Munich – A three-time Bundesliga champion, a record-breaking goalscorer and the quickest foreign-born player to score 100 top-flight goals in Germany, Robert Lewandowski is already well known to opposing defences, but the unassuming FC Bayern München forward keeps himself to himself off the pitch. bundesliga.com has done some digging on the remarkable Poland international…
Robert Lewandowski was born in Warsaw on 21 August, 1988. His father, Krzysztof, was a Polish Judo champion, and his mother, Iwona, was a professional volleyball player, who played for AZS Warsaw. His sister also inherited the sporting genes and has previously represented Poland as part of the nation’s U21 volleyball team. Krzysztof always believed his son would make it onto the world stage and named him ‘Robert’ to avoid giving the international press an inconvenient tongue-twister.
Tragedy struck when, aged 16, Lewandowski lost his father. “His death was the toughest time for me,” he told Bild. “Suddenly I was the man of the house and had to be a grown-up. The memory of my father still drives me on. When I do extra training, I tell myself: ‘I am doing this for him’, and that is great motivation.” When Lewandowski scores, he points towards the sky in memory of his true muse.
Franciszek Smuda, former coach of Lech Poznan, twice went to check out the skills of a teenage Lewandowski, with surprising results. Smuda was so unimpressed that he told his scout: “You owe me petrol money. If I had wanted to see trees, I would have gone to the forest instead.” Big mistake. Lewandowski put away goals for fun playing for third division side Znicz Pruszkow in the years that followed, earning himself a move to Poznan, where his 32 goals in 58 league games took him to Borussia Dortmund in 2010.
Lewandowski scored eight goals in his first season in the Bundesliga, with one of those coming in the 2-0 win over 1. FC Nürnberg that secured the Bundesliga title for BVB in 2011. A year later, he had displaced Lucas Barrios to become a regular in the starting XI, scoring 30 goals in all competitions as BVB wrapped up the domestic double. Lewandowski went up another gear in 2012/13, scoring 24 Bundesliga goals – a total only bettered by Bayer 04 Leverkusen’s Stefan Kießling – while his ten goals in Europe, including a memorable four-goal salvo against Real Madrid CF, helped Dortmund to their second UEFA Champions League final.
‘Air’ Riedle in awe
For legendary striker Karl-Heinz Riedle, who won the Champions League with Dortmund in 1997, Lewandowski’s got it all. “His superior technique and strength means you can play him up front all on his own,” Riedle said. “He shields the ball perfectly and then brings team-mates into play, and he’s a real poacher as well. He has all the hallmarks of a great player.”
Praise from a legend
When Franz Beckenbauer dubbed him the most complete striker in the Bundesliga, Lewandowski articulated a typically modest response: “What Franz says makes me happy. It makes me a little proud. I am always working on my game, no matter how well I’ve played. I must always play better, score even more goals and win even more tackles. I can still improve every aspect of my game.”
After scoring 103 goals in 187 appearances in all competitions for Dortmund, German record titleholders Bayern came calling for the striker’s services after he ended the 2013/14 campaign as the Bundesliga’s top marksman with 20 goals. While he failed to better that tally in his debut season with the club, finding the net just 17 times, Lewandowski looks set to smash that mark in a similar fashion to the way he broke a handful of Bundesliga records in the Matchday 6 clash with VfL Wolfsburg. The Pole, who came on at half-time, became the first substitute to score more than three times, whilst registering the fastest hat-trick, four-goal and five-goal salvo – all within nine minutes! “In football, you sometimes can’t explain things,” Lewandowski said of the record-breaking feat which are being considered for the 2017 Guinness world records book which is due out next year. “It happened so fast that it was impossible to think about the result. I will have many memories from that evening till the end of my life, but the scoreboard with my name on will bring the strongest flashback.”
The FC Bayern frontman, nicknamed ‘The Body’ by former BVB team-mate Nuri Sahin, has a huge fan base in his native Poland and around the world, boasting 3.1 million subscribers on Instagram. Lewandowski featured on the covers of FIFA ’11, FIFA ’14 and FIFA ’15 in his home country, but was this year displaced by former Bayer 04 Leverkusen striker Arkadiusz Milik. It will matter little to the world-renowned target man though considering he was named the Polish Footballer of Year for a fourth year running in 2015.
Like his goals, and his torso for that matter, Lewandowski’s private life receives plenty of attention. The German media went nuts for the Poland striker and partner Anna Stachurska, a karate World Cup bronze medallist and professional nutritionist, labelling them ‘The Polish Beckhams’, but there was to be no Hello! wedding. The two instead opted for a private affair in Warsaw.
Botched travel plans seem to be a common theme in the striker’s career. In 2010, before signing for Borussia Dortmund, Lewandowski came close to joining Blackburn Rovers, and was only denied the chance due to his plane being grounded on account of the giant ash cloud created by an Icelandic volcano. In less dramatic fashion a few years later, the Pole had to cancel an appearance on a German TV sports show following a win over SV Werder Bremen as a result of a bridge being torn down. There was a plan to try and get a helicopter to fly him in, but it never materialised forcing Lewandowski to watch the show from the comfort of his home.