It was meant to be Philippe Coutinho's big day, but Robert Lewandowski stole the headlines against Schalke. With his hat trick and his leadership, the Pole is setting the example for Bayern Munich, writes DW's Matt Ford.
Bayern’s matchday-two trip to Gelsenkirchen to face Schalke was to be Philippe Coutinho's grand entrance. This was the arrival of a superstar, the playmaker Bayern desperately needed. But by the time Coutinho came on just before the hour mark, Bayern had already found the precision needed to break down the Royal Blues, and it had come from a much more familiar source.
Robert Lewandowski will have been happier than most at Coutinho’s arrival, having made no secret of his desire to see Bayern spend big money on bigger names and proven quality to match his own.
On Saturday, he underlined that quality for the umpteenth time with a seventh Bundesliga hat trick to complement his brace against Hertha last week. If Kovac wanted more precision in front of goal, then these three strikes were the very definition of it.
His first was a penalty, a stuttered run-up deceiving Alexander Nübel. His second: an inch-perfect free-kick giving the otherwise impressive Schalke goalkeeper no chance. And his third was preceded by the deftest of touches to wrong-foot Salif Sane, open up a yard of space and set up a clinical finish in one smooth movement.
It was as if the Pole felt vindicated by the arrival of Coutinho, raising his own game yet another notch as if to say: "Finally! This is the quality I’m talking about, this is the level I am at and this is what I expect from everyone else."
Five goals in two games for Bayern. Five goals in two games for Lewandowski. The 31-year-old – who told broadcaster Sky that he was "95 percent" certain he was going to sign a contract extension – is literally carrying the champions so far.
"I can win games on my own but only teams win titles," he said post-match, conveying extreme confidence and self-belief without sounding even the slightest bit arrogant. The striker also added how pleased he was with the substitutions and the club's current squad depth.
If he hadn’t been stood sweating in a full kit with the match ball under his arm, one could have been forgiven for thinking that Robert Lewandowski was Bayern’s sporting director, making pronouncements about transfers and squad composition. In Coutinho, he will be satisfied that Bayern have finally recruited a player who matches his own stratospheric expectations.
Throughout much of the last decade, such demands for the very best have characterized Bayern Munich as a club, but recent disagreements on transfer policy, coaching appointments and general club direction have diluted those levels of perfection.
If Bayern are to get back to that level and compete with the best in Europe again, they could do much worse than follow Robert Lewandowski's lead.