Even if the club and Lewandowki’s agents are still keeping the lid on it, it seems clear that no big obstacles are left to overcome in the discussions. Being able to secure their seventh key player with a long-term contract would be great news for FC Bayern. Neuer, Boateng, Hummels, Alaba, Müller, and Martínez already signed contracts lasting into the next decade. Renato Sanches, who still has to prove his worth, is also under contract until 2021.
It’s no surprise that the contract extension was only possible by increasing the Pole’s salary significantly. Lewandowki will get close to the team’s highest earning player, Thomas Müller, whose salary had made Bayern shift their absolute limit a bit further to keep the Bavarian home-grown talent. Still, Bayern would be well-advised to reach their current limit and even to go beyond for Lewandowski. The Polish international is one of the top 3 players in his position, a position currently scarce for real world-class talents. If FC Bayern wanted to buy one of the top 5 centre forwards in the world, the discussion would start at 70 million Euros. Gonzalo Higuaín, not even a definite top 5 candidate, moved to Juventus Turin last summer for 90 million Euros. Robert Lewandowki’s current market value should be well beyond 70 Million Euros by now. The only striker ahead of Lewandowski is likely Luis Suárez, whose conversion rate in front of goal is superior.
Ideal set of qualities
It’s not only his goals that make Lewandowski so unique. FC Bayern has always been capable of finding a centre forward who was able to score goals across all competitions. That was true for Claudio Pizarro, Roy Makaay, Luca Toni, Mario Gomez, and even Ivica Olic or Mario Mandzukic. It’s remarkable how Lewandowki increased his total goals tally from 23 to 39 goals in his second season at Bayern, while playing the same amount of minutes. Would Sandro Wagner score 20 to 25 goals in 45 games as a Bayern striker? Probably. Would he enhance the offensive style of play like Lewandowki does? Certainly not.
It’s the overall package that makes Lewandowki so valuable. Lewandowki has improved his finishing – even if his lack of calmness in front of goal is still a small disadvantage at times. He is technically gifted and his headers are more than solid; he is elegant and robust at the same time, enabling him to position himself perfectly in and around the penalty area. His passing skills are on par with a central midfielder and he has a good instinct in pressing situations. He might be the first Bayern striker since Giovane Elber who can control and make good use of any ball coming his way, no matter how fast, high, or long the pass. His interactions with Thomas Müller are exceptional because both players’ qualities complement each other. Lewandowki can move to the flanks, be the poacher in the box, drop back as a number 9 or create links as a number 10. The Pole is multi-functional like a Swiss army knife – made of gold.
Not all of this becomes apparent right away when looking up match statistics after a game. In the victory against Eindhoven last week, Lewandowki was involved in the 2-0 when he protected the ball at the half-way line after a sloppy pass from Alonso, and thus was able to initiate the fast transition that lead to Kimmich scoring the goal after a cross from the left flank. These small situations that are key to enhancing Bayern’s play happen continuously in every match.
Either way, the signing of Lewandowki has been an outstanding transfer for Bayern, even more so if he extends his contract. He was a free agent coming from Dortmund, but free doesn’t mean free of all charges, keeping in mind signing bonuses and potential wage add-ons. Nevertheless, it was a remarkable success for FC Bayern to convince the already sought-after striker of a move to Munich. Bayern hadn’t signed a star player on a free transfer since the turn of the millennium, with Pablo Thiam, Hamit Altintop, Tim Borowski and Ivica Olic the most recent examples.
If Lewandowski really does extend his contract, it will also be a clear signal for the European competition. Of course, a new contract is no guarantee that the 28-year-old will stay in Munich until 2021, but when Real Madrid goes looking for a successor for Benzema or a support for Ronaldo in one or two years, they will have to come with even bigger bags of cash.
Considering all individual aspects, there are plenty of arguments in favour of giving Lewandowski a long-term contract. If that means pushing the wage beyond their current pain threshold, FC Bayern should do it.