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A man and his brand: Lewandowski sees his chance at Real Madrid

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Everyone loves a winner, they say, and the Polish striker is no exception.

Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Muenchen looks on before the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Hertha BSC at Allianz Arena on February 24, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
Robert Lewandowski of Bayern Muenchen looks on before the Bundesliga match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Hertha BSC at Allianz Arena on February 24, 2018 in Munich, Germany.
Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images

CL and RL9. Robert Lewandowski’s primary motivations for seeking a transfer form Bayern Munich to Real Madrid this summer have everything to do with those two acronyms: the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid have won twice in a row the past two years—the only team ever to defend its title—and Lewandowski’s own brand.

Time to play hardball

The Bayern Munich bosses are keeping quiet for good reason: they are well aware that Lewandowski wants to leave in the summer and that it’s not just the media who are taking the subject seriously.

As advertised, SportBild’s Christian Falk followed up his widely circulated tweet yesterday with a report today outlining Lewandowski’s alleged motivations for seeking out at Bayern Munich. It makes for grim reading.

According to Falk, Lewandowski’s recent decision to part ways with long-time agent Cezary Kucharski to work with Pini Zahavi is exactly what it looks like: the first step toward negotiating an exit from the German champions to their Spanish rivals in white. Zahavi, as is well known, masterminded the blockbuster deal that pried Neymar loose from FC Barcelona, sending him to Paris Saint-Germain for the obscene sum of €222 million.

Lewandowski purportedly hopes that Zahavi can work similar magic for him. His former agent Kucharski had contacts in Madrid, but seemed unable to accomplish more than irritate the Bayern management by spreading rumors and whispering to the media.

All in for CL and RL9

Lewandowski’s personal goals are entirely that; they have nothing to do with Bayern Munich beyond the simple fact that Lewandowski appears to have reached the conclusion that Bayern is not likely to win the Champions League as the striker enters the autumn of his prime years.

The world looked rather different when Lewandowski joined Bayern on a free transfer in 2013: Bayern had just defeated him and his team Borussia Dortmund for the Champions League title. Joining the winning side as highly vaunted coach Pep Guardiola was set to take the reins was an obvious step forward. But for all his tactical acumen and the strengths of the team, Bayern would not reach another final.

The Galacticos meanwhile have won the Champions League twice in a row. Madrid seems determined to outspend the competition in order to maintain their status as perennial favorites. Lewandowski notably criticized Bayern for neglecting to spend big on the transfer market to keep its squad competitive. In light of Kingsley Coman’s recent ankle injury, which has sidelined Bayern’s only young and consistently dangerous winger just before the Champions League quarterfinals and potentially longer—that criticism looks all too well justified.

But it is not only the goal of winning the Champions League that makes Madrid so appealing to Lewandowski: now 29 years old, he is already thinking beyond his playing career. That means above all building his personal brand: RL9.

No one should underestimate how important Robert Lewandowski the brand is in the plans of Robert Lewandowski the player. It was the subject of Lewandowski’s bachelor’s thesis—humbly titled ”RL9: Path to Glory.” Lewandowksi’s wife wife Anna Lewandowska also revealed in an interview last year how the couple is already planning to build their brands (she has her own line of health food) by seeing out Lewandowski’s career in Los Angeles.

Real Madrid, whether or not they win the Champions League, would be a (self-)promotional coup for the striker and his ambitious wife. On the brink of finishing three seasons in a row with 30 goals or more, Lewandowski has established himself as the ideal world-class target for the Galacticos. The pull is mutually irresistible.

Bayern have thus far laughed off the rumors, but it is unlikely that they are laughing in private.