Robert Lewandowski leaves FC Bayern – whose bet will pay off?

Dennis Separator July 17, 2022

The FIFA world footballer leaves the club. With what emotions will the move itself but also Lewandowski’s entire time at Bayern be associated? What is your personal Lewa moment?

Maurice: For me, the most memorable moment will always be the game in the Allianz Arena against Wolfsburg, when Lewandowski was substituted on at the break and scored a completely unhinged five goals in nine minutes. Five goals in nine minutes – that sounds like U8 or New Zealand’s second league, but not like a top game in the Bundesliga. These raw numbers were a novelty for the German league. The ecstasy in the stadium also knew no limits. Just think of the expression on Pep Guardiola’s face, which became a meme straight away.

Georg: I associate mostly positive emotions with Lewandowski. The circumstances of his departure were not ideal, but his motivation was understandable to me. In this respect, it is perhaps only logical that my personal Lewy moment is not one of his 344 goals for FC Bayern, but his jubilation after the success in the 2020 CL final against Paris in the Estádio da Luz. His doggedness, reminiscent of Oliver Kahn, his raw ambition with which he subordinated everything to his sporting career, and the redemption when he finally held the trophy in his hands. Goosebumps.

Christopher: Goal number 41 in the 2020/21 season. Gerd Müller’s 40 goals seemed forever unreachable and yet he managed to break the record. He did it having played only 29 games. That really was a crazy season. Especially if you followed the Bundesliga in the 90s and 00s. That there was a player with more than 25 or 30 goals seemed unthinkable.

A deal earning Bayern up to €50 million including bonus payments for an almost 34-year-old with one year left on his contract. Is that a good deal for the Bayern brass?

Maurice: If you look at the figures alone, you can only come to this conclusion. A transfer fee of up to 50 million euros plus the rumoured salary costs of 25 million euros is a hefty sum for a soon-to-be 34-year-old who also had little interest in spending another season at the club.

However, there are three counter-arguments to this narrative: First, there are the costs for an adequate replacement, which could possibly be even higher than the income form this sale. For a world-class player at a younger age, a total package of around €150 million is probably the lower bound. In addition, the club is showing itself to be susceptible to blackmail with this sale, because a resounding “no” from the top brass will henceforth probably always be regarded as more of an unsubstantiated threat rather than a final say. How this will affect future contracts remains to be seen in the coming years. Lastly, there is probably only a handful of players who are as professional as Lewandowski, who can be expected to have several more seasons at the highest level in him. Just look at a certain Tom Brady in the USA. Having said that, even a model professional like Cristiano Ronaldo has fallen off noticeably in recent years.

In the end, it is a difficult question to answer whether Lewandowski was sold at the right time.

Christopher: Only time will tell. If Lewandowski delivers at a very high level for another two or three years in Barcelona, the board will have to accept the reproach of not having done everything to keep him. If Lewandowski declines sooner, is injured more often (which is not something we should wish on him) or simply does not work in the Catalan team, then Bayern could feel like the winners of the deal. Mind you, only if they manage to be more successful than in the last two years. The domestic double and the semi-finals of the Champions League would be necessary for that. Is that achievable without an out-and-out striker? If you look at Liverpool and Manchester City in recent years, it is. Is it easier with a striker of Lewandowski’s calibre? Most probably.

Daniel: No, it’s not a good deal. Because only reinvested money shoots goals and there is no one FC Bayern can sign at the moment. All that money is of no use at the end of the day if THE key position is vacant, you fail in the cup competitions and have to take stock of having wasted another year of the little time with Müller, Neuer, Kimmich and recently Mané at their peaks remaining.

Perhaps some people are dreaming of wiring the money directly to Turin to park the bus with De Ligt, but this FC Bayern will never again become a Hitzfeldian 1-0 team. You need a top player up front, and playing with Sadio Mané and Serge Gnabry there for at least a year can actually work out fine – but even more likely, the whole thing can go horribly wrong. And then you’re standing there in February, €50 million richer but starving for a centre-forward.

How can the departure be compensated for in sporting terms? Do Bayern have to sign a replacement centre-forward? What could a system without Lewandowski look like?

Georg: The system question is the key question, also with respect to further signings in the summer. With Mané and Gnabry, FC Bayern have goal-scoring wingers in the squad who could indirectly replace Lewandowski. Be it in a 4-3-3, comparable to Liverpool, or in a 3-5-2/4-2-2 with Mané and Gnabry as a fluid duo up front. For a 4-3-3, the squad needs another central midfielder, for a 3-5-2 more depth for the three-man backline. To maintain the traditional 4-2-3-1, a classic centre-forward would be needed. In any case, Hasan Salihamidžić still has work to do.

Christopher: Some key ideas for the offensive have already been mentioned. But maybe FC Bayern want to try a different tack and shift focus to the defence. With a signing of De Ligt, the central defence could be massively strengthened. With 44 or 37 goals conceded in the Bundesliga and sometimes disastrous performances, it is usually difficult to win titles. In addition, De Ligt would help strengthening the team’s build-up play and thus add variety to playing out from the back. Nevertheless, the question remains as to who should score the goals. Mané and Gnabry, possibly Sané, would have to score 15 to 20 goals each to make up for Lewandowski’s numbers. I’m curious to see if that works.

Cristiano Ronaldo is being considered as a potential successor. Would the appointment make sense from a sporting point of view?

Georg: Hardly, if you look at it purely from a sporting point of view. Ronaldo now plays a very classic centre-forward role and strictly focuses on the duty of scoring goals. Without the ball, he is only marginally involved in defensive play. According to statistics provider fbref, he is in the bottom one percent of all strikers in Europe’s top 5 leagues in terms of pressing actions. That did not suit Rangnick at Manchester, that does not suit Nagelsmann at Bayern. FC Bayern cannot afford the luxury of a defensively uninvolved player when it comes time to challenge Liverpool, Manchester City and Co. for Europe’s crown.

He could, however, be useful in a backup role as a substitute or rotation player. The question here is whether he would be willing to do that (the answer is: probably not at all).

Daniel: No offence, Georg, but you see things far too theoretically. Pressing actions!? Kahn and Hainer couldn’t care less! (laughs) Bayern needs a player who can score. Ronaldo can score. That alone is enough to make Ronaldo interesting. I agree that it’s quite possible that Nagelsmann is getting nervous because he knows exactly what Cristiano’s shortcomings are. And I wouldn’t put it past Salihamidžić to be sceptical either. For all his mistakes in the past, Brazzo certainly seems to have an idea of what skill set a Bayern player needs (see veto against Timo Werner or various Kovač players).

But if Ronaldo II. doesn’t find another club soon, this will simmer all summer because he himself would certainly walk all the way to Munich for this transfer and precisely because it makes sense. It makes sense because Bayern need new goals quickly and some time to find a suitable successor for Lewandowski, and Ronaldo would provide both. Everyone, including Ronaldo, knows that he’d be just a temporary fix. And it also makes sense because Hainer and Kahn are likely to get very big €-eyes at the hype that will surely arise around CR7. No, wait, CR9, Gnabry has fortunately extended his contract.

Despite all the justified criticism that Ronaldo costs his team too much by playing de facto with ten players, that he no longer offers the numbers of the good ol’ days when it comes to scoring, there are also crystal-clear advantages with him. Bayern now have the ball a lot, and Bayern’s second-best striker this millennium, Mario Gómez, showed that you don’t necessarily always have to be in the game to be worth your weight in gold. Often, simply being a sneaky, cold blooded poacher is enough.

Above all, however, Ronaldo’s advantage lies in his aerial game. No matter how beautiful such a fluid attacking system with half-forwards may work on paper, it would take a very talented exorcist to exorcise Bayern’s ability to cross. When they don’t know what to do, Bayern players will always opt for a cross. Even Guardiola understood that in his third year, bought Costa and Coman, went for inverse wingers, and let them whip cross after cross into the box. If Mazraoui works out, this tactic is likely to be used even more. Anyone who believes that without a strong header in attack, things will automatically change is mistaken. I’m reminded of various international matches around 2016, where the DFB team put high cross after high cross towards the giant of aerial play Mario Götze. With Ronaldo up front, the whole story would play out very differently. Crosses would not only make complete sense, they would even have to be classified as assets rather than liabilities, since he is quite simply the best header ever to play the sport.

Yes, I do catch myself thinking that in another world I would like to see the Ronaldo II. experiment at Bayern for a year. And yet I object to this idea. Vehemently, even. The reason is obvious, it is the rape accusation and even more, his confirmed response to this accusation, which in my eyes is like an admission of guilt. That weighs so heavily for me that I don’t care about anything else. I don’t want to see this player at FC Bayern.

Christopher: I think the idea is a flight of fancy, nothing more. Georg has already mentioned the sporting reasons. It can’t work with Julian Nagelsmann’s style. You mustn’t forget – it’s going to be a difficult second year for the young Bayern coach. The second half of the season was lousy. For Nagelsmann, it’s now about managing the transition. In the past, the Bayern team managed to compensate for the departures of Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Ribéry, Robben and Alaba. Nagelsmann now has the Herculean task of replacing almost 100 competitive goals in the last two seasons. But it won’t be Ronaldo, even if Herbert Hainer would like to sell a few more Adidas shirts with a CR7/CR9 print.

With some distance – is Robert Lewandowski the best striker FC Bayern have ever had?

Christopher: I always quickly get a little tired of the GOAT debates. I find it difficult to compare the different decades. The game has changed fundamentally. Various rules have been adapted to favour offensive play. Players are straightout “bred”. The game of today has little to do with the football of the 50s, 60s or 70s. Gerd Müller spent fifteen years at FC Bayern as a player, and later for a long time in various roles at the club. Even if he no longer holds all the records, that will prevail. Robert Lewandowski’s demeanour has been too aloof and pristinely professional over all these years.

Maurice: With the comforting distance of a day, Lewandowski definitely belongs in the pantheon of the best Bayern strikers of all time. He can’t challenge Gerd Müller for first place, the Bomber was too great and important for the club for that. Perhaps breaking the sound barrier of 365 league goals and/or clutching a Champions League title with Lewandowski scoring a goal in the final could have done it, but this is idle speculation. What will damage Lewandowski’s legacy in the long run is his lack of love from the fans. In the end, he was a record breaker, not a heartbreaker.

Daniel: No, absolutely not. There are good arguments to see Gerd Müller as the best centre-forward ever, regardless of the club. It’s a different story with Lewandowski. He will go down in history as the second best striker at this club and in the league, which is a huge achievement in itself, when his former boss Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was so incredibly good. He even managed to do twice what Lewandowski deliciously failed to do: win the Ballon d’Or. It is possible, however, that one consequence of Lewandowski’s unseemly, indeed unacceptable, behaviour is that he has dropped to third place here with some time to spare. Rummenigge was connected to the club even after his career, thus strengthening his legacy. But things will never be the same again between Lewandowski and FC Bayern; he has unnecessarily damaged his legacy.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. Thank you Miasanrot team for your “emergency” thoughts. I am grateful to have been able to witness such a great striker and football professional to play for my club. Thank you Lewandowski and I wish you the best for your next adventure.

    On the other hand, I already move on mentally from him (as also with the case of any player leaving Bayern, including Ballack, Kroos, Alabama, etc). I’m only interested in the club as a whole, so all the talks about the way he left don’t really interest me. Instead I’m quite curious to see how Nagelsmann organizes the attack this season. I personally think if Ronaldo would accept a reduced role he would be a great weapon to have, though unrealistic wish I guess.

    What do you think about the rumored Mathys Tys?

    Answer Icon1 ReplyClose child-comments
    1. Hi Hien,

      Thanks for your message! You’re right in not wanting to waste your precious time on ruminating why and how Lewandowski left Bayern. That’s water under the bridge. I personally don’t think that any party has done anything out of the ordinary at any stage of the transfer. All the statements, all the declarations, all the jazzed up “low blows” by this or that person – that’s all just part of the deal and only used as tactical moves in a protracted negotiation. I too have a soft spot for Lewandowski and I wish him all the best in Spain as well. A minor side effect of his move is that, although I usually have little time for Barça, I will update myself on their progress and Lewandowski’s hand in that from time to time from now on.

      But Ronaldo? Are you serious? I’m really grateful that we have been spared that particular spectacle. ;-) (But perhaps @Marc begs to differ?)

      Regarding Mathys Tel, I hear he’s a great talent. But then again, they all are, aren’t they? I just looked at the Guardian’s “Best young players” lists from 2014 to 2017, which each year portrays a selection of 60 young talents at the age of 17 whom the Guardian has made out to be on track to have a successful career as a pro. Going through those lists five to eight years on in 2022, you recognize a number of names and some players really have proceeded to have a successful career, e.g. Sancho, Dembélé, de Ligt, Rashford to name a few, but there is also an awful lot of names nobody still knows today.

      Now, FC Bayern’s scouting department is not the Guardian and we can all hope that they have more substantial means of assessing the prospects of a 17 year old kid at their disposal than a bunch of sports journalists but predicting the ultimate success of a young kid at that age in part resembles a lottery.

      A lottery is fine as long as the tickets come cheap. Reportedly, Bayern are willing to pay €10 million up front plus another low double digit million amount in add-ons to secure Tel’s services, resulting in a total transfer fee of €20+ million for the player. Is a €20 million gamble with unclear odds of winning a gamble I’d feel comfortable taking? Not really, but here’s to hoping in the sharp eyes of the FC Bayern scouting department.

  2. I’m in complete agreement with you both regarding Lewandowski. I’m sad to see him leave. I would love to have seen him retire at Bayern. Of course I wish things had gone down in a different way but honestly, this is the world we live in these days. I can also easily find my own rationalizations for why he did what he did. At the end of the day, it’s his decision, Bayern got paid a reasonable sum of money for him which helped to fund other areas and we now move forward with the players we have.

    Regarding Ronaldo, I think if you could just take his footballing ability and drive, it could actually make a lot of sense. However, the ego and wages that he would want I think far outweigh any possible positives to be had. I think Ronaldo and Bayern are just a poor fit from nearly every aspect as soon as you factor in personality and financials.

    Honestly, my knowledge of Tel is realitively limited as I don’t watch a lot of Ligue 1. I’m sure he has a lot of potential as everyone has mentioned and for the right price it might make sense. However, I’m of the opinion that signing young players who are not ready to immediately get a significant amount of starting minutes, largely have no place at Bayern or any club of their stature. They need time to grow and develop. From what I’ve heard about Tel and my intimate knowledge of what Bayern have in attack, I really struggle to see him getting more than a few starts and maybe not an insignificant amount of sub appearances but probably for very short stretches.

    I think with Gnabry, Mane, Sane and Muller, they can piece together a different but very effective front line. I think the fluidity and variablity that it will offer Nagelsmann will also likely suit him as a coach. I know that can be a little controversial as well of course. Some people really question whether variability and options are the best thing for a tinkerer, but I do think it’s worth seeing how this type of team will work.

    For me, I think they do need to sign a striker, but I think it should be someone who is a bit older and is in a position where he doesn’t need to start for development or because of his ego. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of those guys out there. Ideally, I think it would be a target man in the mold of Mario Gomez or Mario Mandzukic, as that’s going to be one of the area’s that Bayern have an obvious weakness heading (no pun intended) into next season. While this would be underwhelming for most fans, a player like Wout Weghorst could have been a good stopgap for Bayern this season until they have more funds and see what their ultimate need is at striker. Realistically, the other issue is that there aren’t a lot of options available that can immediately fill those shoes Lewy left either. Maybe you could pry away Harry Kane if you had the money, but I don’t think Bayern have the desire or willingness to spend that amount of cash again this transfer cycle.

    Answer Icon1 ReplyClose child-comments
    1. Hi Alex, yes and no, I don’t desperately want Ronaldo at Bayern as the case with De Ligt or Mane, but I like the idea. As much as I’m excited to see the new look attack this season, which is supposed to be much more varied and flexible, I still think it also brings a considerably big risk, so having another option (of a poacher or classic striker mould) from the bench could offset this risk and makes Bayern’s game more complete. Ronaldo is not a classic number 9, at 37 he also not a press leading player we want, but his finishing, aerial game and especially determination are things I’ve always admired. Plus the star element would also boosts our position in the ranking, if that what’s the bosses also want to pay attention to?

      But of course, as you said, it’s rather unlikely he would even accept this reduced role (and money) so it’s more my wishful thinking.

      I will still be having this concern if we go into the season with the attack as it is, which is very likely.

      Regarding Mathys Tyl, thank you both for your comment. I think the success of Davies’s investment encourages Bayern to be more bold going into this route? 25m is a lot a lot of money, but in the more likely event that he doesn’t make it, we can sell him and cut the loss as with Renato Sanches (without really threatening the club’s finances), and in the less likely event that he turns into a Benzema, we have another winner perhaps?

      Lastly, I still have a question mark with the midfield plan, that I already out when Bayern signed Ryan Gravenbech: as good as he is, plus Sabitzer and Goretzka, I see them as a more or less the same group of midfielders (e.g. more mobile, more forward thinking, more box to box) leaving still Kimmich as the only playmaker, and even Kimmich himself in my view, is not a world class lone number 6 at all (due to his limited defensive capability). So a classic 4-3-3 (my favorite Football Manager formation) would not be a serious option at all, and when Kimmich can’t play will we go back to the same depth problem as the case during so many years.

      Speaking of that, why would we are still going for Laimer, a great runner and midfielder, but not a playmaker, but not someone like De Jong (admittedly I dream of having him at Bayern)? I guess the obvious answer to me is money, but do I miss also something tactically? I have a bit of hope with Ryan Gravenbech, but for now, I think as long as Bayern still have only 1, and can only rely on one playmaker/controller in midfield, without a replacement for the second (Thiago), our midfield is still imbalance.

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