FourFourTwo’s Best 100 Football Players in the World 2016: No.7 – Robert Lewandowski
Jonathan Harding examines another successful November-to-November for Bayern Munich's goal machine…
It was always going to be difficult for Lewandowski to improve on 2015, which was undoubtedly the best year of his professional career – the only thing that was missing was a Champions League winner’s medal.
Not much changed as 2016 rolled in. Lewandowski was a consistent scorer in the final stretch of Bayern’s Bundesliga triumph, contributing 15 strikes in the second half of the season. He finished the campaign with the Golden Boot having notched 30 of Bayern’s 80 league goals, with his effort against Wolfsburg (the same team he famously scored five in nine minutes against last year) on matchday 23 highlighting the confidence with which the Polish striker now struts around a football field.
After the game, Lewandowski asserted in an interview: “I want to score goals systematically.” While he was doing just that under Pep Guardiola at club level, he was unable to have the same impact on the international stage: Poland may have reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, but their star man managed just one goal in France.
Perhaps his domestic heroics left him with too little gas in the tank in June and July; the fact he’s hit seven of Poland’s 10 goals in their first four World Cup qualifiers certainly seems to suggest he’s back to his clinical best after the summer break.
Lewandowski’s quality is undeniable. Guardiola labelled him one of the most professional players in the world and new Bayern head coach Carlo Ancelotti believes him to be one of the top three centre-forwards around.
In a recent interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung, Lewandowski revealed he’s improved in the last couple of years, largely because “I can [now] combine better with other players.”
That hasn’t been easy in the new season, with Lewandowski often crowded out by five-man backlines. In the same interview, the Polish striker revealed that Ancelotti wants him to play more like a traditional striker, one who favours killer instinct over tactical awareness.
At the start of the season, there was plenty of that on show. An opening day hat-trick against Werder Bremen served as evidence of his opportunism. And then in a tense game against Schalke, Lewandowski made the breakthrough in the final 10 minutes with an incredible display of composure. It was the perfect example of just how much of a difference-maker he can be.
Goal droughts are concerning for any striker, and Lewandowski was soon reminded what one of those feels like. Between matchday four and eight of the new season, the Pole failed to find the net. Many pointed the finger at Ancelotti, but Lewandowski’s recent performance against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League show that even the most brilliant scorers in the modern game can struggle against well-organised defences.
The way the 28-year-old’s career has panned out up to now suggests that a reported new contract doesn’t mean he’ll necessary stay at Bayern, although Lewandowski must surely be tempted to score the 19 goals he needs to reach 100 for the club. The Bavarians won’t mind that one bit - especially if those strikes lead them to European glory.
Vote for your favourite player of 2016 at ForzaFootball here. We'll reveal the results next week.
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FourFourTwo’s Best 100 Football Players in the World 2016
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By Conor Pope
By Conor Pope