Cologne - A revered dead-ball specialist in his playing days, former 1. FC Kaiserslautern, SV Werder Bremen and FC Bayern München winger Mario Basler scored 62 times in 262 Bundesliga appearances between 1988-2003 and even finished the 1994/95 campaign as joint-top scorer on 20 goals.
The 46-year-old played alongside and against some of the most prolific goalscorers in the business during a storied career, but what does he make of the Bundesliga’s current top two sharpshooters Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang?
bundesliga.com asks the questions in this exclusive interview with the two-time Bundesliga and UEFA EURO 1996 champion…
bundesliga.com: Mario Basler, Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are scoring for fun in the Bundesliga right now. What do you, yourself a former Torschützenkönig, think of your potential successors?
Mario Basler: They’re both outstanding players that play in outstanding teams. They’re constantly fed chances and score goals, but that’s not easy. Both are sensational strikers, particularly Robert Lewandowski. He can’t stop scoring at the moment. It’s great fun for the spectators.
bundesliga.com: Since 1977, no top scorer has broken the 30-goal mark. Back then, 1. FC Köln’s Dieter Müller scored 34. Is the 30-goal mark on the agenda this season?
Basler: It’s definitely possible. Lewandowski has scored 12 goals in eight games. Based on that, he’ll surpass the 30-goal mark. The question is whether he’ll keep it up and whether he’ll miss games because of Bayern’s squad rotation. It won’t be easy to score 30 goals.
bundesliga.com: Do you think Robert Lewandowski is the complete striker on a par with Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo?
Basler: When Lewandowski joined Bayern two years ago, I said he can score 30 goals [in a single season]. It hasn’t happened yet. It’s really difficult to draw comparisons with Ronaldo or Messi because all three are completely different types of players, so I’m not going to do that. I believe that Lewandowski is currently the best striker in the world.
bundesliga.com: What makes Lewandowski stand out?
Basler: He’s got it all. He’s quick, he fights, he’s strong in the air. In football terms, he’s exceptional. He’s the complete package - all that a coach could wish for. He’s always on his game and covers so much ground. He switches out wide sometimes, too.
bundesliga.com: Is Dortmund’s Aubameyang already on the same level as Lewandowski?
Basler: I think Lewandowski is a little bit better than Aubameyang, but the Dortmund man isn’t that far behind. His real strength is his pace. If Lewandowski had Aubameyang’s pace, he’d be on another level altogether.
bundesliga.com: You spoke about the teams and the chances they provide the two strikers. Do other forwards like Köln’s [Anthony] Modeste or Mainz’s [Yunus] Malli, both on the tails of Lewandowski, Aubameyang and Thomas Müller in the scoring charts, have a chance of winning the Torjägerkanone?
Basler: All forwards have a chance, but Lewandowski and Müller have a team behind them with immense potential. That said, why can’t another striker be crowned Torschützenkönig?
Interview by Tobias Gonscherowski