Currently touted as “the best striker in the world”, and despite having a fantastic career, Robert Lewandowski has yet to be ever named as the finest player on the planet. In 2021, together with past champions Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the 33-year-old Polish International has been nominated as one of the 30 nominees on this year’s shortlist and, for the second time ever, and many would say he stands the best chance of winning it.
But how much of a difference has Lewandowski made to be touted as the best above the rest?
Goalscoring begins at home
“When I was a kid, I did many sports. Judo, like my dad, but also volleyball, handball, and gymnastics. We never played much football.”Robert Lewandowski
Before making the big move to Germany – a place where he now ‘rules’ in the art of goalscoring – Lewandowski started off by playing for the local club, Partyzant Leszno as a teen in his home country, Poland. He then proceeded to MKS Varsovia Warsaw, where he played for another seven years and then went to 4th tier side Delta Warsaw the following year. A goal poacher was ready to poach.
In his first-ever season as a first-team player, Lewandowski rewarded Delta Warsaw for including him in their first squad by scoring four goals before the conclusion of the season. He upped his tally to 15 the next season, after moving to Znicz Pruszków – thereby helping them win the Polish third division and finishing as the third division’s top goalscorer at only 19.
Lewandowski from there on, treated top scorer awards as his birthright, winning it in the Polish second-highest division after gaining promotion with Znicz, and then again two seasons later, but in the Polish top division – Ekstraklasa – with his new club Lech Poznań.
At this point, it was difficult to stay under the radar anymore. Staying under the radar wasn’t even Lewandowski’s intention because his goals were crucial ingredients to helping Znicz and Lech Poznan in their promotion-winning and title-winning seasons respectively. Soon enough, sharks from across Europe had begun to settle around Poland. Blackburn Rovers from the English Premier League, Genoa from the Italian Serie A, but eventually it was Borussia Dortmund to win the race for his signature in 2010.
A King In Germany
“I want to be a better player, and there is no other way of showing it than on the pitch. It is not a question of which team I play for.”– Robert Lewandowski
For four years in Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region, Lewandowski was the talismanic figure for Bundesliga giants Borussia Dortmund, scoring 103 goals in 183 appearances for BVB.
Most of his goals, helping Dortmund to a league double in 2011 and 2012, the DFB Pokal in 2012, and a fairytale run to the final of the UEFA Champions League in 2013 – a final they lost to their German rivals Bayern Munich. By the end of his time at Dortmund, Lewandowski had not just built a reputation as one of the most fearsome frontmen in Europe but had also been named the Polish Footballer of the Year four times in a row.
Bayern came calling at the end of 2013-2014 and all hell was let loose. Lewandowski scored so many goals for Bayern, so much that he was awarded four certificates by the Guinness World Records in only his second season after setting Bundesliga records for the fastest hat-trick (three goals in four minutes), most goals scored by a substitute (five) and the fastest five goals scored in any major European football league (five goals in nine minutes).
He had graduated from just finishing as a top scorer, or winning league titles, or being named yearly as Poland’s player of the year to setting World-renowned records.
By 2020, Lewandowski had not just gotten consecutive Golden boots (Torjägerkanone) and the all-time foreign Bundesliga goalscorer records, but also numerous Bundesliga, UEFA Champions League, DFB-Pokal, DFL-Supercup and Polish awards.
Germany to the World
“Bayern is one of the best teams in the world – on a par with Real Madrid and Barcelona. A move to Barca or Real wouldn’t have been a step up for me.”– Robert Lewandowski
At this point, he was no longer in the conversation of the best player in Germany. It was unarguable. He was the best player in all of Germany’s leagues, and possibly the best to have ever played in Germany. He was clear above the rest and was now competing for the position of the best player in the World.
2020 should have been his year, the year to be crowned the best player in the world. So much so that he received a personal record of 34 award recognitions from various sports organisations (including The Best FIFA Men’s Player of 2020) in that single year alone. Sadly, an extraordinary year for Lewandowski was also extraordinary for the world who had to scamper for safety, shutting down all kinds of activities to avoid a massive spread of the coronavirus.
But despite the shutdown which also saw football come to a halt for months, most news and sports organizations felt the cancellation of the 2020 Ballon d’Or – the award for the best player in the World – was unfair on Lewandowski. But the now 33-year-old Polish national team captain had other plans. He was not giving up the fight to be the best above the rest.
“I motivate myself by the desire to win more trophies.”– Robert Lewandowski.
A year later, a list of 30 footballers is released for the awarding of the best footballer in the world. A recognizable Polish name – Lewandowski – nominated yet again.