He lit up German football for 12 years after arriving at Borussia Dortmund in 2010, but do you know everything there is to know about the former Bayern Munich goal-getter extraordinaire Robert Lewandowski?
bundesliga.com has 10 gems that may have escaped your notice...
1) Primed for the big stage
Born in Warsaw on 21 August 1988, Lewandowski was given the first name Robert by his parents so that it would be easy for foreigners to pronounce when he became an international star. A little presumptuous, perhaps, but there was certainly plenty of sporting potential in his DNA. His father Krzysztof was a Polish judo champion who also played football for second-division Hutnik Warsaw, while his mother Iwona played professional volleyball - as would older sister Milena. “My husband knew we were going to raise a footballer," Iwona recalled. "That's why he is Robert. Travelling through Europe, Krzysztof witnessed how important it would be to have an internationally recognisable name." Sadly, Lewandowski's father didn't live to see his prediction come true. He died in 2005, three years before his son made a top-flight debut in the Polish Ekstraklasa.
2) From bony to 'The Body'
Lewandowski was small and skinny as a youngster. So much so that when Franciszek Smuda, his coach at Lech Poznan and later Poland, came to scout him, he loudly exclaimed, "A boy with wooden legs? Give me back the money I spent on petrol!" While that was later revealed to be a ploy - to put other clubs off the promising Znicz Pruszkow forward - other coaches also expressed concern about Lewandowski's spindly frame, with one even recommending that he "eat more bacon" to bulk up. The advice, while maybe not followed to the letter, certainly didn't fall on deaf ears. By the time he got to Dortmund the Pole had undergone a physical transformation, and was even nicknamed 'The Body' by teammate Nuri Sahin. "Lewy has the most incredible body - it's just pure muscles," the former Turkey midfielder explained. "It stuns the other players in the changing room." It helps that Lewandowski's wife Anna - a former karate champion - is a prominent sports nutritionist who has advised her husband on his diet and physique.
3) Early impact
Long before his stunning five-goal salvo off the bench against Wolfsburg in September 2015, Lewandowski had shown he had all the makings of a supersub - although most of his coaches quickly realised that he had no business being left out of their starting XIs. In July 2008 the then 19-year-old netted from the bench on his Lech debut, a UEFA Cup qualifier against Khazar Lankaran of Azerbaijan. In August, he needed just four minutes to score with an audacious backheel in his first league appearance against GKS Belchatow, while a month later he grabbed his first international goal for Poland eight minutes after coming on in a World Cup qualifier against San Marino. "I dedicate this goal to my father," Lewandowski said after the game.
Let's go back to that Wolfsburg game. With his Bayern side trailing 1-0 at half-time, Pep Guardiola brought Lewandowski on for Thiago Alcantara, and what followed would earn him no fewer than four Guinness World Records. He netted in the 51st, 52nd, 55th, 57th and 60th minutes, scoring the most goals by a Bundesliga substitute (five), as well as getting the quickest three-goal (3'22"), four-goal (5'42") and five-goal (8'59") hauls in league history. It was one of two career-defining performances for Lewandowski, following his virtuoso display for Dortmund against Real Madrid in April 2013. Against Real he became the first player to score four times in a UEFA Champions League semi-final and truly announced himself on the world stage.
Watch: Lewandowski's incredible five-goal salvo
5) Captain Fantastic
When Poland reached the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, Lewandowski was coping with the disappointment of being released by hometown club Legia Warsaw and preparing for life in the third tier with Znicz. How times change. The Bayern frontman was on scorching form in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, helping his country claim top spot in Group E and finishing the campaign with a new European record of 16 goals. Ever since he was given the captain's armband by coach Adam Nawalka in late 2014, he has become his nation's talisman. Lewandowski equalled David Healy's record of 13 goals in qualifying for UEFA Euro 2016, where he scored two minutes into the quarter-final as Poland were beaten by eventual champions Portugal on penalties. In October 2018, he became the country's all-time leading scorer by reaching 51 goals, and he also fired them to Euro 2022 and the 2022 World Cup. The influential Polish football magazine Pilka Nozna named him Player of the Year for seven years running, and 10 of the past 11. Such is his popularity back home, the residents of southern town Kuznia Raciborska successfully petitioned to name a street in his honour.
6) The volcano that changed everything
Lewandowski might never have played in the Bundesliga at all if it were not for the infamous eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in 2010. Shortly before completing his move to Dortmund, the high-flying Lech striker was invited to visit Blackburn Rovers, with their manager Sam Allardyce even travelling out to Poland to meet him personally. "I thought Allardyce was a good guy, a very good coach," Lewandowski told The Daily Mail. "He was prepared to take a young player who was something new and might be something special."
Watch: Striker Supreme: Robert Lewandowski
Disruption to air travel that spring meant that Lewandowski was unable to fly to the UK, however, and by the time the ash settled he had chosen North Rhine-Westphalia over Lancashire. "The flight was booked but we couldn't leave. Did it change my life? Yeah, maybe! If I'd gone there then perhaps I would have stayed. But then I found out about Dortmund, and that was the next step."
7) The Klopp effect
Lewandowski played for some of the world's best coaches at Bayern - Guardiola, Carlo Ancelotti, Jupp Heynckes, Hansi Flick - but he credits former Dortmund and current Liverpool boss Klopp with moulding him into a true world-class talent. "He was the one who gave me belief," Lewandowski explained.
"In the first three or four months in training, we would have this game, him against the striker, a bet between me and him. In the first few sessions he was always winning - but after that, not so much. It was €50 a game and by the end I had a positive balance! But I saw for the first time how important it was to train. Jürgen Klopp made me the footballer I am. I haven't changed anything at Bayern - I'm just using different weapons in my artillery. But I shaped my career in Dortmund."
8) The Bundesliga goal machine
Having grown up admiring Thierry Henry, Lewandowski was determined to stamp his own identity on the European game after making the switch to the Bundesliga. All the more so after firing Lech to their first Ekstraklasa title in 17 years with a league-leading 18 goals. A little patience was required - he played second fiddle to Lucas Barrios in 2010/11 - but once the Polish marksman began slipping through the gears there was no stopping him. He netted at least 20 goals in his remaining three seasons with BVB before becoming the first player since Gerd Müller to reach the 30-goal mark in back-to-back campaigns with Bayern. In March 2018 he scored his 100th Bundesliga goal for the Bavarians in a 6-0 thrashing of Hamburg, becoming the club's leading non-German scorer in all competitions. It was not long before the all-time scoring record for a foreign player - held by Claudio Pizarro - changed ownership, and in December 2020 Lewandowski broke through the landmark of 250 Bundesliga goals quicker than even the great Müller.
9) A well-stocked trophy cabinet
Since the start of the 2011/12 season, only Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have scored more goals than Lewandowski, which goes some way to explaining why he has almost as many individual trophies to his name as he does team honours. As well as hogging the Player of the Year award in Poland, he finished as the league's top scorer seven times in 12 seasons. Winner of the Bundesliga Torjägerkanone in 2014, 2016, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 he is one of just four players - along with Müller (7), Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (3) and Ulf Kirsten (3) - to have lifted the top scorer's cannon at least three times. He also won eight straight Bundesliga titles with the Bavarian giants - after the two he won with Dortmund - and claimed a domestic cup crown with each of his three top-flight clubs. In August 2020, he was able to add the UEFA Champions League to his trophy cabinet, making up for being on the losing side in his only other final appearance when Bayern edged BVB at Wembley in 2013. Not only that, but he won the Best FIFA Men's Player award in both 2020 and 2021 in recognition of his extraordinary scoring feats.
10) Brains to match the brawn
"Lewandowski is the most professional player I have ever met," Guardiola once said. "He thinks about the right food, sleep and training, 24 hours a day. He's always there, never injured, because he focuses on these things, and he knows what's important to be in the best condition." Like any world-class player, the Poland captain has worked incredibly hard to remain at the peak of his powers instead of simply relying on his natural talent. He clearly has one eye on the future as well, having completed a bachelor's degree in Physical Education the day after Poland secured their place at the 2018 World Cup. Defending a thesis based on his own career, Lewandowski was given the highest possible grade by the marking panel at the Warsaw School of Education in Sport, rounding out a decade of study in style. He is also the co-owner of a successful venture capital fund back in Poland.
All in all, it's been an extremely productive career so far for a man who turns 34 on 21 August 2022. It's a birthday he shares with fellow trailblazers Usain Bolt - the fastest man on the planet - and Wilt Chamberlain - the only basketball player to score 100 points in an NBA game. But in so many ways, Robert Lewandowski stands alone - and he will go down as one of the all-time Bundesliga greats.
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