Inside the mind of Robert Lewandowski

February 21, 2020

Robert Lewandowski reflected on his Champions League heroics against Real Madrid in 2013


The first place to start is with the iPad and a beaming smile. Robert Lewandowski is sitting in a studio at Bayern Munich‘s training ground when he is asked to go back in time with the help of a two-minute video clip.

It is not something Europe’s premier No 9 expected but, quickly, he comes to life.

The footage, from April 2013, is of him waging a one-man war against Real Madrid for Borussia Dortmund, when he scored four goals in a Champions League semi-final.

It was a famous night for him as he scored four to help Borussia Dortmund win the first leg

‘Ah!’ he says, his eyes fixed on the screen. ‘I’m very proud of this game! When you do something like that to Real, you should be very proud.

‘I remember I felt so good, so very strong. The third goal (a stunning finish after changing his feet) is my favourite. I just wanted to do what I do best. Score.’

He has done that all his life. Given the exploits of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, it perhaps doesn’t get appreciated what a machine Lewandowski has been during their era. His career tally currently stands at 408 and Chelsea, next week in the Champions League last 16, are firmly in his sights.

Lewandowski is very much the humble superstar and the hour we spend together is informative to the point of being an education. Sportsmail first spent time with the Pole three years ago and the impression he made that day is reinforced here.

When players reach his level of fame and adulation, it can distort their characters and ensure they are surrounded by entourages but Lewandowski – who puts his remarkable athletic physique down to eating steak for breakfast and saying no to cake – is refreshingly down to earth.

He arrives for our meeting alone and even though he speaks fluent English, feels the need to apologise for the quality of his language. He clearly has a dry sense of humour, too, as he says with a telling wink at one point: ‘maybe it will improve when I come to the Premier League!’

Since then, Lewandowski has established himself as one of Europe's most lethal attackers

His output at Bayern Munich has at times been overlooked in the Lionel Messi-Cristiano Ronaldo era

Since then, Lewandowski has established himself as one of Europe’s most lethal attackers


He reflects on opportunities earlier in his career to leave Germany for the Premier League


Lewandowski has had chances to head to England but a move now seems to be less likely


If only. Lewandowski is 32 next birthday; the flecks of grey that starting to pepper his jet black hair, coupled with the fact he is happily settled in Bavaria with his wife, Anna, and baby daughter, Klara, suggest a move to England will never materialise.

It has not, however, been for the want of trying. There was a meeting with Sam Allardyce, in April 2010, that almost took the then Lech Poznan forward to Blackburn Rovers but there was a phone call two years later that showed the seriousness of Manchester United’s intent.

‘It’s difficult to say when exactly it was close to move there because every year there something that was maybe going to happen,’ says Lewandowski. ‘I remember (the closest I came). Sir Alex Ferguson called. Could I understand him? Yeah! It wasn’t too bad!

‘I was speaking with him after two years at Dortmund. At that time, I was really, really thinking about a move to Manchester United. For a young player, it was something amazing. That was a special day for me. I spoke to Dortmund afterwards. They said ‘no’ – and that was that.’

Sir Alex Ferguson called Lewandowski to get him to swap Dortmund for Manchester United


At Dortmund, Lewandowski had a close relationship with current Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp


Ferguson had spotted that Lewandowski had scored 30 goals to help Dortmund retain the Bundesliga, the young man having been nurtured by Jurgen Klopp. They remain in contact now and Lewandowski plans to get his old boss something if, and when, Liverpool win the Premier League.

It would, you suspect, be the least he could do. There are more smiles as he recounts in detail how he ended up fleecing Klopp as he embraced the challenge of fulfilling his talent; training sessions became expensive for the manager when the penny dropped on what Lewandowski could achieve.

‘We bet that if I score 10 goals then Jurgen gives me 50 euros,’ he says.

‘I remember the first training sessions, I score three or four. Then after five, six, seven sessions I score seven or eight. After three months? I score in every training session, more like 10.

‘After a few weeks Jurgen said: “No more! It’s too much for me. I don’t want to pay you any more!” That was part of my mentality to be focused on training session. That was very helpful for me. And good in another way! Before I met Jurgen, I had a lot of problems with my body language.

‘He told me sometimes he didn’t know if I was angry or happy. It didn’t matter what was happening, my body language was the same. Jurgen said: “Sometimes you have to be angry! sometimes your actions should be more expressive!” I had to change. That was under Jurgen.’

The Poland forward also cites Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola as a key figure in his career


After the first year with Guardiola, Lewandowski's season returns have read 42, 43, 41 and 40


The bond those have is obvious but so is the respect for Pep Guardiola. If Klopp helped make Lewandowski an assassin, Manchester City’s manager showed him how to administer the kill in the most elegant – but relentless – way.

The first year Lewandowski worked with Guardiola, he scored 25 times. Since then, his tallies have been 42, 43, 41, 40 and he is already at 36 for this campaign. It is freakish consistency, perhaps not fully appreciated, but it shows why comparisons with Gerd Muller are not out of place.

‘Everyone can learn from Pep,’ he states. ‘Not only the tactics but how to be a better player on the pitch and how to be more clear with situations, to know what’s happening – where you should go, where you should run. They are different but if you made a mix from both, it would be perfection.’

And perfection is something Lewandowski continues to pursue. His wife is a nutritionist but her influence goes beyond food; she has introduced him to professors who have given him exercises to train his mind, anything that will give him a fractional advantage in the heat of the moment.

These are the difference that separate the great from the good. Bayern will one day have to think about replacing a man who signed a long-term contract last summer but he is doing all he can to ensure that is some way off.

He focuses as much on his mental sharpness as he does on being physically ready to succeed


His wife Anna (right), who is a nutritionist, has a massive impact in keeping him at the top level


‘What you are doing in your preparations is so important,’ he says. ‘Football now, everyone knows a lot about your tactics, how you move with and without the ball.

‘That is why you have to try to find something that can help you. So you train your brain to be focused, like in school.

‘I do exercises on a computer. I focus. I don’t not look at my phone, to see what’s going on.

‘Mental focus has to be on a high level. The brain gets information (from what you do before a game) that something important is coming. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I want to be better.’

Remarkably Lewandowski has never won the Champions League - but there is still time for him


The longer you spend with him, the more it is seems remarkable that the whirlwind who blew Real Madrid away that frantic night seven years ago has not lifted the greatest prize in club football.

But there is still time – and Chelsea will find out he is a man on a mission.

‘I am the player who will try,’ he says, as things come to a close. ‘I have never been the player who is afraid of something: not from myself or from the team. I want to be the player who can do something special.



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