Gerd Müller spent 15 years on Bayern Munich’s books; he scored no less than 398 goals in 453 games. When one thinks of Bayern Munich, one thinks of Franz Beckenbauer, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Uli Hoeneß, Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck, Bixente Lizarazu, Stefan Effenberg, Lothar Matthäus, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Thomas Müller and countless other historic names.
There is no rhyme or reason to why I chose those names; those are names I associate regularly with Bayern. Maybe, there are many football fans who became fans of the sport in 2014 and hence, never witnessed Robert Lewandowski in a Borussia Dortmund jersey. They did not witness his four-goal performance against Real Madrid in the Champions League, a performance which immediately went into the history books of Borussia Dortmund and which, in my view, remains Lewandowski’s best ever performance in the UEFA Champions League.
That performance must have meant a lot to Lewandowski; he wanted to move to Spain after all. Per his former agent Cezary Kucharski, Lewandowski wanted to be part of Real Madrid:
“When we brought Robert to Germany, the plan was actually: Dortmund, Bayern, Spain, USA. And it’s no secret that Real Madrid used to be his big dream.”
And of course, Lewa himself has made no secret of his desire. In 2018, there were rumors suggesting a possible move away from the Allianz Arena to the Santiago Bernabeu, a move that did not materialize. Lewa spoke about this before Bayern won the Champions League last year:
“There was a lot of speculation at the time. Real is a great club, of course, I was thinking about it. I stayed and I do not regret it,” Lewandowski said. “We are a family and this should dispel any doubts. I’m happy in Munich. I am 100 per cent a Bayern player and I fully identify with it. I know how much the club stands behind me.”
As a fan, it was always apparent to me, that he was simply a professional at Bayern. While I am aware that footballers of Lewandowski’s skill are basically in demanding jobs and do not need to be emotionally attached to the club they play for, as someone who is deeply attached to Bayern, it was hard for me to like Lewandowski in the way in which I like Lahm, Basti or Thomas Müller. I saw Lewa set the world alight against Wolfsburg when he scored five goals in nine minutes; I saw excellent goals on a regular basis. And yet, something was missing.
I finally saw that missing ingredient last year as Bayern progressed in the Champions League; nobody was happier than Lewandowski when Bayern beat Lyon in the semifinals; nobody was quite as emotional as Lewa when the referee blew the final whistle against PSG in the final.
Lewandowski, who was the top scorer in each and every competition he featured in last season, finally seemed like a Bayern player. He didn’t score in the final but he worked incredibly hard; he seemed to cover every blade of grass as he defended and sometimes, served as a one-man attack for Bayern.
His tears in his post-match interview showed that Lewandowski was finally satisfied; he didn’t need Real Madrid to be satisfied — he won the ultimate prize at the club which had deprived him of the ultimate prize in 2013 and the club with which he never seemed to think he would win the ultimate prize.
Now, there are no doubts where Lewa’s heart is. On Saturday, as he hunted down the 40-goal mark, when Serge Gnabry’s goal (which would eventually be ruled offside) went in, Lewa was more than happy to congratulate his teammate. He is a team-player; he gives it his all. It is no surprise that, in the two seasons that he has been most committed to his club, he has had the best returns.
Lewandowski became committed to a cause bigger than his ambitions seemingly only last season. While Gerd Müller did not finish his career at Bayern, spending the final two years of his professional career at Fort Lauderdale Strikers, he was very much a one-club man.
As a Bayern fan, growing up, I knew Gerd Müller’s name without having any idea what he looked like. Future generations will probably think of Thomas Müller the same way.
Robert Lewandowski will go down into the history books as a legendary striker; he might even break the Bundesliga’s all-time top scorer record held by Gerd Müller by the end of his career.
And yet, while a part of me wants Lewandowski to break the record, a part of me wants it to stand. Gerd Müller is a part of Bayern’s very essence. Lewandowski, who played a magnificent tribute to the Bayern legend after scoring his 40th goal, is Gerd’s equal.
I am not sure if, as far as FC Bayern is concerned, he is bigger than Gerd Müller. And this is why a part of me wants the record to stand.
Do you want to see Robert Lewandowski break Gerd Müller’s record? Let us know your thoughts below, and, as always, thank you for reading!