Robert Lewandowski’s goals have fired him all the way to Barcelona.
He may be about to turn 34, but the striker still enjoyed a remarkable goal laden season to end his eight-year stay at Bayern Munich on a high, with the Bundesliga title, 35 league goals and a transfer to one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Chelsea were also linked, but it is Barca where he will ply his trade this season and he was the main attraction on a field full of stars when the Spanish side played Inter Miami in a pre-season friendly.
The striker was officially announced as one of their players on Tuesday and trained for the first time as his new teammates took to the field. He was reduced to watching from the bench, however, nor did he wait to make his first appearance.
But Lewandowski’s career could have been oh so different – if it wasn’t for a volcano…
Manager Sam Allardyce’s quest for a striker when the manager of Blackburn Rovers saw him scour Europe for a goalscorer to boost their Premier League survival chances in 2010.
With David Dunn and Morten Gamst Pedersen creating chances on a regular basis, Jason Roberts, Franco Di Santo, Nikola Kalinic and David Hoilett were just not cutting it up top.
Head of recruitment Martyn Glover recommended Lech Poznan hitman Lewandowski to Big Sam, who had scored 21 times in 34 games. Discussions were had, a £4 million fee was agreed and the deal was all but done.
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However, the volcanic ash that spurted from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull mountain grounded almost all flights from northern Europe, including Lewandowski’s flight to the UK to agree the deal.
Instead, Borussia Dortmund pounced in the summer and Rovers were made to kick themselves as Glover watched as the Poland international developed into one of the most lethal strikers on the continent.
In Germany, Lewandowski reached the 40-goal mark in seven successive seasons and will hope to continue his remarkable form this season.
But the physical specimen you see before you now was not always in such chiselled condition. In 2006, he was released by Legia Warsaw (his home town club) for being too weak.
Krzysztof Sikorski, one of his early coaches, recalls: “He was very thin. His legs were like sticks, and I was always scared that others would break them.”
His family has extraordinary physical attributes and athletic genes are distributed throughout; Lewandowski’s father, Krzysztof, was a Polish judo champion and soccer standout. His mother, Iwona, was a professional volleyball player. His older sister, Milena, played competitive volleyball.
So how did the scrawny striker develop into the Polish powerhouse fans have become accustomed to today?
Lewandowski married Anna Stachurska, a karate World Cup bronze medalist, in 2013. Mrs Lewandowski is a well-known sports nutritionist, with a website, blog, books, DVDs and more than 4.1 million Instagram followers.
As well as cutting out cow’s milk and soy milk, the fitness fanatics rarely imbibe alcohol and have massively reduced their consumption of fatty and sugary foods.
ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI’S TYPICAL DIET
Created by fitness guru wife Anna, the Bayern Munich striker has all the ingredients to succeed
- Breakfast: Porridge
- Lunch: Spaghetti with veg, beetroot juice with fresh spices
- Snacks: Pancakes or brownies with matcha tea
- Dinner: Fresh fish or meat
She told Bild: “The most important thing is training and nutrition. We refrain from lactose and wheat flour. It’s about quality food.
“Pancakes, brownies, vegetable spaghetti, porridge or millet. We also like to eat high-quality fish.
“Sometimes after training we drink beetroot juice with cinnamon or cayenne pepper. When we mix many foods at once, sometimes we aren’t doing the right thing.
“We feel bloated, we have to loosen our trousers. The mix is too much for our body.”
Tom Williams in Bleacher Report. wrote: “So successful was Lewandowski’s approach to nutrition and fitness that at Dortmund he was nicknamed ‘The Body’ by his admiring teammates.”
Former Dortmund teammate Nuri Sahin said: “Lewy has the most incredible body, it’s just pure muscles. It stuns the other players in the changing room.”
As well as striker specific drills at Bayern, the forward also participates in high-intensity workouts which focus on explosive power.
Not only does he enjoy weightlifting and kickboxing with his wife, Lewandowski works out at his home gym.
“We’ve got a gym at home and I use it on my days off, usually with my wife Anna,” he told an interviewer.
“Sometimes I do special exercises to work on my concentration, which is very important for a striker. And I need strength in order to compete against powerful defenders.”
When Pep Guardiola ended his sabbatical from Barcelona and took the Bayern manager’s job, he was stunned to learn of Lewandowski’s physical and mental dedication to the sport.
“He is the most professional player I have ever met,” he said in 2016 according to AS.
“In his head, he thinks about the right food, sleep and training: 24 hours a day. He is always there, never injured, because he focuses on these things.
“He always knows what is important to be in the best condition. But I was always very, very pleased with him, from the first moment.”