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FEATURE | What separates Robert Lewandowski from other elite forwards & why he remains undervalued

For a decade now Robert Lewandowski has been one of Europe’s most prolific goal scorers and has deservedly made a case for him being the best striker in the world, one of the best strikers of his generation and one of the best strikers to have ever graced the Bundesliga. The Bayern Munich forward was recently awarded the European Golden Shoe after scoring an absurd 41 goals from only 29 league appearances. Had the 2020 Ballon D’Or ceremony not been postponed due to Covid-19, Lewandowski would have also been the front runner to collect football’s most prestigious individual award coming off a 55-goal season in which he won his first Champions League title.

For all his accolades and his remarkable consistency, it would be inconceivable for Lewandowski to be classed as an underappreciated player especially when he is now widely regarded as the best striker in world football currently. However, many of Lewandowski’s talents remain undervalued as he has so many assets which set him apart from other renowned goal scorers.

At Borussia Dortmund, Lewandowski was more of a pure goalscorer but since his move to Bavaria, the Poland international has never stopped improving. Lewandowski has link up play that would make some attacking midfielders envious. He’s recorded 35 assists in the past three seasons and already has three this season. For context, Kevin De Bruyne who is one of the worlds most creative players has 34 assists from the past three seasons. This season, Lewandowski has averaged 1.74 key passes per 90, this shows that he has creative instinct and is more than a finisher.

On the topic of finishing, Lewandowski has the range of finishing that you would expect from a man who has scored over 200 goals in under 10 seasons. The 33-year-old has scored 32 goals on his weak foot and 35 with his head. In addition to this, Lewandowski also likes to shoot from range. With 13 goals from outside the box, that’s a respectable number for a player who is essentially an expert in the penalty area. To reinforce just how clinical/consistent Lewandowski is, he has accumulated an xG of 208 in the past eight seasons and has scored 210, particularly outperforming his xG in the past two seasons. Lewandowski only seems to get better with age.

When comparing Lewandowski to other players it’s almost as if he’s in a league of his own. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are almost superhuman and in a league of their own, yet Lewandowski is the closest player to them in terms of goals in the past five years, barring Luis Suarez who is still an elite striker but arguably hasn’t remained as consistent as Lewandowski has managed to.

Erling Haaland is the only striker in the Bundesliga to lay a glove on Lewandowski in recent memory however, he will surely leave the Bundesliga soon and is far too young to be compared to someone like the Pole who has already won many of the top prizes in club football.

Players within the conversation of the best strikers in world football right now are the likes of Karim Benzema, Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane amongst others. All three are undoubtedly world class yet the point remains that none of them have maintained the consistency of Lewandowski. It takes a different level of striker to score five goals in under 10 minutes and outperform their xG by nearly 10 goals in their previous season despite entering their early thirties.

Karim Benzema and Luis Suarez are arguably the fairest comparisons to make towards Lewandowski when it comes to who has been the best striker in recent seasons. Suarez has the most goals of the three and has a very high volume of assists, however there is a case for Suarez not always performing on the highest stage with a questionable record in the Champions League for a player of his quality, while Lewandowski scored 15 from 10 as Bayern lifted the 2019/20 Champions League trophy.

Benzema can truly hold a candle to Lewandowski when it comes to consistency as he was vital to Real Madrid’s recent stretch of dominance in the Champions League and the Frenchman is renowned for his excellent link up play. The issue with Benzema in comparison to Lewandowski is that he has simply never been as prolific. His largest goal haul ever was 32 back in 2011/12 which is dwarfed by the 55 and 48 goal seasons achieved by Lewandowski in the two seasons just gone.

Another key factor with Lewandowski which is a part of his all-round legacy is his status within the Poland national team. Lewandowski has a ridiculous record of 72 goals from 125 caps for Poland, establishing himself as a national hero. With the national team Lewandowski has ensured qualification to the 2018 World Cup and represented his nation at three editions of the European Championship. Although Poland is by no means a bottom tier side and do possess quality elsewhere in their squad, the fact that Lewandowski has carried an entire national team at times is a testament to his character and ability, and reminiscent of fellow all-time greats Messi and Ronaldo.

In truth Lewandowski doesn’t need to be compared to others as he should be appreciated for what is, one of the best at what he does in his own right. When a player produces as regularly as Lewandowski, fans can lose sight of just how impressive their record is as they become used to the consistency and regularity of that players class that anything less than exceptional performances week in week out are considered underwhelming. Few players have the compliment of being judged on standards that high.

Lewandowski is the most prolific striker in the world, possesses incredible link up play an exceptional range of finishing and technique but most of all it is near inconceivable level of consistency that sets him apart from the rest, almost no other player has been able to match Ronaldo and Messi levels of performance like he has in recent times, and he has even had spells where he has exceeded the pair.

When watching Lewandowski play, we are witnessing one of the most complete strikers of all time and a player with a case for being the best Bundesliga player ever due to what he has achieved in his era relative to others. Lewandowski has many more goals to come, perhaps more records to break, more titles to win and his career is deserving of another Champions League medal.

Joe LanglandsStats taken via InStat

 

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