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Trust is hard to come by for Robert Lewandowski

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The Bayern Munich striker and captain of Poland’s national team discussed the challenges of being one of the most man-marked no. 9’s in the world, both on and off the pitch.

Poland Portraits - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: Robert Lewandowski of Poland poses for a photograph during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session at on June 14, 2018 in Sochi, Russia.
Poland Portraits - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 14: Robert Lewandowski of Poland poses for a photograph during the official FIFA World Cup 2018 portrait session at on June 14, 2018 in Sochi, Russia.
(Photo by Stuart Franklin - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Robert Lewandowski is arguably one of the best strikers in the world right now, and the Bayern Munich and Poland number 9 has goal-scoring records for both club and country that speak for themselves. He has scored over 40 goals across all competitions for Bayern Munich in three consecutive seasons and became Poland’s all-time leading goal-scorer with 16 goals during their World Cup qualifying campaign.

In a lengthy interview with The Guardian, Lewandowski talked about the difficulties of being a player that everyone expects so much from, and previewed his chances with Poland at the World Cup. The prolific goal-scorer has played in only two international tournaments with Poland thus far, Euro 2012 and Euro 2016, during which scored a total of just 2 goals. Reminiscing about Poland’s run to the semi-finals of the 1974 World Cup, Lewandowski said the legendary Grzegorz Lato’s tally of 7 goals in that tournament is nearly impossible to achieve in today’s game:

That kind of tally gives you immortality. Times have changed, though, and from that perspective seven goals is very hard to beat. It is harder near the penalty box now. To score five or six goals at such a tournament is a huge task. Two years ago, at Euro 2016, I only had two or three good chances and scored one of them.

Because of his incredible ability in front of goal for both club and country, the striker admits, opposing defenses pay particularly close attention to him, making it very difficult to get good scoring chances:

Defenders give special attention to me and that can obviously happen again in Russia. If that is the case, I just want our team to benefit from it. History is history and it is nice to look back and remember, but we want to be remembered and write our own history. We will fight for beautiful memories.

With his brace against Lithuania last week in Poland’s final tune-up match, Lewandowski has scored four goals in Poland’s last three friendly matches (against South Korea, Chile, and Lithuania). At this rate, he’s scoring at least a goal per match for Poland, which is exactly the type of form you’d want him to be in heading into the World Cup.

Poland v Lithuania - International Friendly
WARSAW, POLAND - JUNE 12: Robert Lewandowski of Poland celebrates scoring a goal during International Friendly match between Poland and Lithuania on June 12, 2018 in Warsaw, Poland.
Robert Lewandowski celebrates scoring a goal during International Friendly match between Poland and Lithuania.
(Photo by Pawel Andrachiewicz/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)

Lewandowski also discussed his personal life, explaining the reasons behind his outwardly reserved nature. Trust is something that Lewandowski values highly, and he admits that it has been increasingly hard to come by the more famous he’s become. In an environment where rumors spread like wildfire, dealing with duplicity exacts a mental toll. Lewandowski’s experience with dubious offers and pitches have made him guarded:

There have been many attempts of dishonesty. Even fake charity proposals. The number of strange offers is absolutely astonishing and, because of that, I have become distrusting of people. No one becomes my friend in one day.

Even without the fame, he says, Lewandowski is slow to open up to people in his personal life and is very careful about who he opens up to:

Even if I weren’t famous, it wouldn’t be that easy to get close to me. I have my old friends and I keep them very close to myself. I know who I can trust. I don’t change my friends like socks. When there is someone I think I may like, I can open the door, but I do it very slowly. Trust has to be there before I open my heart.

Despite rumors that he is pushing for a big-money move away from Bayern Munich, Lewandowski said it’s the hunger for success that drives him, not the money. Happiness, for him, is defined by his wife, daughter, the rest of his family and the support they provide him:

I can afford anything, but I’m in a moment where I appreciate a different capital: love and happiness. I have a beautiful family. My daughter just turned one. She made me even more stabilized. I can say I’m a fulfilled person in life but in terms of football I’m still hungry. I think it is very important to be happy in life and a lot of people have the opposite. A lot of money doesn’t guarantee happiness and it can actually make you lonely, without support and motivation.

Looking, forward, Lewandowksi feels that he’s entering a crucial stretch of his career, but believes that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank to play at the top level for years to come:

I have a plan to play at the top level at least until I’m 35. I feel I’m just starting the best period for a striker. I’m mature and have a lot of experience. If I’m healthy, I will play in Europe as long as possible — and then move on. We will see.