Player of the Year 2016: Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski’s numbers in the calendar year 2016 speak for themselves. In 49 games the striker was directly involved in 45 goals, scoring 39 of them. Not a single player in the whole Bayern squad was as consistent as Lewandowski in 2016. Next to Thomas Müller he’s also the player, who’s pretty much never injured. This was rewarded with the top goal scorer trophy at the end of the 2015/2016 Bundesliga season. 30 goals – in the last 39 years no other striker had scored this many.
Every goal and assist tells its own story. The most emotional in the calendar year 2016 was definitely the second leg of the last sixteen clash against Juventus Turin.
It was March 16th in 2016. FC Bayern threw away a 2-0 lead in the first leg and had to settle for a 2-2 draw. The Old Lady surprised Pep Guardiola’s men with very high pressing in Munich. FC Bayern’s game became very error-prone. At half-time the score was 0-2 from a Bayern perspective. The exit from the last sixteen was basically inevitable.
However, FC Bayern just didn’t want to concede defeat this evening. Especially Robert Lewandowski. He worked his socks off. He clenched his teeth – he was rewarded. He got a goal back through a header after a sharp Douglas Costa cross for the 1-2. The atmosphere in the Allianz Arena turned for the better. The fans gained some hope. Later he hit the post with an artistic header. Thomas Müller delivered the equaliser in injury-time. The rest is history.
Robert Lewandowski is a professional athlete – and does so with all consequences unlike most others. Every manager, that has coached him praises his attitude. A now famous quote from Pep Guardiola: “Robert Lewandowski is sleeping a lot.“ That his diligence influences his performances was recently shown with a brace. Scoring a free kick against Mainz as well as Atlético Madrid.
Afterwards he humbly admitted that he’s been intensely working on his free kicks. This story might be trivial, but emphasises Lewandowski’s will to get better, step by step. Lewandowski works football. He’s not an extremely talented player, but rather one, that has to work for everything.
It’s the overall package, which makes Lewandowski irreplaceable. Lewandowski improved his finishing – although the lack of calmness in front of goal is still a little flaw.
In the final game of the year against Leipzig that was still visible. He’s technically adept and solid when it comes to heading. He’s that agile and robust with his body at the same time, that he can position himself nearly effortlessly in the box to receive a pass. He’s as accurate as a passer like a central midfielder and has a good instinct for pressing, something which is often ignored. However, when one is observing the opponent’s strikers it really becomes apparent.
The differences are huge at times. Lewandowski is probably the first Bayern striker since Giovane Élber, that is able to control and process any pass quickly – doesn’t matter how powerful, how high or how far. This universality makes him special and surely one of the three to five best strikers in the world currently.
Now with 28 years of age and a fresh contract until the 30th of June 2021, he’s the new face of FC Bayern. The one after Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben – the generation Champions League winner 2013. For many this still sounds strange, because he’s never shown 100% affinity to the club. However, at the start of Ribéry’s and Robben’s Bayern era this was similar. Both ironed out that flaw (if you want to call it that) long ago. The next years will show when Lewandowski is willing to do that.
The extension with him is something extraordinary. Not only, because FC Bayern had to stretch financially to extend the contract of the Pole. But also, because FC Bayern maintains a special relationship with its strikers.
Roy Makaay, Luca Toni, Miroslav Klose, Mario Gomez and Mario Mandzukic were all outstanding strikers, each with their own unique abilities. However, they didn’t shape an era at FC Bayern. Apart from Claudio Pizarro this was the first contract extension with an FC Bayern striker since the aforementioned Giovane Élber, whose debut at FC Bayern was nearly 20 years ago.
This dimension underlines all of the appreciation FC Bayern has for Robert Lewandowski. If he stays until his contract runs out, Lewandowski would be a Bayern striker for eight years.
As a player Robert Lewandowski probably only has two big goals – even if he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops.
The striker is not a man of big words or gestures. Winning the Champions League and the World Player of the Year award are still on the to-do list. While he was pretty close to the Champions League trophy with Dortmund and reaching the semi-finals with FC Bayern, there’s still a lot missing for the World Player of the Year. In this years’ voting he finished in 16th place.
Afterwards, Lewandowski commented on the voting with an ironic tweet:
— Robert Lewandowski (@lewy_official) 12. Dezember 2016
He even finished behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (11th place) and Arturo Vidal (14th place). At that moment he had 38 goals in 2016, as many as the winner Cristiano Ronaldo. The fine difference is, that Ronaldo won both the Champions League and the European Championship.
The Polish international is still lacking the very last recognition – especially from international commentators and viewers.
Anyway. The new year can be the year of Robert Lewandowski, even when it became obvious in the months October and November, that his game suffered because of the tactical adaption of Carlo Ancelotti and required an adjustment. Surely one reason why the performances of the Pole were average in autumn. Maybe it was solely just the number of games Lewandowski had played. Even at the European Championship he didn’t seem to be at the peak of his ability. Despite this taint, Lewandowski remains the only conclusive choice. This also shows, that many Bayern players only performed at an average or not consistently high enough level.
Since changing the system to a 4-2-3-1 in December Lewandowski is more present in the game again. The number of shots on target is rising again, this is and will be essential for his game. We can only hope, that he continues to consistently work on himself to achieve his personal and ‘private’ goals.
In that case he’ll once again have good chances to win Miasanrot player of the 2017.