90min
Robert Lewandowski

Robert Lewandowski's achievements should not be forgotten despite international frustrations

Max Cooper
An icon of the game
An icon of the game / Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
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Turning 30 is never easy for a striker. The common conception is that the glory days are behind you, and it's a slow but relentless slide from the peak of your powers to the dawning realisation that you're just too old for this game.

The modern centre forwards are beginning to break that mould, however. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is going to be in his forties by the end of the 2021/22 season, and Cristiano Ronaldo is still winning golden boots at the grand old age of 36.

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A new generation of old stars / MARCO BERTORELLO/Getty Images

Of course he is, he's Cristiano Ronaldo.

But another man who has decided to laugh in the face of Father Time and turn back the clock face's hands is Robert Lewandowski. Now 32 - and approaching his 33rd birthday in August - this man should be gently declining in performance level and goal statistics, while Bayern Munich carefully sweep the market for the heir to his throne.

But the Polish forward's replacement is the furthest thought from Die Roten's mind. In fact, there's more chance of their talisman earning another massive move to a European giant than them deciding it's time to place him in some fuzzy retirement slippers.

Lewandowski has taken German football by the scruff of its neck over the past two seasons, and having seen the young cub Erling Haaland challenge his title as the Bundesliga's best, he's bared his claws and put the Norwegian back in his place.

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Not ready to pass the torch just yet / ANDREAS GEBERT/Getty Images

In doing so, he's also been crowned Germany's Footballer of the Year for the second consecutive season, earning 356 of the 563 votes cast in Kicker magazine. Try to keep up with that, Erling.

In fairness, Haaland couldn't have done much more to demonstrate that he is the future of German football. He's scored 40 goals in 43 league appearances - a record which any seasoned professional would struggle to match.

Well, Lewandowski has scored 56 goals since Haaland arrived in the Bundesliga back in January 2020 - in exactly the same number of matches, too. And that is testament to how good the Pole truly is.

His 41 league goals in the 2020/21 campaign represented a groundbreaking moment in German football. Finally, Gerd Muller's 49-year record of 40 goals in a single season - something many believed would never, ever be beaten - had been slain.

Not only have his mind-boggling quantity of goals brought Bayern domestic success, but they also conquered Europe in 2020. Once again, he was the star of the show. Lewandowski scored in every single Champions League match he featured in prior to the final, particularly turning on the style in the knockout rounds.

He managed three goals and four assists over two legs against Chelsea, and a goal and an assist in both the 8-2 quarter-final destruction of Barcelona, and the 3-0 semi-final success over Lyon. He may not have grabbed the winner in the final against Paris Saint-Germain, but it was certainly his tournament.

Bayern were unable to defend their crown in 2021, losing to 2020's beaten finalists over two legs. A rare injury meant Lewandowski played no part in either leg. That's no coincidence.

So, he is undoubtedly the most clutch player in what was, and for many people still is, the best team in Europe. The decision to cancel the 2020 Ballon d'Or was practically daylight robbery from the Pole, who seemed to have done everything in his power to wrestle the golden globe away from Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.

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Mission accomplished / CARL DE SOUZA/Getty Images

And there is a danger that these achievements, which may go unmarked due to this outrageous decision, may go forgotten, too. Messi's Copa America glory could have given him the edge for 2021's Ballon d'Or, meaning Lewandowski's hopes of winning the most prestigious individual prize in football may be vanishing.

Add to that the disappointment that once again surrounded the Polish national team, failing to win any of their three group stage matches at Euro 2020 and crashing out in humbling circumstances, and for some, the gleam begins to rub off the striker's immaculate year.

But we should be able to separate Lewandowski's international frustrations from what he achieves on a regular basis for Bayern. International football is a completely different entity, with a group of the country's most talented individuals thrown together and told to try and make it work.

In Poland's case, it's a group of the country's most talented individuals thrown together and told to give the ball to their best player - no pressure, Robert. Whatever happens, what Lewandowski has achieved over the past two years is simply extraordinary.

Robert Lewandowski
A Bayern legend / Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Many believed Muller's 40-goal season would never be eclipsed, and the same is now being said for Lewandowski's 41-goal triumph. But if anybody can pull off a 42-goal campaign, it's the man currently holding the record.

After all, he's one of the best to have ever done it.

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