​Robert Lewandowski is number 11 in 90min's Top 20 Greatest Footballers of the Decade series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next three weeks.


He was hardly unknown when Real Madrid visited the Westfalenstadion in the Champions League semi-final in 2013, but Robert Lewandowski still lacked any sort of genuine fear factor for the travelling centre-backs.


The Polish striker was entering his third year in Germany after a £4.2m move from Lech Poznan, having scored just nine goals in his first season before netting a much more impressive 30 across all competitions the next.

Lewandowski had been outscored by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar at local rivals Schalke during the 2011/12 season, and it would still be another two years before he won his first Torjägerkanone, but Borussia Dortmund and Jürgen Klopp knew they'd found a gem.


Even former Real Madrid manager José Mourinho had spent time studying Lewandowski in the build-up to their meeting in the Champions League semi-finals. But defender Pepe, as well as Raphaël Varane on the eve of his 20th birthday, didn't give Dortmund's Polish striker the respect that he deserved.


Lewandowski scored within eight minutes against Los Blancos and went on to score three more later in the match, but it wasn't simply just the forward's four-goal haul that propelled him into European football stardom.


"How it went from 1-1 to 4-1, I really don't know because everything happened in a very short space of time in the far goal from the position where I was," Mourinho admitted after Real Madrid's 4-1 loss in Dortmund, via ESPN.

FBL-EUR-C1-GER-ESP-DORTMUND-REAL MADRID

Just 17 minutes separated Lewandowski's second goal from his fourth, all-but confirming Borussia Dortmund's place in that season's final - they'd ultimately lose to Bayern Munich at Wembley Stadium - even with a second leg still to play at the Santiago Bernabéu.


Stunning crowds with two, three or even four goals in no time at all is nothing new for Lewandowski. He scored a two-minute brace during his last season at Lech Poznan and another within 10 minutes for Poland before ever setting foot in the Bundesliga.


But it was his substitute appearance for Bayern Munich against Dieter Hecking's Wolfsburg that cemented Lewandowski's place among European football's best-ever strikers.


He was coming back from an ankle injury that ruled him out against Darmstadt the week earlier so only started on the bench at the Allianz Arena, but after Wolfsburg's Daniel Caligiuri scored the only goal of the first half, manager Pep Guardiola brought Lewandowski on at half-time.

Lewandowski's first goal was simple, crossing over the line with the clock sitting on 50:39. 


Replays of Bayern Munich's equaliser had only just stopped when he fired a shot from outside the box and past Diego Benaglio (51:40), while a brief scramble inside the penalty eventually saw the Polish striker complete his hat-trick (54:02).


It wasn't quick enough to set the record for the all-time quickest hat-trick - Swede Magnus Arvidsson still holds that record a 1 minute 29 seconds - but Lewandowski did take the mantle for scoring three goals in the shortest amount of time the Bundesliga.


He also broke the record for four goals, with Lewandowski adding another (56:21) after some outstanding work from Douglas Costa on the left-wing, but it was his fifth and final goal of the evening (59:38) thanks to a sublime volley that ensured he'd be in the history books forever.

Scoring hat fulls of goals in quick succession might fill up most of Lewandowski's bitesize highlight reels, but the Poland international has actually been one of the most consistent goalscorers in recent years.


He's outscored both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo (twice) in individual seasons since the start of the 2015/16 campaign, sitting level with the Argentine as the only players who've scored at least 40 goals in the each of the last four full seasons.


Lewandowski is both Bayern Munich (202) and the Bundesliga's (211) top-scoring foreign player, while he's also on course to become the German top-flight's third-best goalscorer ever by overtaking Manfred Burgsmüller and Jupp Heynckes later this season.


Despite this, Lewandowski has still never featured on the Ballon d'Or's final three shortlist and he's seldom mentioned in conversations about European football's best-ever players.

"I think Lewandowski is on another level," Ian Joy, the face of the Bundesliga on Fox Sports, recently told the Gegenpressing podcast while discussing Bayern Munich's long list of legendary strikers.


"Lewandowski, with the records that he's breaking, with how many goals that he's scoring and how quickly he's scoring them - he's up there with probably the top 10 players ever. I don't think enough people are talking about the job he had done in the Bundesliga and how good he is."


It's quite the claim. It might even take a few moments to really rack your brain about what's been said, especially given that Lewandowski is almost never mentioned in these conversations.


I mean, he hasn't even made the top 10 of 90min's Top 20 Greatest Footballers of the Decade series.

Robert Lewandowski

He's undoubtedly been a victim of the times as fans have been treated to the sport's two best players ever in recent memory, but the more you look at Lewandowski's numbers over the last nine years, it becomes increasingly difficult to dismiss his place among the most talented players to ever wear a pair of football boots.


Not just over the last 10 years. But throughout history.


Number 20 - Arjen Robben: The Flying Dutchman Who Became a Modern Legend at Bayern Munich

Number 19 - Mohamed Salah: The Humble King Who Conquered Rome and Took Liverpool By Storm

Number 18 - Sergio Aguero: The Man Who Painted Manchester Blue With One Kick of a Football

Number 17 - Manuel Neuer: The Bayern Munich & Germany Legend Who Revolutionised Goalkeeping

Number 16 - Eden Hazard: The Brilliant Belgian Who Mesmerised Fans Across the World

Number 15 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic: The Man Who Needs No Introduction

Number 14 - Toni Kroos: The Underrated Jahrhunderttalent Who Was There for the Biggest Occasions

Number 13 - Giorgio Chiellini: The Juventus Legend Who Has Always Found a Way to Win

Number 12 - Marcelo: From Favela Kickabouts Under Grandad's Watch to 4 Champions League Wins