is in danger of failing as he was in 2019/20. Reflecting on last season, missing a few matches was a crucial reason for his failure, becoming a nuance between milestones and painful assumptions.

However, the player’s unyielding attitude finally brought relief. After returning to the grass field, fate seemed to be on his side. Lewandowski completed the mission in a very dramatic way. Compared to reality, the story of reaching the milestone is more like Captain Tsubasa’s script.

Lewandowski immediately stepped on the gas after returning from injury. He returned to play at Spieltag 31 when his team visited Mainz 05. Die Nullfuenfer, needing points to stay away from the relegation zone, performed solidly against Bayern. They even won 2-0 until injury time.

Mainz’s defense is impassable. Entering the fourth minute of injury time, Hansi Flick’s team had certainly lost and threatened to go home without a goal. However, as fate had determined, Lewandowski suddenly scored.

Suddenly because, first, he was difficult to get a chance in the match. Lewandowski only made two shots against Robin Zentner throughout the match. Second, the chance to score in the last minute occurred due to an unexpected mistake, an unforced mistake. Alexander Hack tried to sweep the bait into the Mainz penalty box. No Bayern player tried to oppose him in aerial duels. Neither player was close enough to immediately snatch the ball from him. However, Hack actually did a weak header back. His intention was to pass the goalkeeper, but his pass was too weak. Lewandowski immediately headed the ball and scored goals easily.

The goal against Mainz was Lewandowski’s 36th goal. With four games remaining, he needs four goals to equal Mueller’s record. He averages one goal per 60 minutes and at this point Matthaeus’ prediction at the start of the season makes sense.

At Spieltag 32, Lewandowski scored a hat-trick against Borussia Moenchengladbach. He scored 39 goals before facing SC Freiburg at Spieltag 33. He then scored one goal via the penalty spot against Breisgau-Brasilianer. Gerd Mueller’s record was matched on May 15, 2021.

In the last match, he had a chance to surpass that record. The match against FC Augsburg at the Allianz Arena was Lewandowski’s final opportunity. This match was marked by a rain of goals and Bayern Munich winning 4-0 in the first half. However, the Polish national team’s top scorer did not get a goal score. Unlike his colleagues, he actually found it difficult to score throughout the 90 minutes against Augsburg.

Lewandowski’s compatriot Rafal Gikiewicz doesn’t care about his record. Although the Polish keeper conceded four goals in the first half, he was brilliant at keeping out Lewandowski’s effort. Gikiewicz quickly saved four of Lewandowski’s shots: three from close range and one free-kick. Once defeating Gikiewicz, Lewandoswki’s effort was blocked by Marek Suchy.

At the Allianz Arena, time was running out and Lewandowski couldn’t find his goal. The long-awaited moment only came in the 90th minute. Leroy Sane tried a long-range shot which was denied by the goalkeeper. The rebound was then contested by Lewandowski and Gikiewicz. This time, the striker was a fraction of a second faster than him. Lewandowski dodged the ball from the goalkeeper’s catch and scored the much-anticipated goal. He broke Gerd Mueller’s record with a last-ditch effort in the final game. A very dramatic moment.

“I am really at a loss for words to describe this. When you try for 90 minutes to score a goal, and it doesn’t happen, and then with the last shot of the game you score, it’s amazing. I am very happy. This is definitely a highlight of my career,” said Lewandoski after the game.

Now, he is no longer burdened with assumptions. The Bomber, Gerd Mueller was officially coup by Lewandowski in the final minutes of 2020/21. In 2020 he won everything and this year completed a great personal achievement. 2021 is the annus mirabilis for Robert Lewandowski, a year of magic, a historic year.

He really deserves to be equated with Gerd Mueller. They are complete strikers who play an important role in team play. In terms of the strikers’ primary currency, namely goals, the two are on equal footing. If you look at the achievements in 1971/72 and 2020/21, respectively, Lewandowski can even be said to be better than Mueller.

While scoring 40 goals, Mueller was undisturbed by injury, playing all 34 of Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga games. Lewandowski has missed five times this season. Lewandowski is averaging one goal per 60 minutes, Mueller one goal per 76.5 minutes. Lewandowski’s success this season seems like a miracle. However, we must not forget that this is a combination of hard work in training sessions, willingness to learn and gain experience from each match, as well as a well-maintained lifestyle.

Robert Lewandowski, tactically, fits in very well in Hansi Flick’s scheme. He is actively involved in attack sequences, is willing to work on the first pressing line, and is good at opening/finding shooting space. His presence complements the explosive potential of Kingsley Coman, Leroy Sane, and Serge Gnabry; and the vision and intelligence of Thomas Mueller and Joshua Kimmich. It’s no exaggeration if Flick calls it “the world’s best no.9”.

Of his 41 goals in the 2020/21 Bundesliga, only three have been scored from outside the box and eight from the penalty spot. A total of 30 goals were scored from inside the penalty box through open play situations. This shows how sharp Lewandowski is in opening/finding shooting space. This ability is coupled with a capable solution technique.

Robert Lewandowski has come a long way to becoming a world-class striker. He is a self-aware athlete; always maintain diet, nutritional intake, and sleep quality. From a young age, he was accustomed to maintaining strict physical fitness. When he was still playing in the youth team, Lewandowski had a thin body. This makes him underestimated. Krzysztof Sikorski, Lewandowski’s coach when he played in the Varsovia Warsaw youth team, recalled how the player’s posture was not suitable for being a professional footballer.

“His legs are very thin; I kept pushing him to gain weight and eat more bacon sandwiches. However, that didn’t stop him from being a prolific goalscorer. I remember one season we scored 158 goals, and he scored half of them,” Sikorski said. A awake diet made Lewandowski get the ideal body posture. Looking at his physique now, it’s hard to imagine that the player used to be too skinny.

In addition, Lewandowski continues to work hard to perfect the individual game. The talent for scoring goals has been in him since he was young. However, in order to embody that talent in real games, from the lower divisions of Poland to the top levels of German football, he managed to raise the technical qualities required.

Lewandowski is not easily satisfied. He is a professional athlete who never forgets himself. Now, having developed every aspect of the game to an extraordinary degree, and having attained the ideal posture of an athlete; he keeps forging himself and maintains a strict fitness. A well-maintained lifestyle is the key to Lewandowski’s long-lasting performance. Next August he will be 33 years old. However, the player shows no signs of declining and remains the no. 9 best in the world.

His contract with Bayern will expire in 2023. If Lewandowski can maintain his physical condition and level of play until that year, die Roten will certainly want to extend his tenure. Lewandowski himself is still peeking at a number of achievements to assert himself as the best Bundesliga striker of all time. He has won the Torjagerkanone six times, one behind Gerd Mueller who holds the record for most seasonally top scorers (7).

In the Bundesliga’s all-time top scorer list, Lewandowski still lost to Mueller. Der Bomber scored 365 goals from 427 matches. Currently, Lewandwoski has scored 277 goals in 350 games. After surpassing Gerd Mueller’s record of 40 goals, can Lewandowski break the two achievements above? Given the seriousness of the player in keeping fit and training, Lewandowski can certainly still play for a long time and as such, can still achieve a lot.


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