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From the pain of 2013 to the glory of 2020 - Robert Lewandowski finally got his hands on the UEFA Champions League trophy in 2019/20 with Bayern Munich. - © imago images
From the pain of 2013 to the glory of 2020 - Robert Lewandowski finally got his hands on the UEFA Champions League trophy in 2019/20 with Bayern Munich. - © imago images

Robert Lewandowski: The Bayern Munich striker's UEFA Champions League landmarks


After years of trying, Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowksi finally got his hands on the UEFA Champions League trophy in 2019/20. It was the latest of many memorable moments in the competition.

First at Borussia Dortmund and then at Bayern, the Poland captain has tormented defences all across the continent. bundesliga.com reflects on some of his greatest achievements on the European stage.

1) A dramatic first winning goal

Lewandowski opened his Champions League account during a 3-1 group-stage defeat at Olympiacos in October 2011, but it was a late winner against Ajax in the 2012/13 campaign that sparked the start of an incredible success story.

In their opening Champions League match of the season in September 2012, Dortmund had failed to put their chances away against the Dutch visitors – with Mats Hummels seeing a second-half penalty saved. Starting with a 0-0 home draw in a group that also included Manchester City and Real Madrid could have made it difficult to qualify for the last 16.

Robert Lewandowski's last-gasp winner against Ajax set Borussia Dortmund on their way in 2012/13. - imago images

Lewandowski, though, grabbed one last chance with three minutes remaining. Controlling a Lukasz Piszczek header near the penalty spot, he held off his marker and then cleverly dummied a shot, before making the most of the yard of space he'd created by thrashing home the only goal.

"It was a spectacular bit of skill from Robert Lewandowski," Dortmund head coach Jürgen Klopp said afterwards. "He had one or two chances before that but as a classic and typical goalscorer, he stayed totally calm in that situation. He took out the defender and smashed it home – that's the type of nerve you have to have."

It's something we would all become used to seeing.

2) A record-breaking four goals against Real Madrid

Lewandowski added to his reputation by netting the opener in a 2-1 home win over Real Madrid in that same season, before scoring twice in the return match against Ajax to help BVB reach the knockout stage.

The ex-Lech Poznan forward struck again in the last-16 success against Shakhtar Donetsk, and also netted in a dramatic 3-2 victory over Malaga in the quarter-finals. Marco Reus and Felipe Santana both scored in injury-time to turn that tie in Dortmund's favour, but even more drama - with Lewandowski at the centre of it - would follow in the first leg of the semi-final.

Facing Real in Germany again, the Poland international stretched to poke home a Mario Götze cross to give Dortmund a dream start on eight minutes before Cristiano Ronaldo levelled shortly before half-time.

Five minutes into the second half, though, Lewandowski prodded in from close range. Dortmund fans realised another magical European night was on the way five minutes later. Their star striker turned sharply away from Pepe and Xabi Alonso to hammer home his hat-trick goal. On 65 minutes it was 4-1, as Lewandowski thumped a penalty down the middle.

It was the first time a player had ever scored four goals in a Champions League semi-final and proved enough for Dortmund to edge Jose Mourinho's team over two legs.

Although his side came up just short in an all-German decider against Bayern at Wembley, Lewandowski had announced himself as a world star. Then 24 years old, he finished the 2012/13 campaign with 10 Champions League goals.

If only Robert Lewandowski knew at the time of what was to come after his defeat in the 2013 final with Borussia Dortmund against Bayern Munich. - imago images

3) The fastest four-goal haul

Lewandowski scored six goals in Europe for Dortmund the following season before moving to Bayern in the summer of 2014. He continued to find the net in the Champions League with astonishing regularity, netting nine times in 2015/16 and eight times in both 2016/17 and 2018/19.

Hungry to finally become a European champion, he reached new heights in the 2019/20 season. He got doubles in away wins at Tottenham (7-2) and Olympiacos (3-2) before sealing Bayern's place in the last 16 with another goal against the Greeks in Munich.

On Matchday 5 in Belgrade, though, Lewandowski was in a particularly ruthless mood. He repeated his four-goal burst from his Dortmund days, but this time managed it in record time.

Robert Lewandowski scored the third hat-trick of his UEFA Champions League career, and second time of hitting four in a game against Red Star Belgrade. - imago images

The inspirational striker had famously created history by plundering five goals in just nine minutes of a Bundesliga match against Wolfsburg in September 2015. He didn't score quite as many or quite as quickly against the Serbian champions in November 2019, but his four-goal salvo in 16 second-half minutes was a new Champions League record.

"I have to confess," Lewandowski tweeted after the game. "I am addicted to scoring goals."

4) Fifty Champions League goals for Bayern

Lewandowski continued to devastate defences in a prolonged 2019/20 campaign. As well as winning a domestic double, he was crowned the Bundesliga's top goalscorer for the fifth time in his career after finishing with 34 league goals for the eight-in-a-row champions.

He netted twice in the DFB Cup final victory over Bayer Leverkusen as well before picking up where he left off in Europe. Having scored once and got two assists in the first leg of Bayern's round-of-16 tie with Chelsea in February, Lewandowski scored twice and made two more when the second leg was eventually played in Munich following the coronavirus lockdown.

Robert Lewandowski (l.) brought up 50 UEFA Champions League goals in the last 16 against Chelsea in 2019/20. - Peter Schatz/Pool/IMAGO Images

Those efforts earned Bayern a trip to the final eight in Lisbon, and Lewandowski couldn't be contained there either. His strike against Barcelona in the sensational 8-2 drubbing in the quarter-final was his 50th Champions League goal for the Bavarians – a milestone he took only 60 games to reach.

5) 2019/20 top goalscorer

Lewandowksi - naturally - still was not satisfied. His towering header in the semi-final victory over Lyon continued a remarkable scoring streak in the competition.

The only European game that he didn't score in during 2019/20 was in the final against Paris Saint-Germain. He came desperately close to doing so, though, when he hit the post after a trademark swivel and shot in the first half.

Despite being rested for the final group game, the former Dortmund favourite was still way out in front as the competition's leading goalscorer for the year. Dortmund's Erling Haaland (10 goals) and Bayern teammate Serge Gnabry (9) rounded out the top three for an all-Bundesliga collective at the top.

Bayern scored 43 times and won all 11 games on their way to being crowned champions of Europe for a sixth time, with Lewandowski contributing 15 goals – from 30 attempts on target – as well as six assists.

Crucially - after so many near misses and 55 goals in all competitions in 2019/20 - he can finally call himself a Champions League winner.

"Never stop dreaming," Lewandowski wrote on Twitter after the game. "Never give up when you fail. Work hard to achieve your goal."

6) Third on the all-time list

By the end of the 2019/20 campaign, Lewandowski was fourth on the all-time list of goalscorers in the Champions League. In 90 appearances in the competition, he was listed on the scoresheet 68 times – with 17 goals for Dortmund, and 51 for Bayern.

He moved into joint third alongside former Real Madrid and Schalke forward Raul on 71 goals in a 3-1 win over Red Bull Salzburg on Matchday 4 of the 2020/21 campaign.

That's some way off the top two, Juventus attacker Ronaldo and Barcelona's Lionel Messi. Ronaldo leads the ranking with 131 career goals while Messi has 118, but both players have played considerably more Champions League games than Lewandowski. It took Ronaldo 170 games to get to his mark and Messi 143, so the Bayern talisman's goals-per-game average is similar.

Lewandowski, who turned 32 two days before the 2020 Champions League final, feels he is still getting better as a player. Four goals ahead of Real's Karim Benzema, it's now surely only a matter of time before he moves into the top three outright.