‘The Body’ Lewandowski set to make World Cup Debut

Robert Lewandowski is a Polish sporting legend Darek Delmanowicz

Nicknamed ‘The Body’, or ‘Lewy’, he’s been a quarterfinalist in the European Championships, three-times top striker in Germany’s Bundesliga, a finalist in the Champions League and holds the record for the number of goals scored for Poland. But this year’s World Cup finals in Russia will be Robert Lewandowski’s first at the age of almost 30.

Football history is replete with amazing players who never played in a Word Cup, including Alfredo Di Stefano, George Best, Ryan Giggs and Eric Cantona. Fortunately, Robert Lewandowski will not make that list, although the Bayern Munich striker’s debut comes late in his career. There is no doubting, however, that Lewandowski has earned his place in the world’s greatest footballing spectacle. With 16 goals, he was the top striker in the World Cup qualifying rounds for the European zone. Many of those goals proved vital, such as the one in the final second of the match against Armenia in Warsaw (2:1). 

Lewandowski’s career to date has been nothing short of exemplary, both on and off the pitch. He was top striker in Poland’s third league in 2007 and a year later held the same title in its second league. In 2010 he held the title of top striker in the country’s top ‘Ekstraklasa’ league, playing for Lech Poznań. 

In 2009, he was recognised by Britain’s ‘The Times’ newspaper as one of the 50 most promising players in the world under the age of 23. He soon proved that the distinction was no accident and with each subsequent season has climbed up the hierarchy of the world’s best players. The attacker who cost Znicz Pruszków just PLN 5,000 (EUR 1,170)  in 2006  (he had earlier played for Legia Warsaw reserves) left Lech Poznań for Germany’s Borussia Dortmund in June 2010 for EUR 4.5 million. At the time it seemed as if Poznań had got a great deal, but it soon transpired that Dortmund had the better deal. 

At Borussia Dortmund he won the national league twice, the DFB-Pokal cup once and earned the title of top striker in the Bundesliga in 2014. In May 2013, he played in a Champions League final at London’s Wembley stadium, where the team lost 2:1 to Bayern Munich. It was for Bayern that Lewandowski left Dortmund on a free transfer in the summer of 2014,  and he continued to collect trophies—four times champions of Germany, one DFB-Pokal cup and a further two titles of Budesliga top striker (2016 and 2018). Recently Germany’s ‘Sport Bild’ magazine announced that Bayern would not negotiate his departure for less than EUR 200 million. And yet footballing circles have been alight with rumours of a transfer for months with interested clubs including Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Juventus.

According to many experts, Robert Lewandowski is the complete attacker. He positions himself superbly in the box, his technical training is excellent, he is strong, he plays well with his head and plays set pieces brilliantly. He has perfected the art not only of scoring goals but of penalty kicks and free kicks. On top of all that, due to his excellent physical training and extreme professionalism in his approach to his work, he is very rarely injured, and even when he is, he is only off the pitch for a few days. 

Lewandowski debuted for the Polish national team on September 10, 2008, winning 2:0 away in a World Cup qualifier against San Marino. As in many other maiden appearances, he scored a goal. To date he has worn national colours 93 times and scored 52 goals, making him the highest scorer in the history of the national team. (The previous record of 48 was held by Włodzimierz Lubański.) Since December 2014, he has been Polish captain and after 18 months in the role he led the team to the quarter finals of the European Championships in France. 

Among his many records, two stand out: the fastest hat-trick for Poland (in four minutes in a European Championships qualifier against Georgia in Warsaw) and five goals in the space of nine minutes in a league match against Wolfsburg in September 2015. His achievement of 45 goals in the Champions League puts him in ninth place among the best strikers in the game. In addition, he is Bayern Munich’s best ever foreign striker. In FIFA’s 2015 Ballon d'Or award, he won fourth place and in 2016, after more than two years playing for Bayern Munich, he signed a new contract, stretching till June 2021 and guaranteeing him an income to the tune of EUR 15 million, or according to some sources as much as EUR 20 million a year, making him the best payed player in the Bundesliga. 

But he also makes money off the pitch. As befits a famous sportsman, he has endorsement and promotion deals with big companies. He has appeared in advertising for a range of products including fizzy drinks, razors, mobile phones, sports shoes, televisions and suits. In 2017, ‘Newsweek’ estimated his earnings from product endorsements at PLN 10 million (EUR 2.34 million). 

Even before he klicks a ball for Poland at the 2018 Russia World Cup, it is fair to say that Robert Lewandowski is a Polish sporting legend.