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Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski has only missed 16 out of a possible 303 Bundesliga games over the past nine years. - © 2019 DFL
Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski has only missed 16 out of a possible 303 Bundesliga games over the past nine years. - © 2019 DFL

Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski: The fittest man in football?


Dessert for starters and the main course for dessert? If that sounds like a deliciously upside-down way of eating, don't knock it: it's Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski's tried and trusted method of guaranteeing optimum performance.

And it works. Against Nuremberg last week, the Polish hitman played in his 30th Bundesliga match of the season - the ninth successive year he has done so.

In an era in which the game is played at an increasingly furious pace and with fixtures every three or four days, not to mention the strain of frequent travel, it is understandable that many players suffer muscular injuries due to fatigue. But not Lewy.

Watch: Robert Lewandowski analysed by Tifo Football

He has featured in 43 competitive games at club level so far in 2018/19. Over the previous eight years his tally reads 48 (30 in the Bundesliga), 47 (33), 51 (32), 49 (31), 48 (33), 49 (31), 47 (34) and 43 (33).

To put that into perspective, Bayern legends Franz Beckenbauer (12 seasons) and Gerd Müller (10) eclipsed Lewandowski’s current haul, but in the 1970s, before arch professionalism was the norm in the game, the field comprised of 22 super-athletes. Today, only Hoffenheim’s Oliver Baumann has managed to match Lewandowski’s tally of nine consecutive seasons with 30 games played, and he’s a goalkeeper.

In nine years in Germany, the longest stretch of matches Lewandowski has missed due to injury is two. Yes, two. In April 2017 he sat out assignments against Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen with a knock to his shoulder, but was back in action the following week. Other than that, he has only missed the odd game here and there: 16 out of a possible 304 following of the Matchday 32 win over Hannover.

Watch: Lewandowski's March 2019 Goal of the Month winner

Not only does the 30-year-old never seem to suffer muscular injuries, he recovers from bumps and bruises with incredible speed. A fractured jaw? Four days out, one game missed. Broken nose? The same routine. Bruised rib? Another four days. So how does he do it?

Former Bayern coach Pep Guardiola was in no doubt as to what sets Lewandowski apart. "He's the most professional player I've ever met," he said in February 2016. "In his head, 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. He always knows what is important to be in the best condition."

In concrete terms, that means paying attention to small details for marginal gains. Aside from his regular training sessions with Bayern, Lewandowski often works out in his own time.

"It's definitely an important factor," he told Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper. "We've got a gym at home and I use it on my days off, usually with my wife Anna. Sometimes I do special exercises to work on my concentration, which is very important for a striker. And I need strength in order to compete against powerful defenders." Small wonder he was nicknamed 'The Body' during his time at Borussia Dortmund.

Pep Guardiola (r.) had never met a player quite like Lewandowski (l.) prior to arriving at Bayern Munich. - 2016 Getty Images

Arguably of greater significance, however, is Lewandowski's discipline and commitment to nutrition. And to the delight of children everywhere, who now have a valid argument to present to their parents, he eats his dessert first, followed by a starter and then the main course.

"As desserts are sweet, they can be digested quicker," Lewandowski explained in an interview with Tageszeitung. "Soups too. But proteins take longer to digest. If I eat something sweet at the end and it mixes with the protein in my stomach, then it's harder to process as well.

"Healthy eating is important to me and this method suits me. It improves fat burning. My wife suggested it to me. She's a fitness coach and has a great deal of expertise about how the body works. She's really good at what she does – so good that a lot of other players in international football want to work with her."

Lewandowski says his wife Anna (l.) deserves much of the credit for his healthy lifestyle. - 2017 Getty Images

Such eating habits, as well as cutting out cow's milk as it made him feel "lethargic" ahead of training and drastically reducing his chocolate consumption – Lewandowski admits to previously being something of a chocaholic – have contributed to his astonishing injury record - or rather lack of it.

"Before I knew all about that I wasn't able to play to my best for 90 minutes three times a week," he told Bild. "Now I feel a lot better and am very well prepared."

The results speak for themselves. Lewandowski has titles galore with Bayern, is the Bundesliga's all-time top non-German goalscorer, recently became only the fifth player in history to pass the 200-goal mark, and is on course to win his fourth Torjägerkanone as the season's leading marksman. If anyone has the recipe for success, it's Lewy.