A breaking story by Bild (summaries at AZ and TZ) has thrown Jupp Heynckes’s recent one-on-one conversation with Bayern Munich’s superstar striker Robert Lewandowski into a new, far less flattering light. Heynckes stated earlier this week that he had spoken with Lewandowski after the latter’s very disappointing performance in Bayern’s first game against Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinals.
Now it appears that conversation was not only about the chances Lewandowski failed to convert on the pitch. According to Bild, Lewandowski has also been lazy and listless at the team’s training sessions. During the two weeks leading up to Bayern’s season-defining games against Real Madrid, Lewandowski made so little effort in training that even his teammates are angry at him.
Thomas Müller had called for a “killer mentality” going into Madrid, but none of that could be seen from Lewandowski, who was largely invisible for much of the match. Even arguably his biggest contributions to the match took little effort: attempting to draw fouls in Madrid's penalty area—but no calls were made.
Heynckes's conversation with Lewandowski was not the motivational pep-talk his statements to the press had less us to believe. Heynckes allegedly is debating whether simply to start Lewandowski's vastly more motivated Sandro Wagner in the decisive second leg in Madrid. Wagner's total commitment to the team—despite his status as a bench player and Lewandowski's backup—is beyond question.
It would be an incredible slap in the face to bench Lewandowski for the biggest game of the year to date, but that extreme step is no longer inconceivable. Lewandowski has disappointed in knockout Champions League matches since the four-goal gala he put on Borussia Dortmund in 2013. Munich's largest newspaper SZ disparagingly described him as a “winter soccer-player, whose knees start knocking when the really big games arrive in April and May.”
The most probable reason for Lewandowski’s malaise is also familiar: his desire to leave Bayern Munich, ideally for Real Madrid itself. Lewandowski notably hired superstar agent Pini Zahavi to engineer a move. Zahavi’s contract expires on the final day of the summer transfer window. Lewandowski’s tactics bear a certain resemblance to those used by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to force his sale to Arsenal last winter.
Bayern president Uli Hoeness denied that such a thing could ever happen at mighty Bayern. He may have to eat his words, unless he forces Lewandowski to see out his contract out of spite—in which case the club will eat tens of millions of euros for an unmotivated player.
This is not in fact the first time that Lewandowski’s lack of effort in training has come under fire. Teammate Mats Hummels attacked the star in a training session, after his side conceded a goal while Lewandowski was tying his shoes. Hummels admitted an earlier mistake, but tellingly countered:
“With you, it’s your attitude.”