Robert Lewandowski

Let's deliver Robert Lewandowski the Ballon d'Or anyway

This is a truly incredible individual season and it's time that the greatest centre-forward of the decade received the big prize

 
6:15pm on Monday 24th August 2020
By
Paul Macdonald

It's often said that the role of the traditional centre-forward in football is dying, because a player whose predominant attribute is scoring, and very little else, can't contribute effectively in the build-up for a team operating a possession-based style.

Robert Lewandowski wants you to forget all of that. At the age of 31, the Pole's numbers in 2019/20 are better than they have ever been, and better than pretty much than any player not called Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo in the 21st century. His exploits are overwhelming, his scoring otherworldly.

And he's now a treble winner. In a normal season, now that the Champions League has been delivered, we would have an obvious candidate.

Team-mate Serge Gnabry said of him in November: “He is in the kind of form that no-one has seen before.” He isn't wrong, and as much as it levelled out slightly, he has still produced the type of season that should make all other Ballon d'Or front-runners irrelevant. The fact that they aren't even offering the award this year doesn't matter - we should remember this as Lewy's year.

In early November he had scored in all 15 Bundesliga and Champions League matches he participated in and now, even with potentially four European matches remaining, He has 55 goals in 47 appearances, a frankly stupid goal P90 rate of 1.18. Unlike some other prolific forwards, he doesn’t exist on penalties or purely on home comforts; only seven have been from the spot, while a gigantic 17 of those have been decisive in Bayern's matches. Lewy isn't just padding goals, he is scoring the ones that win games.

In the Bundesliga, his xG P90 is 1.02. It's often said that some forwards are expected to score every time they walk onto the pitch, but in Lewandowski's case it's absolutely, statistically, true. And even his xA, for a player not always praised for his build-up, is 0.24, which isn't too bad at all.

Since 2015/16, Lewandowski has scored 42, 43, 41, and 40 goals, with 15/16 in particular well ahead of the xG curve on 34.1 xG for the season.

LEWANDOWSKI

Goals Per Season (all comps)

Year15-1616-1717-1818-1919-20*
Total4243414051*

After he netted *just* 22 Bundesliga goals in 18/19 and with RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner, a natural fit in a number of ways, edging towards the end of his contract, it seemed as if it could be his end in Bavaria. But Werner signed a new deal at Red Bull and Lewy confirmed a new four-year contract in August, and it’s almost as if that as part of his signature he has decided that all team metrics must lead to him scoring more goals than he ever has in his career.

When the ball leaves Lewy's possession, he anticipates it coming back in the best position he can score from. Just look at his movement into place for the first goal against Dortmund, or his one-two with Thomas Muller, who knew exactly where he was going, to identify his single-mindedness to be only in areas where his next touch can be a shot.

That only one of his 34 league strikes have been outside the box attests to that fact, and his relationship with Muller, who we discussed in depth, really is one of mutual understanding.

In 19/20 he has also upped his shots per game too, from 3.7 last season to 4.5 this, with 2.2 landing on target. He’s shooting from (mostly) good spots on the pitch. His touches in the box are also up from 5.39 in 17/18 to 6.85 this season. He’s a man on a mission.

He is in the kind of form that no-one has seen before.Serge Gnabry

And, curiously, for a forward type seemingly heading the way of the DVD player, there’s a gathering of largely late-career strikers similarly focused on scoring as many as possible, but even they must bow to Lewandowski's dominance. Lazio's Ciro Immobile chases him the Golden Shoe race, but he has a huge 14 penalties in his total, compared to Lewy's five, and was also competing in the Europa League rather than the Champions League.

Contract sorted and playing alongside genuine creative talents such as Serge Gnabry, Philippe Coutinho and Muller, Lewandowski is, clearly, more single-minded than ever and given Bayern have, certainly since the turn of the year, been the best side in Europe by a distance, Ballon d'Or rivals in a normal year are thin on the ground.

With no international tournament, much rested on the result of the Champions League. But elsewhere Ronaldo is slowing down, Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have had fractured seasons and Liverpool's side, as good as they have been in the Premier League are an unquestionable collective and probably look a real standout individual.

Many thought Messi and Ronaldo's numbers couldn't be replicated but Lewy's achieved it in spectacular fashion. It's the greatest display of individuality in 2019/20 and for that, he deserves the Ballon d'Or. Just give it to him already, even if the event itself is cancelled.

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