Robert Lewandowski boasts a total 94 per cent success rate from penalties in the Bundesliga. - © © imago
Robert Lewandowski boasts a total 94 per cent success rate from penalties in the Bundesliga. - © © imago

Robert Lewandowski: Bayern Munich's penalty king

He hasn't missed a spot-kick in over three years and boasts a 92 per cent conversion rate throughout his career - the best percentage in Europe. Could Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski be the best in the business when it comes to taking penalties?

It is anything but a straightforward exercise. When a top footballer steps up to take a penalty, he is expected to hit the back of the net every time, whatever the occasion. But - as any England fan can tell you - there is a lot more to converting spot-kicks than simply strolling up and pulling the trigger.

That is what makes Lewandowski's statistics so remarkable. Since stepping up to take his very first penalty for second-tier Polish side Znicz Pruszkow in August 2007, the Bayern marksman has put away 34 out of a possible 37, giving him an eye-watering success rate of 92 per cent.

By comparison, Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 84 per cent of his penalties and Lionel Messi 78 per cent - although for the sake of fairness it should be pointed out that both players have taken more spot-kicks than their Bundesliga rival (97/115 for Ronaldo, 77/98 for Messi).

Scoring penalties is as much about mental fortitude as it is about killer technique. Lewandowski's trademark run-up - where he keeps his eyes fixed on the goalkeeper and slows down just before hitting the ball, as we saw against Koen Casteels and Wolfsburg on Matchday 6 - arguably gives him an advantage, as it allows him a split-second to tell which way the keeper is going to dive. But scoring penalties is also a question of belief - and the Pole has a habit of coming up with the goods in the games that matter.

Lewandowski has never missed a penalty in the UEFA Champions League or in FIFA World Cup qualifying. In fact, of the three he has missed, one was in an international friendly against Australia, and one was in the final minute of a DFB Cup first-round game against Preußen Münster, with Bayern already 4-1 up and cruising.

Watch: All of Robert Lewandowski's 30 goals in 2016/17, five of which were penalties

The only man who can claim to have saved a Lewandowski penalty that mattered? None other than his teammate Manuel Neuer - who denied the Poland striker back in his Borussia Dortmund days with a decisive stop in Der Klassiker on 4 May 2013.

When Lewandowski scores from the spot, there is also a very good chance that his side will go on to win. In the 31 games in which he has converted a penalty, his team have emerged victorious 28 times - the only exceptions being last season's Champions League quarter-final second leg against Real Madrid (2-4 a.e.t.), a World Cup qualifying draw with Kazakhstan (2-2) in September 2016, and Friday's 2-2 draw with Wolfsburg.

There are arguments to support the claim that goal-machine Lewandowski may just be the world's best striker, given his influence for both club and country. And when the referee points to the spot, there is probably nobody Bayern would rather have taking their penalties. Not even Ronaldo or Messi.   

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