Is Robert Lewandowski underrated? Maybe
7-2 read the final scoreline.
Serge Gnabry rightfully garnered the plaudits and headlines with a stellar four-goal performance against Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League, but a certain Robert Lewandowski finely contributed two goals to the eventual rout.
The Polish international is playing with such a chutzpah and joie de vivre at the moment that everything he shoots will find its way into the back of the net.
Regarding his first strike – attention will be heralded towards the goal of course, but take a moment to appreciate the flick out near the right wing that muted a class defender in Jan Vertonghen which helped to get the ball into the box before he proceeded to slot in into the far corner.
And the second goal? A gem of a pass from Coutinho on the edge of the box and the Pole responds with his body angling away from the goal – no hesitation, one touch and swish goes the net a few seconds later.
Alejandro Moreno, former Venezuelan international and presenter on ESPN FC spoke of his second strike on the show:
"...he already has a clear picture of where this ball's gonna go, where his second touch is gonna go and where the shot is gonna go."
"So easy!" yelled the commentator after the Pole's second goal and rightfully so, not only for Bayern on what turned out to be statement performance from the Germans but also for Lewandowski.
"There's something about his finishing that is so clean and so beautiful; there's an anticipation to the way that he plays the game.."
"You don't do that unless you have an instinct, an ability and the skillset and then the talent that you can display in the way that he does."
Rewind back to 2013 when the then 25-year-old was still an infant in the popularity and rating stakes but what followed was a portent of the savoire faire that would be put on a show in the six years that have arrived since.
Having moved to Borussia Dortmund three years prior from Lech Poznan for a paltry sum of £4.2m, Lewa's Dortmund side had a CL semi-final showdown coming up against Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid. An unproven upstart team led by a trophyless coach against a continental superpower? You'd be forgiven for expecting a pasting to ensue and one did arrive – except it was the Spanish giants who were on the receiving end.
Four goals rained upon the then nine-time champions from the prodigious Pole's boots, as Dortmund ran out 4-1 winners on the night. Robert Lewandowski had arrived as the astonished world stopped and stole a glance at what would become one of the greatest number 9s of our generation.
His heroics for BVB wouldn't go unnoticed as he secured a move to rivals Bayern Munich in 2014. The fact that Bayern managed to pry him away and assemble him into their arsenal on a free transfer borders on the criminal but also points to their adroitness in being able to secure his services and keep him at the Allianz Arena despite the best efforts of some interested parties.
The faith invested in him has been duly paid back in every season he's represented them:
- 2014-15 – 23 goals
- 2015-16 – 39 goals
- 2016-17 – 38 goals
- 2017-18 – 34 goals
- 2018-19 – 30 goals
— 🇺🇸 FC Bayern US 🇨🇦 (@FCBayernUS) September 22, 2019
In one particular game in 2016, Lewa smashed in five goals against a Wolfsburg side with a stupefying brilliance that made a certain Pep Guardiola's hands reach for his head in disbelief. The Catalan manager later said of the striker:
"He's the most professional player I've ever worked with."
High praise indeed, but surprising? Absolutely not.
And this year? barely two months into the 2019-20 season and Robert has already snatched up 14 goals, making him the top scorer in Europe's top five leagues with no Messi or Cristiano in sight. He's scored the most goals in all competitions in 2019 (33). He's the first player in Bundesliga history to notch double figures in goals after just six matches.
He's also the league's all-time non-German top scorer with 212 goals and counting. He's outgunned both Cristiano and Messi twice since the start of the 2015-16 campaign. All this in addition to the four Torjägerkanone (league top scorer award) trophies he's collected over the years. All these accomplishments are finely complemented by a near spotless injury record which has never seen him miss more than four matches in a 34 game season (having a wife for a nutrition specialist certainly helps!).
Need I say more? Very well, here's one more stat – the 31-year-old has a better goal to game ratio than no less than Sergio Aguero, Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez and Harry Kane – all world-class strikers in their own right and yet, Lewandowski often finds himself amiss in the conversation aiming to unearth the best Number 9 in the world.
Is it because he plays in a less competitive league where Bayern have stockpiled the last seven titles? or because he represents a less competitive national team compared to his club side? or possibly because his team doesn't go deep in the Champions League? (Bayern have never progressed past the semi-finals since Lewandowski moved in 2014)
Perhaps, people's inherent bias is on show here as fans and pundits tend to venerate players who play for the big, popular teams on the big stages consistently. It would a fair shout to say that anybody who talks football would rate the mercurial Pole highly but would it also be fair to suggest that if he were plying his trade in the colours of a Premier league giant or one of the 'Big Two' in La Liga, he might be feted more?
Additionally, he might be one of the several class players who were unwittingly overshadowed by the greatness of the two best footballers of all time.
Robert Lewandowski has been a top 3 striker in the world for years now, but this season he's number 1 and it's really not even close at the moment.
What a player and what a season he's having. Quite simply unstoppable.
— EiF (@EiFSoccer) October 1, 2019
In any case, there's no denying this man's capabilities – Tuesday night's efforts has left him sixth on the all-time Champions League top scorers list with 56 goals, tied with Ruud Van Nistelrooy and just four behind Karim Benzema and the way he's going, you wouldn't count against him finishing in the top three.
One can fumble into the inner reaches of their subconscious mind searching for reasons to dismiss or underrate this man but if you're anything like me dear reader, you'll be hard-pressed to find many.