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'Machine' Lewandowski just too Gerd to be true

China Daily | Updated: 2021-05-17 09:04
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Robert Lewandowski controls the ball on his chest during Saturday's Bundesliga match at Freiburg. The Poland striker was on the mark to tie Bayern legend Gerd Mueller's German single-season record of 41 goals. REUTERS

Polish ace adds another milestone by tying legend Mueller's record

Robert Lewandowski, dubbed a "machine" by his wife, has added the Bundesliga record for most goals in a season to the long list of major honors and achievements he has claimed in his illustrious career.

Gerd Mueller's mark of 40 goals in a campaign, set in the 1971-72 season, had stood the test of time until Lewandowski converted a first-half penalty for Bayern Munich in a 2-2 draw at Freiburg on Saturday.

While Mueller set his record over 34 league games, Lewandowski has scored his 40 goals in 28 matches, due to a knee injury last month and squad rotation.

"It's a huge honor for me and for the modern history of the Bundesliga," Lewandowski told Sky.

As part of his penalty celebrations, the Poland striker lifted his match shirt to reveal a picture of the legendary Mueller accompanied by the message"4ever Gerd".

"I would never have thought that this would happen. What Gerd Mueller did is incredible. Sharing the record with him makes me very, very proud," Lewandowski added.

The fixture was briefly halted after Lewandowski scored as his Bayern teammates formed a guard of honor on the side of the pitch which the smiling 32-year-old ran through.

Lewandowski has scored five Bundesliga hat-tricks this term, including a four-goal haul in a 4-3 win over Hertha Berlin in October.

"I have to be honest, I am astonished. I thought Mueller's record would last for forever," Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said two weekends ago, after Lewandowski's treble against Borussia Moenchengladbach.

With 276 goals in 349 games for Bayern and Borussia Dortmund, Lewandowski is already the second-most successful striker in Bundesliga history after Mueller, who scored 365 in 427 matches.

Lewandowski was crowned FIFA's best male player last December. His goals in all competitions in 2019-20 were key to Bayern winning the treble, as the Poland striker was the first player to be top scorer in the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup in a single season.

He was recognized by FIFA after proving himself in the knockout stage of the Champions League last term. However, Lewandowski was sidelined by a knee injury for Bayern's quarterfinal exit to Paris Saint-Germain last month, as the French giant avenged its 2020 final defeat.

He is set to finish as the Bundesliga's top scorer for the sixth time in eight seasons, but Lewandowski was yet to inspire Bayern to European glory until last year.

His four goals for Dortmund in the 2013 semifinal first leg against Real Madrid helped his former club into the final, but it was beaten by Bayern at Wembley.

In Lewandowski's first five years at the Bavarian giant, Bayern failed to reach the showpiece match.

But he was crucial to Bayern's run last term.

He scored and set up Serge Gnabry's two goals in Bayern's 3-0 last-16 first-leg win at Chelsea.

When the return leg was played nearly six months later, Lewandowski had a hand in all four goals-scoring twice and creating two more-in the 4-1 win at Allianz Arena.

He followed that up by scoring in the historic 8-2 quarterfinal rout of Barcelona and netted again in the 3-0 semifinal win over Lyon.

He finished as the tournament's top scorer with 15 goals, two short of Cristiano Ronaldo's record for a single season.

Having scored five European goals this term, Lewandowski passed Madrid legend Raul to leave the Pole on 73 Champions League goals, short of only Lionel Messi (120) and Ronaldo (134).

Raw talent

Lewandowski was spotted as a raw 21-year-old playing for Polish club Lech Poznan, where he scored 41 goals in 82 games, and joined Dortmund in 2010.

He made his breakthrough under current Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp at Dortmund, winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12.

He scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 drubbing of Bayern in the 2012 German Cup final, but left for Dortmund's rival two years later, having scored 103 goals for the club.

Lewandowski has now scored 293 times in 328 games for Bayern in all competitions.

He is known for his disciplined approach to nutrition and training, resulting in his honed physique.

"My husband is a machine," said wife Anna, a former Polish karate international who serves as his personal trainer.

Lewandowski is rarely injured and former Bayern captain Oliver Kahn sees him as "an absolute model of professionalism, a condition for staying at the highest level for a very long time".

Lewandowski can still break Mueller's record in Bayern's final match of the campaign at home to Augsburg this Saturday.

He squandered a late chance at Freiburg to score a second. "You don't break records like that so quickly," added Lewandowski.

"Robert Lewandowski has broken Gerd Mueller's historic mark, but you don't score goals alone," said Bayern coach Hansi Flick.

"You need players who serve him passes. That's why I have to give the team a huge compliment."

Another famous Bayern Mueller paid tribute to Lewandowski.

"It's crazy. It's normal for Lewandowski to score, but this is something else," said forward Thomas Mueller. "But he's only human, you saw that when it came to the 41st goal," the 31-year-old joked about Lewandowski's late miss.

The 75-year-old Mueller, known as "Der Bomber" during his playing days, now suffers with severe dementia. Speaking before the Freiburg match, Mueller's wife Uschi told Sport Bild that her husband would be the first to offer congratulations to Lewandowski, to say: "Well done, boy. You did well."

AFP

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