Club/Nation: Borussia Dortmund/Poland
Robert Lewandowski may not have the global profile of Mario Gomez or Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, his lauded Bundesliga peers, but that may soon change at the forthcoming European Championships. On home turf, Polish hopes fall squarely on the shoulders of the 23-year-old Borussia Dortmund striker, who operates as a lone striker for both club and country. With 22 goals in 34 league games and eight assists, including a hat-trick in the DFB-Pokal Final, the reigning Bundesliga Player of the Season is fresh from a breakthrough season and will be looking to inspire the lowest ranked team in the competition.
Having worked his way through the Polish leagues, finishing top scorer in each of the top three divisions, he scored 32 goals in 58 games for Lech Poznan before a £4m move to Dortmund in 2010. Amidst his departure, Lech’s owner Jacek Rutowski confessed that: “He’s simply too good for the Polish League.” Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp, delighted with his capture and the modest sum involved, described Lewandowski as: “The most exciting Polish player of the last 10-15 years.”
After eight goals in 15 starts during his first season in German football, Lewandowski benefitted from Lucas Barrios’ injury in last summer’s Copa America and has been a mainstay in the side ever since. Guilty of committing and receiving the most fouls in German football, Lewandowski works incredibly hard with intelligent movement and an assured touch, he is also two-footed and good in the air. Part of Klopp’s ‘Polish axis’ at Dortmund, with Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Blaszczykowsi operating on the right flank, while Lewandowski acts as a focal point in a 4-2-3-1 formation for both club and country.
Drawn in a group that features Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic, Poland will have designs on the knockout stages of the tournament, aspiring to emulate their third-placed finish at the 1982 World Cup. “Advancing from the group is the minimum target, but I hope we will be capable of more than that” Lewandowski revealed to the Daily Mail. “I’d like to score a few goals in the tournament, but first and foremost it’s important that the team plays well and wins points. Physical and psychological preparation is the most important piece of the puzzle, the pressure will be high and we have to prepare well not to have problems.”
Lewandowski made his debut for the national side in September 2008, scoring in a substitute appearance against San Marino, three weeks after his 20th birthday. With 13 goals in 41 games thus far, he impressed in scoring in Poland’s 2-2 draw against a full-strength Germany side in September, also netting in a subsequent draw with South Korea and win against Belarus. Built to defend and break at pace, his form and fitness is critical to Poland’s chances, with a lack of a suitable replacement.
With two years remaining on his current Dortmund deal, his agent Cezary Kucharski is pushing for improved terms on a bumper new contract for his client. A prolific European Championship showing would certainly aid negotiations and also draw attention from some of Europe’s big guns, who are already beginning to circle. With a wealth of options likely to be forthcoming, Lewandowski will be well aware of the importance of making the right career choice. Had he opted for the other interested party, Sam Allardyce’s Blackburn Rovers, as opposed to Dortmund a couple of years ago, his career may have followed a very different trajectory.
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