For a player to be described as recording ‘Messi and Ronaldo numbers’ is to say the person in question has had a good season, and then some. That’s what Robert Lewandowski has done over the 2019/20 campaign, scoring 52 goals in 42 appearances in all competitions for Bayern Munich.
Put simply, everything Robert Lewandowski has touched has turned into goals.
It would be understandable if Lewandowski did not wish to be compared to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, even if that comparison is favourable to him this season. The Polish striker hasn’t always received the credit he has deserved over the last decade or so, long in the shadow of the game’s predominant duo. In any other era, Lewandowski would have been the subject of greater acclaim.
2020 might have seen the 31-year-old finally receive that acclaim in tangible form had the global coronavirus pandemic not struck. Indeed, Lewandowski was the favourite of many observers to win this year’s Ballon d’Or, outscoring both Messi and Ronaldo for the calendar year by more than two-to-one.
There will be no Ballon d’Or handed out in 2020, though, with the decision taken to scrap soccer’s most prestigious individual award due to the “lack of a sufficiently level playing field” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Lewandowski surely must have rued his misfortune upon reading this news. This year was shaping up to be his best chance to be named the best player in the world, with his hopes dashed through unprecedented global events.
“In the end, it’s not very fair - not just for Bayern but also for Robert Lewandowski, who might have won,” Bayern Munich chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge argued in light of the 2020 Ballon d’Or’s scrapping.
“I believe it’s very important that in a season that, except the French league, where performed through to the end of the season, it has to be possible to give the Ballon d’Or to the best footballer in the world. Of course, I believe, in those circumstances, Robert would have a good chance to win it for the first time in his career.”
Lewandowski can still prove himself as the best in the world, though. The remaining rounds of this season’s Champions League are an opportunity for the Pole to underline this status, with Bayern Munich seen as one of the frontrunners to go all the way in the competition. The Bavarians are, for many, the team to beat.
Bayern easily booked their place in the quarterfinals, extending a 3-0 first-leg advantage against Chelsea to 7-1 on aggregate. Quite simply, last Saturday's match was a mere formality, a way for a club that hasn't played competitively since early July to get its competitive juices flowing.
While Bayern Munich started the 2019/20 season poorly, with Niko Kovac sacked as head coach before the end of the year, they now have the look of a complete team. It’s difficult to pick a weak link in Flick’s side at this moment, such is their strength. They are well balanced and accomplished in every position from back to front, left to right.
Serge Gnaby, Thomas Muller and Joshua Kimmich have all enjoyed exceptional seasons. The emergence of Canadian full back Alphonso Davies giving Bayern Munich another dimension down the left wing while David Alaba moved inside to become something of a deep-lying playmaker from central defence. Manuel Neuer and Jerome Boateng are both back to their best, while Thiago Alcantara has put the injury troubles of recent years before him.
But it’s Lewandowski who is the Bavarians’ primary difference maker. He provides a sharper cutting edge than anyone else currently at the club, and anyone else in the European game right now. The Pole has always been an exceptional finisher, going back to his Borussia Dortmund days, but this season has seen him reach new heights.
The coronavirus hasn’t just had an impact on this year’s Ballon d’Or. This season’s Champions League will conclude in a way few could have imagined when the group stages kicked off back in September. But with the eyes of the soccer world on Portugal for a three-week mini tournament to crown new European champions, Lewandowski can show why he never needed the Ballon d’Or to show he’s the king.