Robert Lewandowski has taken a fair amount of heat from the Bayern Munich faithful over his performance in last season’s UEFA Champions League. While it’s true that the Polish Hitman failed to find the back of the net against Real Madrid in the semifinals, the heavy-handed criticism from some of the media and fans alike left the striker feeling a little unappreciated by those two entities, along with the club itself.
While the water has long flowed under that bridge, the dawn of a new Champions League season will give Lewandowski a chance to exorcise all of the demons from last year. Is the three-time Kicker Torjägerkanone winner up to the task?
Moving on form 2017-2018
As much as some may not want to admit it, Lewandowski is still at, or at least near, the top of the list for those practice their craft as a pure strikers. It was the case last season as well, but the second half of the campaign saw Lewandowski bear the weight of off-the-field issues; most of which he unfortunately created for himself, with a little assist from the media.
The hiring of Pini Zahavi in February started a dramatic turn of events that saw the striker’s demeanor change drastically. In addition, the multitude of stories touting Lewandowski’s future destination ranged anywhere from Real Madrid to Chelsea to Juventus to Paris Saint-Germain - to Manchester United; led to the Pole becoming more withdrawn from teammates, less open to the media, less patient on the field, short-fused with his legendary coach Jupp Heynckes, and frankly miserable all-around.
There was no joy in red for Lewandowski, particularly when he was on the pitch. Whether it was snarling at teammates for not making the extra pass or bickering with referees over the contact he was absorbing, the Polish international often looked and acted as if he was bitter at everything and everyone.
Today, however, much has changed.
A fresh start
Lewandowski’s attitude on-and-off the field has changed immensely since last season. Aside of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge taking umbrage with the Pole’s assertion that the club did not support Lewandowski last year, the striker has not made off-the-field news and looked...dare I say, happy!? Perhaps it was the “Lewy Summit” or just the comfort of knowing he would be staying in Munich that has helped Lewandowski’s outlook transform. Regardless, it is a supremely important development.
On the pitch, he has looked and played like he is having fun. Off the field, his open and honest interview with Sport Bild displayed that he just has a better demeanor than what we saw last season.
Lewandowski has six goals and two assists across five games in three competitions (DFL-Supercup; DFB Pokal, and Bundesliga) so far in thei campaign. His electric skill, hunger for the goal, and willingness to work together with his offensive mates also has Lewandowski looking like he’s ready to conquer the challenge of the Champions League.
What to expect
Despite the crazy amount of talent surrounding him, Lewandowski will still draw the majority of the attention from Bayern’s opposition. While his teammates are more than capable of shouldering the scoring load, they also know how important it is to ensure the Pole is on track and confident. No doubt, Bayern will be looking to get Lewandowski the ball early and often against Benfica in hopes of keeping the striker engaged, persistent, and assertive.
Now it is up to Lewandowski to seize this opportunity on the Champions League stage and to prove to his doubters that he’s still among the world’s best.
Flashing his trademark “X” against Benfica, would be a hell of a way to start.