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Why losing Robert Lewandowski now could end Bayern Munich’s status as an elite club

The Lewandowski extension is the most important task facing the Bayern board right now.

FC Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga for DFL Photo by Alexander Scheuber/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

Things are good for Bayern Munich right now. Despite some hiccups in recent weeks, the club is through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and four points clear of Dortmund at the top of the Bundesliga. Most statistical models and pundits alike agree that this club is one of the best teams in Europe, usually alongside Liverpool and Manchester City.

This is nothing new if you’re a Bayern supporter — in recent years, we’ve gotten used to the idea of being counted among the top teams in Europe. However, a recent scenario has emerged where the long term stature of this club could be in jeopardy. According to multiple rumors and even statements from the player himself, things are not going smoothly for Robert Lewandowski’s contract.

Let me just say this — losing Robert Lewandowski now would be catastrophic for Bayern Munich. Excluding the outlier 12-0 against Bremer SV, Lewandowski has directly contributed to around 43% of Bayern’s total goals this season. That’s 47 goal contributions in 36 games, or 1.35 goals + assists per 90 minutes. Those are prime Messi/Ronaldo numbers, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

Robert Lewandowski is a titan who makes Bayern Munich a team to be feared. Losing him now, with no replacements in sight, would cripple this club’s ability to be counted among the best of the best in Europe.

Paris Saint-Germain v Bayern Munich - UEFA Champions League Final
Want more moments like these? Keep Lewandowski.
Photo by Michael Regan - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

But other Bayern teams ...

Yeah yeah I know. Bayern Munich did not spontaneously pop into existence when Robert Lewandowski was signed. We even won a treble without him. But the squad composition of those days is long gone. A Bayern Munich team today would not win a treble with Mario Mandzukic as striker, scoring only 22 goals across all competitions. We might not even win the Bundesliga with that number.

Understand this: Leroy Sane and Serge Gnabry are not the kind of production kings that Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery were back in the day. Benjamin Pavard is not Philipp Lahm. Alphonso Davies is amazing, but so was David Alaba. Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka are amazing, but so were Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez.

For this current Bayern team to be counted alongside the sides of yesteryear, it needs the superlative quality of Robert Lewandowski to push it over the edge. Without him, you get the same scenario that happened to Real Madrid when Cristiano Ronaldo left — a team with top quality players struggling to fill the hole left by a goalscoring titan.

But what if we get Haaland?

We’re not getting Haaland. Come on, you know that. I know that. Zahavi knows that. Lewandowski knows that. Everyone knows that, except Jan Aage Fjortoft and the suckers at Bild who keep backing up his nonsense.

If Bayern had the money to sign Haaland, Dusan Vlahovic, or Kylian Mbappe, we would also have the money to renew Lewandowski without a second thought. The fact that we haven’t says that money is tight right now. You can’t replace a Lewandowski-caliber player on a budget. If he leaves, the best we’re getting is castoffs from big teams like Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata. There is no scenario where Lewandowski leaves Bayern Munich and we replace his production with a transfer. No chance whatsoever.

But we can come back!

FC Bayern Muenchen Players And Staff Watch FIFA The BEST Awards Photo by Marco Donato-FC Bayern/Pool via Getty Images

This is probably the easiest argument to make. We can let Lewandowski leave and build back with a successor and challenge again in a few seasons. Except, that would waste the prime years of senior players like Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer, who are in the same boat as Lewy.

Additionally, it’s not easy for a club like Bayern to make a comeback right now. The pandemic killed FFP and the English giants keep getting richer and consolidating their gains. With the Champions League format also set to change and offer bigger payouts in the coming seasons, failing to keep up now could make it impossible to catch up later. The glass ceiling of European football is quickly becoming concrete — you don’t want to be caught on the wrong side when it happens.

Another argument is the existing quality of the squad — guys like Davies, Kimmich, Sane, Goretzka, etc. They could make the rebuild easier. But the presence of existing world class players on the squad also doesn’t guarantee a speedy return to the top. Especially without a key goal scorer who is responsible for up to 43% of the team’s production.

Again, look at Real Madrid. When Ronaldo left, they still had the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Casemiro in midfield, Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane in defense, Thibaut Courtois in goal, and Karim Benzema up top. Yet, they still haven’t reached the heights they achieved back when Cristiano Ronaldo was at their club. Even now, years later and with improvements made to the squad, they’re still far away from reaching Man City or Liverpool. Luckily for them, they have Mbappe inbound next summer.

If I haven’t been able to convince you yet, your faith in Bayern Munich is stronger than mine. But the fact is, there is plenty of reason to be worried about the Lewandowski contract circus. There was a time when Bayern wasn’t at the elite tier of teams in Europe. That started to change when we said no to Real Madrid and held onto Franck Ribery. Since then, it’s been a long road to reach where we are today.

Losing Lewy now would undo so much of that progress. Not just the next couple of seasons, but a whole era of the club could be defined if Bayern fail to hang onto this one player. Oliver Kahn, Herbert Hainer, and Hasan “Brazzo” Salihamidzic have no excuses. No matter how much it costs, they have to get it done. They have to keep Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich.

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