It’s no shock that Robert Lewandowski wore the 2013-14 kit in Bayern Munich’s now annual Meisterfeier.
When the Polish international stepped out onto a balcony overlooking the Marienplatz, regaled by fans and surrounded by trophies, he wore the kit he held up when he was first presented to the world as a Bayern Munich player.
He also stepped out on the balcony as a man who publicly proclaimed he wanted to leave his current club. The friendly confines of the German alps were becoming a burden and his desire to leave became apparent after months of speculation.
Bayern’s flirtation with Erling Haaland had been clear and obvious from the start of the season. It would be one thing if — like a new relationship — it had been a few months and one half of the couple was unsure of where this situation would go. Where the heart truly lies in those halcyon days of courtship is tough to truly determine.
But the relationship between Robert Lewandowski and Bayern Munich was closer to that of a common law marriage than a newfound romance. He has played exactly double the amount of matches for Die Roten than he had for his previous longest tenured club, Borussia Dortmund. He’s more than tripled his goal tally from his time at BVB too. To say that Bayern was having their eye on the newer, younger blood at the expense of the old was an understatement.
To replace the greatest striker — if not the current greatest footballer — in the world is an almost impossible task. Over the last five seasons, nobody in top flight European football has scored more goals than Robert Lewandowski. There have been challengers from all comers: the young — like Kylian Mbappe (149 goals in all competitions), the old — like Lionel Messi (176) and Cristiano Ronaldo (169), and even the underrated — like Ciro Immobile (156).
But with 196 goals in all competitions, Robert Lewandowski laps the field.
To lose him will be a mighty blow to Bayern Munich’s attacking core. Replacing him will be all about balance — whether it comes in the form of multiple strikers or just one. Improving for next season will be a main focus, especially with a Dortmund squad reinforcing its defense. But the future must also be taken into account.
So Bayern will now attack the transfer market in order to get its next attacker. Not all of these may be palatable, but that’s the price we have to pay. We did not sign a pre-nup before we agreed to this marriage, so we have to bear the brunt of the cost. I’ll offer a likely option and then a dark horse just to set the comment section on fire.
How will they do it? It will probably go one of these five ways:
Option 1: The cheaper option for the future, but with raw potential
Lewandowski’s free transfer to Bayern Munich was the greatest free transfer of all time — if not the greatest transfer period. While Bayern will be looking for a striker, they also have other holes to fill — especially in defense — which will not come cheap. Selling Marc Roca, Marcel Sabitzer or anyone else rumored with an exit will not be able to afford Bayern all of these moves. So, a move for a youngster might be likely — but maybe not one we think of.
Realistic option: Moussa Dembele, France, Olympique Lyon
My eyes have been on Dembele since he scored 32 goals in 49 games while playing for Celtic up in Scotland. He hasn’t managed 30 goals since, but he’s managed at least 15 in six of his last seven seasons. The only outlier came from a disastrous spell at Atletico Madrid where he only managed a single goal in 23 appearances. But that carries a caveat of logging only 810 minutes in total (an average of 35 minutes a game for those playing along at home). His return to France saw a respectable 21 goals in 35 games across all competitions. He’s 24 and his bargain bin Transfermarkt price of €17 million deserves a long look from the Bayern front office.
Dark Horse: Alexander Isak, Sweden, Real Sociedad
Isak’s biggest issue is his lack of production. The former Dortmund striker only bagged one goal in his 13 games he played in the Bundesliga. While his loan move to Eredivisie side Willem II bagged an impressive 14 goals in 18 games, he has experienced a slight dip in his form when he joined Basque side Real Sociedad. This last season’s stat line of 10 goals in 40 games could make Bayern bristle at his Transfermarkt value of €40 million. But after a season like that — where he only managed six goals in 31 La Liga games — could bring his value down. At just 22, Isak has time for adjustment and in a better lineup, could yield better results in the long run.
Option 2: Poaching the best from the Bundesliga
Lewandowski was about to turn 26 when he joined Bayern Munich from Borussia Dortmund. To go on the slightly older side would not be the most unrealistic of options, but at the end of the day, Bayern knows the Bundesliga well. If they feel there’s an option in Germany that would suit them best, they’ll go after it.
Realistic option: Sasa Kalajdzic, Austria, VfB Stuttgart
This comes with an important disclaimer: I do not think Bayern should sign Sasa Kalajdzic...yet. His stellar season last year which saw him bag a total of 17 goals in 36 games across all competitions set him up for what should have been a great sophomore season. However, injuries hit him hard, and he only managed six goals in 15 league games as Stuttgart almost fell to the second division. The best could be yet to come for the Austrian, but I don’t know if his offerings currently justify a potential price tag above his current Transfermarkt value of €22 million. If Lewandowski could somehow be convinced to stay an extra year, and Kalajdzic stays healthy while putting up over 20 goals, then this could be viable. But not right now.
Dark Horse: Patrik Schick, Czechia, Bayer Leverkusen
The reason Schick is here isn’t because of his ability, but because Leverkusen seem incredibly unwilling to sell any of their top players to Bayern Munich. That’s entirely in their right, but if they were to let Schick leave for Bavaria, it would undoubtedly be for more than (potentially double) Transfermarkt’s current valuation of €40 million. He was the second highest goal scorer in the Bundesliga, beating out Haaland by scoring 24 goals. He disappeared in every other competition, but after mediocre club seasons were followed up by a stellar Euro 2020 campaign, Schick became a star in the Bundesliga. Bayern will likely be looking to him to replace the outgoing Pole, but the price tag might be too much to swallow.
Option 3: Buying big for the future
Likely, Bayern will want to splash their money they get from selling Lewandowski on a striker they can keep for a long time.
“Realistic” option: João Felix, Portugal, Atletico Madrid
Put realistic in massive quotation marks. He’s been linked with Bayern. That’s the beginning and end of the realism. However, his contract expires in 2026 and he carries a huge valuation of €70 million on Transfermarkt that severely undervalues what he’d go for in reality. He can play center forward but is more of a second striker. His goalscoring clip of 10 in 34 games in all competitions this season is a bit paltry for Bayern to be considering this. Atleti have no reason to sell him. If Bayern are truly as cash strapped as Herbert Hainer makes them out to be, they have no reason to buy him.
Dark Horse: Lautaro Martinez, Argentina, Inter Milan
As far as I know there have been no links between Martinez and Bayern. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be. He’s been in the top 10 in scoring in Serie A the last two seasons, scoring at a clip of 25 goals in 48 matches in all competitions this season. He’s expensive at a Transfermarkt value of €70 million. But, at 24 he has time to grow here or anywhere else he might be tempted to go. He’s been linked with Barcelona for a while. Wouldn’t it be great for Bayern to go and scoop the wunderkind the Blaugranes have sought after stealing away Lewandowski?
Option 4: Buying the best on the market
Bayern are losing the best striker in the world. Right now, in terms of output, the rest of the top ten in the golden boot race comprise those on the move (Mbappe, Haaland), those who just moved (Dušan Vlahović), a winger (Mo Salah), and strikers too old for Bayern to realistically consider (Ciro Immobile, Karim Benzema, Wissam Ben Yedder) among others. Beyond that, there are some big names who’ve been linked with moves that Bayern could keep an eye on.
Realistic option: Romelu Lukaku, Belgium, Chelsea
We know that Lukaku misses Milan. He played some of his best football for I Nerazzurri and seems to want to move back there. However, he left for a very important reason: his club needed the money from his sale to survive. Returning to Inter Milan might not be an option for him now, and his comments this season seem to indicate he’s not all that happy in his return to Chelsea. His 15 goals in 43 games across all competitions is not that great for a man valued on Transfermarkt for €85 million. But, considering his club’s current financial status — and Lukaku’s potential lack of desire to stay in West London — this could be a worthwhile move.
Dark Horse: Harry Kane, England, Tottenham Hotspur
I’ll be honest, I only included this one because of Jerome Boateng’s comments from this yesterday.
On paper, it doesn’t make sense. As far as we know, Kane doesn’t speak German (he can barely speak English if you’ve heard his accent). He’s the captain of a team that fans in this part of Europe aren’t particularly fond of. He hasn’t expressed any desire to come to Bayern.
What he does have is a massive transfer request he put in last summer. He could have gone to any of the top six clubs in England, but he didn’t — mostly because no one was willing to pay Tottenham for him. If Manchester City splashed the cash, they may not have gone for Erling Haaland this summer. Manchester United have too many holes in other places to worry about striker. Liverpool just spent a lot on Luiz Diaz and are linked with Darwin Nuñez this summer. Arsenal are completely out of the question and are linked with Gabriel Jesus. Chelsea should also be considered out of order.
There aren’t many other places in the world Kane could go. Barcelona seem set on Lewandowski. Real Madrid are getting Kylian Mbappe. Juventus just doled out cash for Vlahović. Both Milan clubs seem too far out of contention for consideration. That leaves Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich. Both teams are losing a striker, so the possibility for either could remain.
He could always stay at Tottenham, but Kane wants to win trophies and play in the biggest competitions. With the possibility of Champions League football still up in the air as they fight with Arsenal for the last spot, the last chip Tottenham has could be snatched away.
Option 5: Replicating the spirit of the Lewandowski signing
The Lewandowski signing was a masterclass. Bayern might be looking to replicate that again: by getting a world class player who may have fallen out of favor with his team, but has the ability and desire to prove himself to the world.
There is a player out there, one who has been linked with Bayern before who will cost the Bavarians a whopping €0 to pry off a club.
The Realistic and Dark Horse option: Paulo Dybala, Argentina, Juventus (out of contract)
The story of Paulo Dybala’s time at Juventus has been defined by competition at the striker position. He moved from Palermo destined to lead La Vecchia Signora for a long time, but found himself constantly battling for his spot in the team. His first season saw him lead the team in goalscoring, despite competition from Mario Mandzukič and Alvaro Morata. The next season saw the departure of Morata but the arrival of fellow Argentinian Gonzalo Higuain join from Napoli. Higuain won top goal scorer that year.
Dybala took the crown back in the 2017-18 season, but all hell broke loose the following summer when Cristiano Ronaldo joined. The Portuguese would have an iron grip on the top scorer title for the next three seasons. Rumors of turmoil in the dressing room were constant, with both Argentinians upset over playing time. Even when Higuain left in the summer of 2020, Morata was brought back in, making the situation more complicated.
Eventually, Ronaldo left after a disastrous season. With an out of form Morata, and Moise Kean as his only other competition, it seemed certain that Dybala would be in charge up top. Then in January, young Serbian striker Dušan Vlahović was signed from Fiorentina and Dybala was told his contract wouldn’t be renewed.
He’d been battling all his Juventus life that even when his position was sealed he was fighting an unknown battle. Now he is a man without club, without contract, without...honor? (idk where I was going).
Bayern Munich could be the perfect landing spot for him. He’s been linked with Bayern before, having caught the eye of both Uli Hoeness and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in the past. He plays a different game than the club is used to, but he’s a proven scorer nonetheless.
They say the best things in life are free. Lewandowski certainly was. Maybe Paulo Dybala could be too.