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How Robert Lewandowski remains world class at 33

Jasmine Baba
March 30, 2022

As Bayern seek to extend Robert Lewandowski's contract, the striker has a shot at breaking his own Bundesliga scoring record. Jasmine Baba explains why he continues to perform at a world-class level despite his age.

Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski has already scored 31 goals in the Bundesliga this seasonImage: MIS/imago images

With his 2022 World Cup berth secured and Bayern Munich seeking to extend his contract, Robert Lewandowski could be on course to break his own Bundesliga scoring record. Jasmine Baba explains how Lewandowski is able to continue performing at a world-class level at the ripe old age of 33. 

By scoring a brace against Union Berlin on Matchday 27 Robert Lewandowski took his goal tally for this season up to 31, making him the first player since Gerd Müller to score 30 or more goals in five different Bundesliga campaigns. This consistency is a big part of the reason why Bayern Munich want to extend the Polish striker's contract even though he will be 34 when his current deal expires at the end of next season. But what does he offer the serial Bundesliga champions that almost no other player can? 

Starting with the obvious, Lewandowski is the best goal scorer in the league, and he tops several other statistical categories including expected goals per 90 minutes.

Infografic Lewandowski expected goals per shot

However, Lewandowski is much more than just a finisher, and over his career he has learned to adapt to different roles depending on what's been required under different coaches and systems. This versatility is what makes him one of the most complete strikers in football today.  

In possession, Lewandowski’s technical ability allows him to take part in Bayern’s build-up play, not only by pinning back the opposing center backs, but by dropping deeper and getting involved in their link-up play higher up the pitch. His physical strength and balance allow him to receive the ball while being pressured by opponents. 

Additionally, his dribbling skills are quite good for a striker, something we don’t usually see, apart from Lionel Messi. This makes him especially dangerous when attacking the opposing back line.  

This mix of different abilities make it difficult to define what you might call a "trademark" Lewandowski goal – unlike Erling Haaland or Patrik Schick.  

This technical quality means he can find the back of the net in a variety of ways, using both feet and his head. He is capable of scoring from both inside and outside the penalty area and from different zones, including both the near and far post. His range of movement makes it possible for him to receive passes behind the last line of defense, from crosses or from through-balls; he is a truly all-round goal-scoring threat. 

Without the ball, he is a hard-working and intensive pressing player who uses cover-shadows, pressing angles and routes with solid timing. This is something he learned from Jürgen Klopp when both were at Dortmund and allows Bayern to chase down the opponent and win back the ball.

Lewandowski’s versatility is what has made him so successful under different coaches with different playing philosophies; he won two Bundesliga titles under a purely pressing Dortmund side (with Klopp) and easily transitioned to Pep Guardiola’s possessional-play-based approach, winning numerous trophies. He also didn’t have any issues with the more vertical and direct tactics favored by Hansi Flick. Even now with more players being positioned inside the box under Julian Nagelsmann, Lewandowski still finds dangerous spaces and more importantly, scores from them. 

Infographic Lewandowski chances
Big chances are defined as shots that are 30+% more likely to go in (xG value of over 0.3 from shots taken)

His lifestyle off the pitch is also key to him being able to perform consistently at such a high level despite being relatively old for a striker  

In addition to the usual fitness regimes of a professional footballer, Lewandowski has also invested ensuring that he gets the best night's sleep possible. He has a sleeping coach, and his bedroom is optimized for sleep, with no technical devices allowed in the room. It is pitch black at night and kept at a constant temperature of 21 degrees Celsius (69.8 degrees Fahrenheit).  

Lewandowski has also done a lot more to optimize his diet than many other players – aided by his nutritionist wife Anna Lewandowska, a karateka, who has won numerous world and European championship medals. 

This dedication to being the very best he can be physically earned him the nickname "The Body" during his time Dortmund. When the two were at Bayern, Guardiola went as far as to say that his off-the-pitch habits made him the most professional footballer he had ever met.  

Indeed, Lewandowski's routine and attention to detail demonstrates what a focused professional he is. His versatility on the pitch makes him one of the most complete footballers and one of the best strikers of all time. That's why Bayern Munich are so keen to keep him in the Bavarian capital beyond June 2023. 

Edited by James Thorogood