At nearly 32, Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski believes the best period of his career is still to come. - © imago
At nearly 32, Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski believes the best period of his career is still to come. - © imago
bundesliga

Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski: "The best period of my career is still to come"

Robert Lewandowski has won eight Bundesliga titles, is the league's all-time leading foreign-born goalgetter, and looks set to finish atop the German top-flight's scoring chart for the fifth time, but the Bayern Munich icon believes "the best period of my career is just around the corner".

Lewandowski turns 32 in August, but the Poland international has no intention of slowing down, and why should he? With two games of the 2019/20 campaign left, he has equalled ex-Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's single-season record of 31 league goals for a foreign-born player.

He did that by setting the seal on Bayern's eighth successive league title win against Werder Bremen on Matchday 32, and with games against Freiburg and Wolfsburg still to come, Lewandowski will be hopeful of not only securing the Torjägerkanone once again, but also of wiping Auba's name from the Bundesliga history books.

Watch: Lewandowski wraps up title number eight for Bayern

And while he could comfortably lay down and rest peacefully on a thick wad of laurels, Lewandowski, whose current Bayern deal runs until 2023, told France Football magazine he is nowhere near finished yet. In fact, he is not even at his peak!

"Hmm… not yet! Soon," said Lewandowski when asked if he was enjoying the best period of his career. "But all that's only a question of numbers. I'm convinced that the best period of my career is just around the corner. I know that this won't be my last contract. I want to play longer and stay in shape. I've got plenty of time to think about what comes next, but I feel really good.

"I'll be 32 in August, but that doesn't mean I feel 32! For me, age has no importance in terms of everything that I do, of my involvement in football and my life away from it. I don't just want to stay at the top of my game for the next two or three seasons, I'm looking more long-term than that."

While most players are in their early 30s are staring at the worrying prospect of the end of their careers, Lewandowski can justifiably look ahead to a future where he continues to be the biggest menace to Bundesliga defences.

In eight seasons in Germany since joining Dortmund from Lech Poznan in 2010, he has missed just 19 league games. The childhood influence of his sports-mad parents and that of his wife and nutrition expert, Anna, over the last decade have been the decisive factors in keeping him sharp and in shape.

"I can't tell you everything, it's part of the secret! [laughs] I was a very sporty kid. My mother is a sports coach, and so was my father [Lewandowksi's father died when he was 16], he was my coach. I tried a lot of different sports. Gymnastics, basketball, handball, hockey, and volleyball, which my mum and sister played. At school I wanted to try every sport, play every possible game. In fact, I didn't play football that much! I was quite frustrated.

"For my father, it was judo. I use to practise it with him, but he didn't really want me to follow in his footsteps, because he knew what a tough sport it was, how risky it could be in terms of the blows you suffered. It caused him some health problems later in life. He would say, 'You give a lot for this sport, but you don't get much in return'. That's partly why I chose football, even if I did a lot of judo. Today, I have a very flexible, supple body and I don't have any problem with the movements I use on the pitch. Back then, I didn't understand the adaptation required for every sport – now I know why."

Lewandowski scored five times in just nine minutes against Wolfsburg in September, 2015. - imago/Philippe Ruiz

He added: "It's been about 10 years now. I've made a lot of changes in my life. My wife Anna has helped me enormously throughout the process. When it comes to healthy living, nutrition and various other related fields, she's an expert. She's studied the various aspects of it, and worked with a lot of professors to obtain the best possible data. And that has really helped me, of course. I'm happy to have her at my side, to see that she helps me to improve. If she was telling you about it, it would be a long story, she can go on about it for hours! (laughs) She helps other footballers out too. She's involved in a lot of things, not just in that field. I'm very proud of her.

"Ultimately, I gain power and energy. With her methods, the body recovers more quickly, so you can give even more in every training session or match. It's part of those little details we discussed earlier. And they're what make the difference, in the end."

While being fully focussed on diet and recovery — "I always listen to my body, to see how it reacts to what I'm doing," says Lewandowski — is part of his job, scoring goals is his primary task, and is, unsurprisingly, one that he applies himself to with just as much single-mindedness.

Watch: Lewandowski has scored against all current Bundesliga teams

It is a job that seems to come easily, he has after all netted 233 goals in 319 Bundesliga games over his career, including a gob-smacking 159 in just 188 appearances for Bayern. Natural talent and instinct play their part in those statistics, but there is no escaping the other essential ingredient required: hours of toil on the training pitch.

"The feeling you get from scoring a goal, that's what brings me the most joy on a football pitch," he admitted. "In a game, it's not easy, especially when you're tired. Ninety per cent of goals are about your head being switched on, and your level of concentration. If you're tired, then automatically your thinking slows down. But that makes no difference to the rules of time and space!

"In the penalty area, you only have 0.1 seconds, maybe 0.2, to think, make a decision, and interact with the ball. That's what you work on in training, because there's nowhere else where you can construct automatic movements and automatic shots. Whether they're left-footed, right-footed, it doesn't matter. You have to be ready. You can't even think about it, you just have to do it.

"In fact, if you think too much about what you want to do, it's counterproductive. Your body and your feet have to work in tandem and make the right movements automatically. That's part of my job. Sometimes, if you want to win a game, it comes down to nothing, tiny details which make all the difference. So concentration and attention to detail are key."

"You have to take [your goalscoring] instinct and add a huge amount of hard work. It's not only talent or only instinct. If you don't put in any effort, your level will never improve. And you can work on your instincts, things like reflexes, concentration, the co-ordination between your head and your legs. You never know what's going to happen, so you have to be prepared. Sometimes, the only way to explain what you do is say that it's down to hard work and repetition."

When asked how much time he spends on finishing drills, he replied: "A lot, for sure! I think 80 or 90 per cent of training sessions. But I'm not the sort of player who likes to set up camp in the area and spend 90 minutes waiting for the ball. I like to link up with the team, help to create new situations with my movements, draw one or two defenders to open up space for a teammate. I also like to get on the ball and make something happen. My main area of influence is around the goal, but I like to help out elsewhere too."

A former No. 10, he has recorded just three Bundesliga assists this season, but registered two — as well as his customary goal — in the hugely impressive 3-0 win at Chelsea in the first leg of the duo's UEFA Champions League Last 16 tie.

Lewandowski played a central role as Bayern swept past Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League Last 16 first leg in February. - kolbert-press/Christian Kolbert via www.imago-images.de/imago images/kolbert-press

"It was an incredible match. Obviously, it was only the first leg and we've got a second to come. I provided two assists [for Serge Gnabry] and I scored a goal. That was important for me. I know that a lot of people just look at the stats, they'll say, 'Oh, he only scored one goal'. But if you add the two assists, it was important for our victory. Setting up goals is also crucial. Even if, in my blood, the priority is to score goals first and foremost," he explained, before picking out some of the very best moments when he has struck the net.

"I have to say, scoring four goals in a UEFA Champions League semi-final [in April 2013, for Dortmund against Real Madrid], or five in the space of nine minutes [in September 2015, for Bayern against Wolfsburg], they're not even things I had dreamed about. Doing something special, breaking those kinds of records – if you can call it that – going down in football history for the next 30, 40, 50 years, that's something that I couldn’t even begin to explain. On the pitch, it's such an incredible thing to experience that there aren't enough words to describe it. I'm really proud of those achievements, they will obviously stay with me for life."