After all of the gossip that has lasted what feels like ages, it finally looks as though the Robert Lewandowski stay or go saga is about to reach a dénouement. The gossip gloop has suddenly acquired more consistency, and it looks as though the Polish striker is on his way out of Munich.
It has been one of the stories that has irritated Bayern many fans for a long time now. Has Robert Lewandowski done his time at Bayern, and it is time to go? Should the club look to keep the Polish striker at all costs? Should Uli and co. just send him on his way and rake in the cash? If he goes, who is going to replace him?
The questions are endless, and to be honest, a little tiresome.
Can of worms
The transfer-related chit-chat has been pretty steady through the season. First there was the dismissal of Lewandowski’s long-standing but loudmouthed agent Cezary Kucharski, and his engaging serial deal-maker Pini Zahavi. Then there was the media nonsense about the Pole’s “dream club” Real Madrid. Then we have seen Chelsea, Manchester United, and Wormatia Worms thrown into the mix.
OK, I am joking about Wormatia Worms. Though a massive can of them have been open for a long time now.
Anyway, the news appears to be official, according to a tweet by Sport Bild anyway. Lewy wants out, and is looking for “a new challenge”. Ah, that old chestnut. FC Bayern have been duly informed, and Zahavi has started to open the secret negotiations. Roman Abramovich is sending text messages from his yacht docked outside Haifa, while he continues his quest to renew his UK visa.
— Christian Falk (@cfbayern) May 30, 2018
Bayern fans will have mixed feelings. For some, they will be relieved that the saga looks to have turned a final corner. The reception for Lewandowski at the Allianz Arena on the final celebratory Saturday was not great, and the argument of his failing to turn up in big matches has slow-burned for a while now.
I have written many things over time, turning out praise and criticism in equal measure. Lewandowski has contributed plenty, there is no doubt about it. But it is a fact that he has failed to provide answers when the big questions have been asked. We will all remember his spectacular five-goal salvo against Wolfsburg, but this will always be outweighed by his going AWOL against Real Madrid.
I am not going to repeat myself. I have always seen Lewandowski as a prize asset, but at the same time have harboured doubts about his wanting to be a genuine team player.
The first question, of course, is what Bayern will do without his goals. The first thought will naturally be about a replacement. But do we have to jump in and splash the cash? Yes, Lewy banged in no fewer than 41 goals in 48 matches, which is a pretty phenomenal return. But this is FC Bayern; one would hope that with all of the talent around him, any half-decent striker should be notching up big totals.
All of this begs a massive question. Do we have to pay silly sums for another Lewy, or can Bayern make do with Sandro Wagner, and, perhaps, a new face that doesn’t break the bank?
Statistics are a funny thing. Taken at face value, it is easy to be impressed. But when these numbers are broken down, they can reveal some interesting facts. For his 41 goals in all competitions, Lewandowski spent a total of 3,757 minutes on the pitch. This breaks down to 91.63 minutes per goal. Impressive.
Now let us look at Sandro Wagner. Nine goals in eighteen matches. On the face of it, nowhere near as good. But then let us remember that many of Sandro’s starts were off the bench. To score these nine goals, he had only 775 minutes of game time. That works out at a goal every 86.11 minutes.
Have a look for yourselves. The numbers are right there, on transfermarkt.de.
OK, let me make it absolutely clear that football cannot be defined by mathematical formulae. There are many other things to factor in. But let us play the game anyway. Let us say that Wagner had been on the pitch for the same amount of time as Lewy, and had maintained his scoring rate of a goal every 86.11 minutes. He would have finished the season with a total of 43.
Filling the void
Yes, this is meaningless number-crunching. But you can see the point being made here. To support this argument further, we can go back to the pre-Lewy days. In 2013/14, the season before the Pole arrived, Bayern scored just as many goals. They just spread them around better. In 2011/12, Mario Gómez netted 41 goals in all competitions with a strike rate of a goal every 98.34. Not as good as Lewy, but pretty comparable. More so when you consider that most pundits would not even think of putting Super Mario in the same bracket.
So, do Bayern need Lewandowski? One could look at the statistics, and respond with a confident “nein”. Wagner or any other half-decent striker could fill the void, or the team could simply spread the spoils more evenly.
It is true that Bayern do need to inject the squad with a little more youth and pace. The latest contract extensions for Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben will surely be their last, and there will be a need to bring in at least one established world-class name.
Looking further afield
I will raise a few eyebrows in saying it, but I quite like the idea of Gareth Bale. Yes, we may have to put up with a guy with a man bun wearing a Bayern Trikot. But he could provide the same long-term benefit as James Rodríguez, who was one of the players of the season. Bale is the sort of player who can play on the wing, and also score goals.
As for a striker, all we really need is a decent number nine. I have already mentioned Wagner. As for other options, the club could start to look a little further afield. I have no real idea what the scouting strategy at Bayern is right now, but an idea might be to look for another Lewandowski. Not a Dortmund-level Lewandowski that may require an opening of the club wallet, but a pre-Dortmund Lewandowski.
I am talking about Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, sources that appear to have gone dry in recent years with the constant fetish for exchanging big names for big money. Let us have a look at the Polish league. There may be another Lewy (or even better, a Zbigniew Boniek) waiting to be signed. In Hungary, there may be a teenage Ferenc Puskás out there. In Denmark, another Preben Elkjær Larsen or Michael Laudrup.
Lewandowski’s contract is up in 2021, which puts Bayern in an excellent position to steer any future transfer negotiations. If they play the game right, they could strike a fantastic deal. Remember, he arrived in Munich from Dortmund for free.
If Bayern offload Lewy for around 100 million Euro and bring in a cut-price Bale, there is plenty that could be done with the balance. There is no need to play the same silly game as the Premier League Sheikh-funded moneybags or the likes of Plastic St. Germain, Real or Barcelona.
Bayern have always done good business, and there is no need to change things now.
So, if Lewandowski leaves, it is no massive deal. We just remember the good times, and move on. We don’t start burning shirts. We are Bayern, and far too classy for that. If we have a Trikot with Lewy’s name on it – as I do – we just acknowledge that he was a great player. No need to apply any masking tape to make a point. In fact, just save the tape for the Qatar sleeve patch.
I’ll just say this. Dziękuję, Robert. It was great while it lasted.