Robert Lewandowski will arguably go down as one the best, if not the best, free transfers of all time in football with his move to Bayern Munich from Borussia Dortmund back in the summer of 2014. He’s coming off of the season of his life that saw him finally break the late Gerd Muller’s single season Bundesliga scoring record as he scored his 41st league goal of the season with the last kick of the football against Eintracht Frankfurt last season. Last season, he also eclipsed Klaus Fischer to go second on the list of all time Bundesliga scorers with 290 goals to his name, behind only Muller’s tally of 365. He’s arguably, and depending on who you ask, unquestionably, the world’s best striker currently, but his rise to prominence didn’t just come out of thin air.
Lewandowski is one of a long list of players to have greatly benefited from working under Jurgen Klopp, who managed both Mainz and Dortmund in the Bundesliga before taking the Liverpool job. He made a name for himself in the Polish PKO Ekstraklasa with Lech Poznan and Znicz Priskzow before making the move to Dortmund, but a lot of his growth in North Rhine-Westphalia can be attributed to Klopp. In a recent edition of The Player’s Tribune, Lewandowski recalled fun bets that he used to have with Klopp based on how many goals he would score in training sessions.
“If I scored 10 goals in a training session, he’d give me 50 euros. If I didn’t, I’d give him 50 euros,” Lewandowski said of the running bet he used to have with Klopp at Dortmund. “The first few weeks I had to pay up almost every time. But after a few months, the tables turned. I was the one raking in the cash,” he explained. After consistently losing the bet, Klopp eventually said he’s had enough of it and that Lewandowski was ready to start scoring more in matches. By his second season at Dortmund (2011/12), Lewandowski had scored 22 Bundesliga goals en route to winning the Bundesliga title and DFB-Pokal.
“He [Klopp] was not content to let you be a ‘B’ student, you know? Jurgen wanted ‘A+’ students. He didn’t want it for him. He wanted it for you,” Lewandowski explained. The season after securing the domestic double, Lewandowski tallied 24 Bundesliga goals, his best tally in a Dortmund shirt. Unfortunately for Klopp and what was a revolutionary Dortmund team at the time, Lewandowski’s talent and ability didn’t go unnoticed and Bayern took it upon themselves to get him on a free transfer that partially contributed to the dismantling of a Dortmund team that had gone all the way to the Champions League final the year prior to Lewandowski leaving. Club CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has said that Dortmund could’ve come back and won the Champions League soon after had players like Lewandowski and Mario Götze not left the club.