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Robert Lewandowski’s presence made Luka Jovic a non-issue for Bayern Munich

Faced with a decision on whether to spend or let talent leave Germany, Bayern Munich placed its trust in Robert Lewandowski.

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As Eintracht Frankfurt’s Luka Jovic terrorized Bundesliga and Europa League competition, the 21-year-old Serbia international’s name started getting linked to much bigger clubs.

One of them, Bayern Munich, had the advantage of Jovic’s former coach, Niko Kovac, being at the helm. But as Jovic’s popularity rose, Bayern’s alleged interest in the phenom seemed to wane. Why exactly things played out that way probably has a lot to do with the scoring-machine wearing number nine for the Bavarians: Robert Lewandowski.

Lewandowski’s outstanding season once again displayed why he’s widely regarded as the premier center forward in the world. After having racked up 40 goals and 13 assists in 37 games across competitions, the need for a successor to the Polish Hitman was considered unessential in Munich.

Jovic will find out a lot about himself in Madrid

It is true that Jovic probably could have used another season with Eintracht Frankfurt, but when Real Madrid comes calling to a young player, the athlete typically responds in the affirmative.

Jovic was the star, the focus of the offense, and completely confident in his place with Die Adler. At Real Madrid, Jovic’s resolve will be tested. He won’t be gifted a starting role and, in fact, he will have to be even better than he was this year, just to get playing time with Los Blancos.

Jovic has shown that he can flat-out score and be a disruptive force, but he is an out-and-out striker. With 27 goals and seven assists in 48 games across competitions, Jovic used this season to put his name on the map for global soccer. Anyone who was paying attention knew there was a burgeoning talent with Eintracht Frankfurt, who was in the midst of a breakthrough season. Simply put, Jovic took the moment and seized it.

But there is no indication of flexibility to his game at this stage of his career. Jovic is will disrupt defenses with his craftiness, relentless play, and nose for the goal, but he’s will either do that playing striker — and not at all.

Jovic is going to score with both feet or with his head and has already proven that he can coexist centrally with another striker, as he did with Sebastien Haller and, less often, Ante Rebic. It is exciting to think about the possibilities of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Marcelo among others feeding Jovic the ball. If Jovic is to break into the superstar stratosphere, Real Madrid is not a bad place to try and make it happen.

The biggest knock on Jovic has been his reported lack of commitment to his physical condition — particularly his love of food. This is one area where Lewandowski’s mentorship might have benefited the young star. Regardless, Jovic’s ability and skill will either carry him to great heights in Spain or see him looking for a quick exit within three years.

Post-Lewandowski planning will have to be creative

The tricky part about figuring out when to move Lewandowski from his perch is timing. The 30-year-old is in peak physical condition, is tough as nails, and only misses time when he absolutely has to. Lewandowski is a workhorse, a consistent presence that Kovac can count on. Still, giving the Polish Hitman a break every now and then would likely help keep the fittest man in the Bundesliga even fitter and fresher.

Knowing how limited playing time will be for any player that sits behind Lewandowski, Bayern must prioritize finding a player who can play both centrally and out wide. This is not an easy skill-set to find, given the expectations that Bayern has for its wingers.

The “Bayern way” is to have wingers who are active defenders and willing to track back, the ability to cross the ball with either foot, while also being able to attack with either foot. That is tough ask even from the talented wingers already on the roster. Trying to package all of that with the ability for someone to seamlessly slide into striker or attacking midfielder might be tricky. In fact, it’s damn near impossible.

So where does Bayern go from here?

Could Jann-Fiete Arp, who is already on his way from Hamburger SV, show enough promise to assume the role of back-up striker, attacking midfield, and left wing? Bayern will have the summer to find out.

There are also options in the Bundesliga as well, be it RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner or Rebic, while there might also be options abroad such as Ajax’s Dusan Tadic. However, finding any one player who can do everything listed above — and still be young enough to be considered Lewandowski’s heir apparent — won’t be easy.

Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, president Uli Hoeness, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, and coach Niko Kovac will have to sift through their options and target a player who can fulfill most of what Bayern is looking for.

Is it Arp? Is it Werner? Is it Rebic? Is it someone else? We’ll likely find out soon enough, but one thing we can be certain of: Lewandowski’s durability, talent, and production won’t see him taking a backseat to another player any time soon.

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