Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski broke Gerd Müller's single-season scoring record on Matchday 34. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH
Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski broke Gerd Müller's single-season scoring record on Matchday 34. - © DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga GmbH

How Robert Lewandowski broke Gerd Müller's 40-goal Bundesliga record


Robert Lewandowski set a new Bundesliga single-season goals record on Matchday 34, netting his 41st of the campaign to surpass Gerd Müller's 49-year-old best-mark of 40. How did he do it?

Müller's 1971/72 feat appeared untouchable until Lewandowski came along, and the Poland captain has been edging closer and closer to his Bayern predecessor in recent years.

A sensational run of scoring in each of the campaign's first 11 matches set Lewandowski on his path last term, but he eventually fell six short of Müller's best-mark set almost half a century ago.

Watch: Lewandowski's record-breaking 41st goal of the season!

Lewandowski was nigh-on unstoppable as he helped sweep Bayern to a record-breaking treble, and were it not for injury and suspension depriving him of three Bundesliga appearances, the 32-year-old may well have hit the same heights as Müller last year.

The Pole acknowledged that himself at the end of last season, saying: "I missed three games. Who knows what I could have achieved if I didn't?" He also, however, called it "impossible" to top Müller's efforts, such is the quality of opposition and workload of the modern game, but as coach Hansi Flick summarised: "If anyone can do it, it's him."

In all competitions, Lewandowski's 55 goals from 47 appearances in 2019/20 actually outstripped Müller's 50 from 48 games five decades ago, and in 2020/21 he's once again motoring at a frightening pace when you hold his strikes up against that remarkable 40-goal effort of Der Bomber.

Watch: A tactical look at how Lewy and Müller stack up

It led him to pick up both the UEFA and FIFA Player of the Year awards and secure a fifth Torjägerkanone trophy, which was his third in succession - a treble of Bundesliga top-scorer cannons that only Müller had managed previously.

Lewandowski's penalty against Freiburg on Matchday 33 saw him pull level with Müller on 40 goals in 2020/21, and he has reached that remarkable tally despite missing five games this season. He also started on the bench in the shock 4-1 loss at Hoffenheim in late September - only coming on for the final half-hour.

"He has a fantastic team around him. The team is the key to breaking a record like this from Gerd Müller," said Bayern legend Lothar Matthäus earlier this year. "So, this is my prognosis for 2021, Robert Lewandowski will break the record from Gerd Müller and score more than 40 goals in the Bundesliga."

Müller scored all 365 of his Bundesliga goals in a Bayern shirt between 1964 and 1979. - imago/WEREK

Müller's 23-goal Rückrunde tipped the balance, as did his ability to score in bulk; an area Lewandowski is also measuring up in. The Pole scored more than once on 10 separate occasions in 2020/21, including four against Hertha Berlin on Matchday 3, a hat-trick against Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 5 and another sensational treble against Borussia Dortmund which almost single-handedly earned Bayern Der Klassiker victory.

The Matchday 26 meeting with VfB Stuttgart proved to be an unlucky one for Die Schwaben, as Lewandowski notched his 13th Bundesliga hat-trick - a perfect one, at that - despite Alphonso Davies's dismissal in only the 12th minute.

Müller hit three more hat-tricks - including five in one game against Rot-Weiß Oberhausen - during the second half of 1971/72, but Lewandowski has also been on fire since the midway stage of the season.

Watch: All of Lewandowski's 41 Bundesliga goals in 2020/21

A home meeting with second-bottom Mainz offered a fine first opportunity after the winter break for Lewandowski to score in multiples - one he grabbed, bagging a brace.

That Matchday 24 hat-trick against Dortmund, taking him to 20 goals in 14 league outings against his former club, had set Lewandowski up nicely, though it's a shame for him he missed out on meeting Wolfsburg on Matchday 29. Lewandowski boasts a total of 23 goals in 20 games against the Wolves, including 19 in his last 11.

A brace in the 2-1 victory earlier this season took Lewandowski past 250 Bundesliga goals and made it six doubles against Wolfsburg, while his now legendary five-goal haul of September 2015 blew Müller's aforementioned salvo against Oberhausen out of the water. It took his predecessor 44 minutes.

Watch: Lewandowski's historic five goals in nine minutes Wolfsburg will never be forgotten

Given Lewandowski's Guinness world record-breaking five goals in nine minutes, anything was possible.

It took him until the 90th minute of Bayern's victory at home to Augsburg on Matchday 34, but the striker managed to score his historic 41st of the campaign to round out a 5-2 victory, giving him a minutes-per-goal average of 60 for 2020/21.

Nobody had managed to topple Müller's feat in almost half a century, and now his 365-goal haul as the league's all-time top scorer no longer seems quite so untouchable. And if anyone can do it, it's surely LewanGOALski...