Lewandowski becoming a Dortmund legend

Posted by Stephan Uersfeld

As thousands of Borussia Dortmund fans travel to Malaga to witness the club's first Champions League quarter-final in 15 years, centre-forward Robert Lewandowski, 24, will be a key player in the reigning German champions' quest for the semis.

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Lewandowski certainly is one of the most discussed players in German, and European, football these days. The discussion, however, mostly circles around ongoing transfer rumours with several media outlets in Germany claiming a deal with Bayern Munich is already done. Lewandowski, under contract at Dortmund until 2014, has so far to announce his future plans and could still end up at another European club this summer, or stay at Dortmund for one more year.

In recent interviews Dortmund officials weighed up a transfer sum that could justify selling the 52-time Poland international. "Either we get offered a huge amount of money fairly soon or Robert will stay with us until 2014 and score another 20 goals for us - I'd like that best," Dortmund CEO Aki Watzke commented.

Dortmund, who have earned some €40 million in this year's Champions League, claim they will be prepared to replace Lewandowski - if necessary. But at least for seven more Bundesliga games and up to five Champions League matches Lewandowski's services are guaranteed.

For though Lewandowski has been at the centre of transfer rumours for most of the 2012-13 campaign, the Poland international not only shook off the pressure but is enjoying his best season to date. In 24 Bundesliga appearances he tops the scoring chart with 20 goals, and has added five more in eight Champions League games.

His current run of scoring in nine consecutive Bundesliga games is not only a club record but only surpassed by two players in the league's history, one of them the great Gerd Muller who managed 16 games during the 1970s. With seven Bundesliga games still to be played this season, Lewandowski could still go on and equal the record. Given his current form this at least is not unlikely.

When Lewandowski signed for Borussia Dortmund he had been the top scorer in Poland's third and second divisions, before wearing the jersey of Znicz Pruszkow and in his final season for Lech Poznan becoming the Ekstraklasa top scorer. All this time Dortmund had been working hard to lure Lewandowski, who had also been linked with Blackburn Rovers amongst others.

But despite spending a hefty €4.5 million on the then 21-year-old, Lewandowski struggled to win a place in the team. Paraguay international Lucas Barrios blocked the centre-forward position and Shinji Kagawa, whom Dortmund had bought for some €300,000 from Japanese club Cerezo Osaka, filled in the central midfield berth.

"I don't care in which position I play. My primary goal is to win a place in the team," Lewandowski said in one of his first interviews in Germany. "I am 21 and willing to learn a lot. I will play where the coach plays me and where I can help the team the most."

In the first half of the 2010-11 season Lewandowski was mainly used as a sub. By the time he started his first Bundesliga game in December 2010 he had already scored four goals, while German tabloid Bild had nicknamed him "Lewandumbski". Yet, Lewandowski scored in his first start at Nurnberg and added another three goals to his tally during the second half of the season.

"I have never dictated how many goals Robert has to score for us over the next few months," Jurgen Klopp had said ahead of Lewandowski's first season. "What I expect from him is that he will be the best Robert Lewandowki he can be. Robert is highly talented, but he has to show more, much more."

During the second half of the season, Klopp handed the central midfield position to Lewandowski after Kagawa was ruled out for the rest of the season. Despite becoming an important member of Dortmund's championship winning team, Lewandowski had still not truly arrived at the club.

"It was my first year in the Bundesliga. I needed some time. I played the number ten position during the second half of the season and that was a new position for me," Lewandowski later explained. In his second season he was back to his old position. At first, deputising for Lucas Barrios, who suffered an injury while with Paraguay, then after he had netted a hat-trick against FC Augsburg in October 2011.

He started all 34 Bundesliga games in Dortmund's double-winning campaign, scoring 22 goals - including the goal championship-deciding 1-0 victory against Bayern Munich in April 2012, with 10 assists. In the German Cup he put his name into Dortmund folklore by scoring a hat-trick in the 5-2 drubbing of Bayern in the final. Barrios left knowing he had no chance of winning back his place, bound for Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande.

"I worked hard and I knew I would be handed my chance," Lewandowski said mid-way through that season. Within only a year Lewandowski had become the heartbeat of Dortmund's attacking game and not only scored goals but also started to work in midfield. He was often seen in midfield, picking up and distributing balls. "A striker also can set up goals," he commented. This season, Lewandowski has added even more depth in his game.

While Germany started tested a new tactical formation with Mario Gotze as the "false nine", Dortmund don't need to consider dragging Gotze up front. Lewandowski fits perfectly into a role that sees him drifting to the wings, and also setting up plays.

When Dortmund beat Hannover in March, Lewandowski even played the No. 10 position and scored an early brace, setting up one of the goals by distributing the ball to the wing, then rushing into the box to finish what he had started. Against Donetsk, he swung the ball into the box from the right wing leaving Gotze to put the ball into the net and a couple of weeks later he picked the ball up in midfield, stormed past several Freiburg players and presented BVB youngster Leonardo Bittencourt his first Bundesliga goal.

"We will have a grand time with him," Aki Watzke said back in 2010. The Dortmund CEO hoped that Lewandowski would one day be one of the Dortmund greats. With back-to-back championships, a hat-trick in the German Cup final, a total of 50 goals in only 91 Bundesliga games and his versatility, Lewandowski has already succeeded at Dortmund. Ahead of what could be his last dozen games for Dortmund, the Pole has the chance to leave Dortmund as a club legend.

"We don't think about if this season will turn out to be a good season or a very good season," he said at the weekend. "And we also don't think about what will be after the season."

If Lewandowski decides to move on, he will have left his mark at Dortmund. The only thing that can destroy his status as a club legend would be a switch to league rivals Bayern Munich.

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