Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski wins FIFA ‘The Best’ award | Sports | German football and major international sports news | DW

“You broke records, and you too deserved to win,” Lionel Messi told Robert Lewandowski after the Argentine picked up his seventh Ballon d’Or in Paris in November. “You had an incredible season.”

But 41 Bundesliga goals, breaking legendary Gerd Müller’s record, plus five more in the Champions League, weren’t enough for the Bayern Munich striker.

Now, however, the Polish hitman has been honored after all after being crowned FIFA ‘The Best’ Men’s Player of the Year for the second year in a row, beating competition from fellow finalists Messi and Mohamed Salah.

Better than Gerd Muller

Exceptional is just one of the words that can be used to describe what Lewandowski has achieved in the Bundesliga and the Champions League in recent years.

The 33-year-old broke Gerd Müller’s record of 40 goals in the German top flight, a record believed to be unbreakable, throughout the season after winning the sextuple with Bayern and being voted the UEFA World Footballer year.

And, in the current campaign, the Pole has already scored 34 goals in 27 competitive games for Bayern, including a hat-trick against Cologne at the weekend which took their Bundesliga tally to 23 in 19.

These are numbers that catapult footballers to elite status, but there are few superstars as down-to-earth as the unassuming Pole. That’s why, in the run up to November’s Ballon d’Or and this month’s FIFA ‘The Best’ awards, others have been talking about Lewandowski, not him.

“I would be delighted if he won it – it would certainly be well deserved,” Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann said after the Cologne game, in which Lewandowski became just the second player to reach 300 goals. in the Bundesliga – after the great Müller.

“It’s not just his goals, however, he also works really hard and is always in the right position,” Nagelsmann said. “One of his great qualities is that he also launches a lot of attacks before sprinting into the box to wait for a cross or a pass.

Bayern captain Manuel Neuer said: “We are happy and grateful that he is playing for us. He is a machine in the box, he holds the ball brilliantly and his finishing is unique.”

The performance peak becomes a plateau

Despite being at an age where other professionals are already thinking out loud about ending their careers or struggling to keep up with the best in the world, Lewandowski has managed to maintain his incredible form. The 33-year-old has long been of world-class caliber, but the zenith of his career has stretched to an endless plateau.

Forty-one, 34, 22, 29, 30, 30 – that’s how many goals Lewandowski has scored in the last six Bundesliga seasons. He was the league’s top scorer five times, adding to the only Torjägerkanone he won while on the books at Borussia Dortmund. In the history of the highest German level, he is only 65 goals behind legendary striker Gerd Müller, an all-time high of 365.

His Champions League experiences tell a similar story with the Pole currently on 82 career goals. Only Messi (123) and Cristiano Ronaldo (140) have more.

Too lanky to turn pro

During Lewandowski’s youth, it was uncertain whether his career would reach such heights. Born in Warsaw in 1988, his football career began with clubs in the Polish capital, but without much success at first.

Lewandowski has scored 300 goals in the Bundesliga – only Müller has scored more

At Legia Warsaw, his coach deemed the then 18-year-old too weak for the first team. The club doctor even advised the Bobek (the “little one”), as Lewandowski called himself at the time, against even trying to make it as a professional. But Lewandowski persevered, took a detour to third division club Znicz Pruszkow and from there his goalscoring form took off.

That remained the case even after joining Ekstraklasa side Lech Poznan two years later. He made his debut for the national team at the age of 20 and marked it with his first international goal. Today he is Poland’s top scorer and captain of the national team.

In 2010, Lewandowski moved to Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. He was a two-time German champion with BVB under Jürgen Klopp and a German Cup winner once. In 2014, he followed Bayern’s call to Munich and continued to collect titles there. He has now won the Bundesliga title nine times, lifted the German Cup three more times and added a Champions League winner’s medal to his collection.

Alongside Johan Cruyff, Lewandowski is the only male football player to win a domestic title, domestic cup and Champions League treble, while also becoming the top scorer in all competitions.

A second World Footballer of the Year award will no doubt make Robert Lewandowski happy, but certainly won’t change him – and perhaps a Ballon d’Or is yet to come.

This article has been translated from German

About Norma Wade

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