Robert Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in the world, and the Barcelona front man has hailed a late-night talk with Jurgen Klopp for changing the course of his career.
The Polish superstar had a very good start to his career, scoring 62 goals in 114 games for Znicz Pruszkow and Lech Poznan in his home country, but it wasn’t until he moved away that Lewandowski made himself known to the wider European public. In 2010, Lewandowski was signed by Borussia Dortmund for around €4million and became part of Klopp’s successful side for four seasons.
In 187 appearances for Dortmund, Lewandowski scored 103 goals, leading the club to two league titles and one DFB-Pokal as well as reaching the 2012/13 Champions League final, though they were beaten by Bayern Munich. Lewandowski spearheaded an attack which became a cult favourite amongst football fans, alongside the likes of Mario Gotze, Marco Reus, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang across his Dortmund spell.
He’s now La Liga’s top scorer for the season with Barcelona, having joined last summer but it could have been so different. In Lewandowski’s first season at Dortmund, the striker struggled in front of goal, scoring just eight times in 33 Bundesliga matches despite them winning the title. He had started the second season slowly too, with just four goals in his first 10 games (two had come in the cup), which led him to talk to then-Dortmund boss Klopp.
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After a 3-0 Champions League defeat to Marseille, Lewandowski sought out Klopp to see what the German’s plans and expectations were for the striker. And Lewandowski has now revealed that what was meant to be a quick chat turned into a 90-minute one-on-one that changed his career, viewing the now-Liverpool manager as something of a father figure.
Lewandowski told ESPN: “I think that one situation changed my career. It was the first season, maybe the beginning of my second season, at Dortmund. I wasn’t in good form, I didn’t score so many goals. I didn’t know what Jurgen wanted from me.
“After a game that we lost, I went to him directly. It was maybe midnight at the hotel. I said: ‘I want to speak with you because I don’t understand and I don’t know what you want from me, what you expect from me.’
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“And this conversation was like, I thought that maybe we’re going to speak five minutes, 10 minutes, but we were speaking about an hour and a half.
“The most important thing was that I was speaking with him, maybe like a father. And I missed my father because I lost my father when I was 16 years old. Maybe since that time, I couldn’t find someone who can talk with me like that.
“Three days later, and remember you cannot change anything in training because you don’t have time, we were playing in the Bundesliga and I scored a hat trick and got one assist and we won 4-0. That was Augsburg, I think.
“In that moment I understood that mentality and what you have in your head is so important because I didn’t change anything. But I felt some freedom, just like I’m clear in my mind. After this everything changed.”
After Lewandowski’s hat-trick against Augsburg, the Polish striker went on to score another 17 goals in the Bundesliga that season to take him to 22 for the campaign overall as Dortmund secured their second consecutive league title. It was the first time Lewandowski had hit the 20+ mark in a top-flight, and he has only failed to reach that mark once – netting 17 in his debut Bayern campaign.