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Robert Lewandowski – “Lewy”

Robert Lewandowski - "Lewy"
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Perhaps the world’s greatest centre-forward, Robert Lewandowski’s resolve and goal-scoring exploits make him the full package.

Name:Robert Lewandowski
Nickname: The Body, Lewy
Born: August 21, 1988
Birthplace: Warsaw, Poland
Height:1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)
Clubs: Znicz Pruszkow, Lech Poznan, Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich
National Team: Poland
Position: Forward
Titles: 17 (All club titles)

Viewed as one of the best strikers of the 21st century, Robert Lewandowski is the ultimate goal-scoring machine. No matter what target or defence stands before him, the goals plunder in.

He is quick on the ball, gets stuck in, and can hold his own through precise control and technique. Add his insane aerial ability to the mix, then you have a perfect No.9.

Setting Lewandowski apart from his peers is his excellent professionalism. He diets well, takes care of his body and trains rigorously to prepare himself for the next challenge.

Any team would be lucky to have such a player, with Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund being the main beneficiaries.

Several experts have even acknowledged him as Europe’s greatest scorer for all his goals and that killer instinct.

But all this is just the tip of Robert’s story, which saw him overcome some unfortunate setbacks on route to stardom.

First steps into football

Robert Lewandowski’s story began in the Polish capital city of Warsaw on August 21, 1988.

He is one of two children to Krzysztof Lewandowski, a Judo champion and ex-footballer, and Iwona Lewandowski, a former volleyball player. They named him “Robert” so foreigners could pronounce his name once he became famous.

“My husband knew we would raise a footballer,” said Iwona years later.

“That’s why he is Robert. Travelling through Europe, Krzysztof witnessed how important it would be to have an internationally recognisable name.”

Being born into such an athletic family naturally had its perks for Lewandowski right from the beginning. A career as a professional sportsman was already a foregone conclusion from a young age.

Although his parents, who worked as PE teachers at the local primary school, steered him away from volleyball.

Lewandowski’s small stature made him ill-suited for the sport, and so he turned his attention to football.

The youngster fell in love with the game instantly and soon joined a youth academy called MKS Varsovia Warsaw aged eight.

He spent the following eight years honing his talents in Warsaw and once scored over half the team’s 158 goals in one season. A professional football career was inevitable for a young Lewandowski.

The dream almost never happened

A 16-year-old Robert Lewandowski signed for his father’s beloved Legia Warsaw in 2005. The move didn’t feel right for him, but the lure of joining a professional club was too good to ignore.

Robert’s fears over the club, though, proved to be correct.

Robert Lewandowski - "Lewy"
Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill /Allsport

They deemed him to be too short and skinny for football, which meant he never once played for the first-team. An unfortunate injury, later on, convinced Legia Warsaw that his playing days were over.

The Legionaries released Lewandowski in 2006, just months after his father, Krzysztof, died of a heart attack aged 49.

Still underdeveloped, injured and without a club, a 17-year-old Lewandowski’s career was on the brink of ending.

But an unexpected lifeline came in the form of third-tier outfit Znicz Pruszkow in Poland. Some intervening from his mother convinced Lewandowski to join despite his doubts over the move.

Thankfully, he was wrong this time around as Pruszkow restored both his fitness and career.

“I thought, ‘I can’t just lie down and accept it.’ I fought back,” said Robert.

“I said to myself, ‘I’ll show what sort of player I am and what they have to lose.’”

The dream was back on, with Lewandowski finishing top-scorer in the third and second divisions. He won everything in terms of club and individual honours.

The Pole then sealed a big transfer to Lech Poznan in 2008 and soon became one of Europe’s biggest young talents.

The physical deficiencies that once threatened to destroy his career were no more. Therefore, European clubs were all queuing up for a bidding war in 2010.

Becoming the Bundesliga king

After a bizarre volcanic ash cloud in Poland halted his transfer to Blackburn Rovers, Robert Lewandowski completed a €4.5m transfer to Borussia Dortmund.

But life in a strange land with a new language never begins easily, as the Pole soon found out. Therefore, he spent the bulk of his early days playing second-fiddle to Lucas Barrios at Signal Iduna Park.

Jurgen Klopp, Borussia Dortmund
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Frustrations soon boiled over, with Lewandowski unhappy with Jurgen Klopp. The Dortmund coach hadn’t kept his promise of regular game time and played him out of position.

After 14 cameos in BVB’s 14 Bundesliga games, however, Lewandowski’s big break came in matchday 15. He scored and played the full 90 minutes in a 2-0 win over Nurnberg.

More goals followed as Klopp transitioned Lewandowski from a poacher into a complete centre-forward.

“He (Klopp) released that striker’s instinct in me,” Lewandowski once said.

“I didn’t know that I still had so much potential inside of me. He saw something in me I couldn’t see.”

He then became BVB’s main striker and didn’t look back on route to 103 goals in 187 games across all competitions. Back-to-back Bundesliga titles, a DFB-Pokal Cup, and DFL-Supercup all followed.

The only blip in an otherwise perfect stay at Signal Iduna Park was losing the 2013 Champions League final to Bayern Munich.

A legacy at Bayern Munich

After a goal and trophy-laden four years at Dortmund, it was time to leave for a bigger club in Europe.

But Robert Lewandowski’s decision to sign for BVB’s rivals Bayern Munich on a free transfer in 2014 raised a few eyebrows. However, the club and its supporters still honoured him in his final game.

“Bayern is one of the best teams in the world – on a par with Real Madrid and Barcelona. A move to Barca or Real wouldn’t have been a step up for me,” he explained.

The Pole has since flourished into one of the world’s best players. Some rate his scoring talents to be on par with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and his idol Thierry Henry.

Backing these claims up was that remarkable five-goal run against Wolfsburg in September 2015.

With Bayern 1-0 down, Pep Guardiola called up Lewandowski from the bench to turn things around. And he did just that with a Bundesliga record of five goals inside eight minutes and 59 seconds.

Now into his sixth season, the 31-year-old continues to deliver many memorable moments at the Allianz Arena.

He’s now a seven-time Bundesliga winner, finished top-scorer on four occasions, holder of many prestigious records, and the highest foreign scorer in Germany.

But Lewandowski is far from done in hunting for more glory in the future.

“I’ve worked very hard to get into this form,” he told Sport Bild in November 2019.

“Things are going perfectly right now and my body feels good. It’s good to have that in the back of your mind.

“But it doesn’t mean that I will stop there: I want to get even better.”