Poland's prodigal son
- Robert Lewandowski is the undisputed number one striker in Borussia Dortmund's most successful team in a generation
- After scoring 22 Bundesliga goals last season, the Polish international has another ten this term, including away at Hannover 96 on Matchday 7
- With teammates at club and international level Lukasz Piszczek (m.) and Jakub Blaszczykowski (r.), Lewandowski (l.) is part of a fearsome trio of Polish talent at BVB
- And with Germany starlets Marco Reus and Mario Götze behind him, the Polish international looks set to fill his boots yet again this season
Munich - He learns acrobatics from his karate-loving girlfriend, was christened "the body" by Nuri Sahin and is essential to Borussia Dortmund's hopes of defending their Bundesliga title. What truly sets Robert Lewandowski apart, however, is his deadliness in front of goal,with either foot or in the air.
There's certainly more than meets the eye when it comes to Dortmund's top goalscorer, so bundesliga.com has put together ten of the lesser-known facts pertaining to the undisputed leader of the BVB attack.
Sport runs in Lewandowski's blood. His father Krystof was a Polish judo champion and played second division football, while mother Iwona became a professional volleyball player, a career path that sister Milena also followed in. That their son would reach the upper echelons of world sport, creating a furore on the international scene as well as in his native Poland, was something Lewandowski's Warsaw-based parents believed in very early on. In order to help foreign journalists and fans avoid tongue-twisters such as Andrzej or Grzegorz, his parents took the early precaution of calling him Robert.
One man's loss is another man's gain
"He doesn't fit into our philosophy. For us it's only a question of whether he's on the bench." Legia Warsaw head coach Jan Urban's belief that the young Polish star was not good enough is perhaps the biggest mistake of his career. Lewandowski went on to strike success with third, (and subsequently second) division side Znicz Pruszkow, before joining Legia's league rivals Lech Poznan, where his inevitable ascent continued. For Poznan he scored 32 goals in 58 appearances, and earned himself the honour of becoming top goalscorer in all of Poland's top three divisions. Lech's owner Jacek Rutkowski was reluctant to let Lewandowski go in the summer of 2010, but had to admit at the time: "He's simply too good for the Polish league."
Change in fortunes
It was "the most difficult transfer that we've ever put together," but at the same time brought in "the most exciting Polish player of the last ten or 15 years," said Dortmund boss Jürgen Klopp of the Pole's arrival at Signal Iduna Park. Unfortunately for the right-footed Lewandowski, he first had to make do with being back-up to Lucas Barrios. The new signing, who scored eight goals in his first season was quickly branded as a wasteful striker, but often made an impact off the bench and was the second highest scoring substitute in the league. Since scoring in the 2-0 win over 1. FC Nuremberg that secured the Bundesliga title for Borussia in 2011, he has gone from strength to strength, evidenced by his central role in last season's double triumph.
Lucky in love
In his home country Lewandowski is a superstar, as proven by his appearance on the cover of the computer game 'FIFA 10' and his Polish Footballer of the Year award in 2011. The tabloids can often be found chasing down the striker and his attractive girlfriend, karate fighter Anna Stachurska. "We're not the Polish version of the Beckhams," stated Lewandowski in an interview with "Bild." Anna's training sessions have seen the target man pick up a few acrobatic moves, though, such as the bicycle kick he scored in his first friendly for Dortmund. Despite that demonstration of his kicking ability, however, Lewandowski admits: "I'll never get on the karate mat with Anna. Her reflexes are too good."
His settling in period at BVB was made a lot easier by two fellow countrymen. "Lolek and Bolek" (heroes from a Polish comic book series) is the affectionate way in which Jürgen Klopp refers to the right-sided dynamic duo of Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Blaszczykowski, who both took Lewandowski under their wing. Piszczek was the only first-team regular when Lewandowski joined, but the 'Polish axis' was one of Borussia's greatest assets last season, and have been in equally good form in the current season. "In terms of their effectiveness, they are always operating at 100 per cent. I'm a big fan of those types of players," is the type of praise that boss Klopp regularly hands out to them.
At first it looked like he couldn't buy a goal; now he's not only a permanent fixture in Dortmund's starting line-up but also their number one striker. Scoring 30 goals and assisting a further eleven in all competitions, Lewandowski had a hand in more goals than any of his teammates last season, a fact which surely contributed to bundesliga.com users electing him as the best player of the campaign. This term he has picked up where he left off, scoring ten and assisting three in his 16 league appearances so far this season. He is well on course to beat last season's tally of 22 Bundesliga strikes.
It's not just for reigning champions Dortmund that Lewandowski operates as the lone striker. He performs the same role in the Polish national team. After scoring on his senior international debut in September 2008, the 24-year-old has gone on to make 50 appearances, scoring 15 times in the process. German football fans will remember him scoring the first goal in a 2-2 draw against their team in the inaugural match inside Gdansk's European Championship stadium. Yet his greatest moment on the international stage came this summer, when he netted the opening goal of UEFA Euro 2012 in the National Stadium in Warsaw in a game that Poland drew 1-1 against former European Championship winners Greece.
Former Dortmund star Nuri Sahin's nickname for Lewandowski was "the body." "He's got an incredibly muscular body that astonished the whole squad," explained the Turkey international. In actual fact, Lewandowski's teammates were not to be the only ones exposed to the 24-year-old's water board stomach. He also decided to post a picture of himself looking very proud on his Facebook page. At the very least it proves to anyone that has seen the evidence that Dortmund's no. 9 is more than worthy of the nickname given to him by his erstwhile colleague.
On both ends of the stick
Lewandowski's incredible physique not only provides a benefit for the striker when he's battling for position up front, but also when he comes back to help out with defensive duties. The Pole made 1,045 challenges last season and as a result was the Dortmund player to have committed the most fouls. Lewandowski has also gone in unfairly on his opponents 33 times in the current campaign. However, if you dish it out, you've got to be able to take it back in return, and that's something the striker does very well, considering he has been upended 31 times himself.
The top scorer for Dortmund's double-winning side is a man in demand, and not just on the football pitch. In March 2012, he was meant to make an appearance on the TV programme "aktuelle Sportstudio" after his side's win against Werder Bremen. The striker was on his way to the studio but never arrived after a bridge on the A45 had been torn down. Lewandowski was left stranded and when an attempt to pick him up in with a helicopter failed, the Polish international decided to turn around, watch the show from the comfort of his own home and reschedule his appearance.