Robert Lewandowski spent some time chatting with ESPN FC at Bayern Munich’s partnership launch with Audi. During the interview, Lewandowski covered a number of different topics, including his Ballon d’Or nomination, his expectations for the rest of this season under Jupp Heynckes, and his accomplishments with Poland, which he helped clinch its first World Cup berth since 2006 in Germany.
Lewandowski’s goal-scoring tally across all competitions last season was quite impressive, having netted 43 times en route to Bayern’s fifth consecutive Bundesliga title. Bayern was unfortunately knocked out in the quarterfinals of the Champions League and semifinals of the DFB Pokal, respectively. He’s also currently the joint top goal scorer in the Bundesliga thus far alongside Borussia Dortmund’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Lewandowski’s prolific record in front of goal didn’t go unnoticed, and along with Bayern teammate Mats Hummels, he’s made the 30-man shortlist for Ballon d’Or nominees.
When asked about how important the Ballon d’Or is to him, Lewandowski struck a rather dismissive tone:
“I wouldn't say it was that important to me. Success at Bayern is more important, especially in the Champions League. If we reach the UCL final and win the Bundesliga, we can speak again but the Ballon d'Or is never my focus.”
He also took the opportunity to voice some of the frustrations he has with the selection process for the recipients of the prestigious award, suggesting that there’s some favoritism surrounding the picks:
“I don't know why some players get 50th, 5th or 25th place. Only the first three places are important. That is why last year I was a little bit... how should I say... shocked. Because if you play for Bayern Munich and are playing Champions League semifinals and scoring a lot of goals in the Bundesliga and you're second top scorer in the Champions League... I don't know what place I was but it was a little bit funny — maybe funny is the right word.”
There’s no disguising the fact that Bayern got off to a rocky start this season, and many will certainly argue that last season was below par as well, despite winning the Bundesliga. Lewandowski spared former manager Carlo Ancelotti when he was asked about the 2016/2017 season and lamented the injury that kept him out of the first leg against Real Madrid in the Champions League quarterfinals:
“We played well during Ancelotti's first season. Without my injury in the Champions League, we had a good chance to reach the final. If I had been 100 percent fit to play in Madrid, I think we could have made the semifinal, then who knows maybe we would have won the Champions League.”
Despite the shaky start to the 2017/2018 campaign, Lewandowski feels confident that Bayern can turn their fortunes around under new manager Jupp Heynckes — confident enough, perhaps, to win both the Bundesliga AND the Champions League:
“Now there's a new season and a new challenge with the new trainer. Sometimes it's not so easy if you are at a club that changes trainer during the season. But we have to push on now. We are five points behind Dortmund, but there are a lot of games left until the end of the season. But in the Champions League, after our defeat at PSG, we have work to do to qualify. We have to play to the end. Who knows? Maybe we will win the Champions League and the Bundesliga.”
Lastly, it’s been a monumental week for Lewandowski on the international front, as he became Poland’s all-time leading goal scorer and also became the first player ever to score 16 goals in a single European World Cup qualifying campaign. His hat-trick against Armenia and goal against Montenegro helped Poland clinch direct qualification into next summer’s World Cup.
The striker insisted that he’s quite optimistic for his country come next summer in Russia:
“Poland have a great team at the moment with lots of very good players. We can play really well sometimes and we have a lot of potential, but we also know there are many things we can do better. We will have to wait and see who we play in the group stages, but in the World Cup you never know — every game is crucial.”