Player of the month February: Robert Lewandowski
In retrospect, Robert Lewandowski’s February will not necessarily go down in history as his strongest month. However, this has little to do with mixed performances. Rather, the Pole has been at such a high level for many years that five goals in five games against Leipzig, Bochum, Fürth, Frankfurt and Salzburg did not cause much of a stir.
But why, actually? It is remarkable how quietly the season of the 33-year-old is taken for granted. In 33 competitive games, the attacker has been directly involved in 42 goals, 39 of which he scored himself. On average, it takes him about 73 minutes to score a goal.
In the league, Lewandowski has again set his sights on the 40-goal mark. If we go by his 24 appearances so far, he will reach 39 or 40 goals by the end of the season. His average per 90 minutes is 1.21 goals – extrapolated to 34 games, that would be 41. Will he continue against Leverkusen next weekend? In recent years, he has scored many important goals against the Werkself, including in 2020 in December, when he provided the winning goal shortly before the end.
He already broke Gerd Müller’s historic 40-goal record last season. Perhaps that is why the same possibility this season does not cause much of a discussion. This season, the Warsaw native has proven that he is able to maintain performing at an insanely high level. The last year does not seem to have been an outlier.
Better even, Lewandowski is able to score two goals in a weak performance in Bochum, or two important goals against Fürth, when they were trailing 0:1 at the break. His first goal last month against Leipzig may also have been decisive for the course of the game. Shortly before halftime, he hammered home a high cross with his head, putting Bayern on the winning track.
Lewandowski scores and scores and scores – so often that five goals in five games for him is a below-average figure. For his team he is like a breathing life insurance policy. Without him, there is no doubt the Bayern team would be in a different position now.
However, this is not only due to his goals. In February, the FIFA World Player proved how important he is for ball circulation in attack. Time and again, he drops off to midfield to give the other offensive players spaces and initiate attacks himself.
Hardly any other striker in the world moves as intelligently in the opponent’s penalty area as Lewandowski; with 8.44 contacts per 90 minutes, he is on the ball there more often than 98% of the male strikers monitored by StatsBomb. He holds up balls, distributes them cleverly and puts himself in good positions time and again. But he is also a reliable part of the team’s ball circulation outside the box.
His body language in particular has changed in recent years. In the past, he liked to turn away when something did not happen to his satisfaction, but now he takes point with natural authority. For many months now, his teammates have experienced a positive Lewandowski, who is on the pitch with and for them and not for himself. He has become a leader.
Granted, this is not ordinarily included in the criteria for the player of the month. That is why this point should stand on its own. When Lewandowski led the team in Frankfurt with a second armband in the colors of Ukraine, it was more than mere symbolism.
“We are all against war and didn’t think it would come to this. It hurts to see that,” the Bundesliga top scorer said on Sky after the game, “The situation is dramatic. The whole world has to support Ukraine.” Sport, he added, “cannot take itself out of it. We must not accept what is happening there,” Lewandowski stressed.
The Polish Football Association had previously decided to boycott the World Cup playoffs. Poland would have had to play Russia there. Other federations also joined. Lewandowski supported it wholeheartedly. On Twitter, he wrote: “I can’t imagine playing a match against the Russian national team in a situation where armed aggression continues in Ukraine.” He added that one cannot pretend that nothing is happening.
These are strong words that the Bayern star is sending out to the world these days. In football, this behaviour has become rarer in recent years. Even at FIFA and UEFA, sanctions against Russia were only decided when external pressure grew. That makes it all the more important for players like Lewandowski or FAs like Poland’s, which took a clear position from the outset – and for whom the sporting and financial ramifications played second fiddle for the time being.
These three points leave only one conclusion: FC Bayern would do well to extend Lewandowski’s contract. True, at 33, he is already at an age where clubs rightly start to weigh giving new contracts to players more carefully, but given the last few years, this weighing is not expected to last long at the record champions.
Since the 2015/16 season, the Pole has missed just 17 games, two of them on a voluntary break. In 2020 and 2021, he had three unrelated injuries, each of which kept him out of action for about a month. Lewandowski is peak fit and plays almost every game without ever showing signs of fatigue.
Compared to other, younger strikers, that is a big plus. Erling Haaland, for example, has already missed 16 games for Dortmund this season alone. Several media reports indicate that FC Bayern would like to extend the contract with their star striker – but there have been no concrete talks yet.
There has been some activity among the Pole’s agents in recent days. Max Bielefeld, former Sky journalist with numerous contacts in the international agent community, is now part of the team of Pini Zahavi. Bielefeld and Sky had frequently reported Lewandowski’s desire for a change in recent years. A bad sign? That remains to be seen. But Bayern would certainly do well to start contract talks as soon as possible.