Tnotes that the guy who had 618 career goals and scored 25+ goals every year for more than a decade was pretty good. When La Liga returned from the international break this weekend, many players were absent but not him. He, it seems, is inevitable. And when they were done, he stood there, standing calmly over them all. Robert Lewandowski, Pole Ian Rush and Spaniard Pichichi. And who knows, maybe a little more: After all, he just brought his team to a place where it hadn’t been for two and a half years.
This was the weekend the Williams brothers kept running, Nico and Inaki returning home from their debuts in different countries to set each other up as Athletic scored four goals for the third time to take the lead every body else League. The weekend Girona and Real Sociedad went wild, scoring eight goals each, including a ridiculous one from Rodrigo Riquelme and something very special from Alex Sorloth in a 5-3 away win. The weekend when, unexpectedly, Getafe and Valladolid did: not normally Spain’s great entertainers, they served up the best show the Colosseum had seen since 325 AD.
This weekend, Espanyol goalkeeper Álvaro Fernández made the silliest momentary mistake of the season – until he added another three minutes later to equalize against Valencia in the 96th minute. It didn’t have much Iago Apas sitting on the bench with a dodgy gut, but it did have Gabri Veiga scoring an outrageous 30-yard winner for Celta against Betis, beaten on the road for the second year in a row and only for the third time every year. In all likelihood, it had Julen Lopetegui’s last standing, Sevilla a single point and a single place from the relegation zones and the coach a single call from the sack after a 2-0 loss to Atlético Madrid. And it was Osasuna at the Bernabéu where Sergio Herrera’s odd grip on Karim Benzema tightened.
In a game that wasn’t nearly as good as any of those games, it also had a goal from Robert Lewandowski, which isn’t really new anymore, but which one is The point. You have to go back to the opening day of the season, the last time he didn’t score. ‘A killer’, Mallorca coach Javi Aguirre had called him in the hours leading up to their meeting and he knew it. “There is no dignity in defeat: they all hurt,” he said 24 hours later. It was late Saturday in Son Moix and his team had fired more shots than Barcelona but had been beaten. Because if they had 13, Lewandowski had one — and that was enough.
He cut inward, curving a finish that was as perfectly placed as it was unfussy, excellence that looked simple. And that was pretty much the only goal. If he had led them, capitalizing on a good night from the team before – Barcelona had scored four, four, three, four, three goals in their last five league games and beaten five against Viktoria Pilsen – he had now led them by a bad goal . “Lewandowski, he zahori‘ AS called him. Basically a water seeker. A kind of mystic, he had found an oasis in the desert, Santi Giménez wrote, “and when you die of thirst and find water, you believe in everything”. Even in Barcelona. This, according to one headline, was “Lewy’s Law”. No wonder Sport and Mundo Deportivo thought they could do better than Thomas Muller.
You were wrong. So very, very wrong.
You may remember the Bayern midfielder’s overjoyed expression as he told the press: “We call him Lewangoalski… geddit, LewanGOALski” – a phrase full of affection and so bad it was good. Sport splashed the front page with Goalandowski this Sunday. while Mundo Deportivo went for Lethaldowski – a few lines that were so bad they were just bad. And yet, if they lacked the charm, warmth, or imagination of the original – and they ever did – that was understandable. It was Lewandowski’s ninth in seven league games – he is three ahead of Borja Iglesias as he didn’t score penalties against Iglesias’ three goals – and his 12th in nine games in total. Only László Kubala, Alfredo Di Stefano and Christian Vieri had scored that many goals in seven games in Spain. He has scored in six consecutive league games. He is, says Xavi, a “torgarant”.
But you and Xavi knew that too. There’s a reason why Barcelona kept pushing even when Bayern hit back, why they pushed through their commitment to him even when the price was double, triple the price they had to pay. Just look at his club results over the last seven seasons: 42, 43, 41, 40, 55, 48, 50, for heaven’s sake. Whatever the reason – they said it was all about eating pudding before the main course, always putting sweets first, but that’s bullshit, this column has been trying for years – he’s always scored goals. This is nothing new: it is nine Years since he beat Real Madrid by four, almost as long since Madrid made the first of many attempts to sign him, and that Polish Ian Rush thing dates back to Lech Poznan. Its success is not surprising.
Except it kind of does. “He walks in the area, a pool full of crocodiles, like it’s his own home,” writes Jorge Valdano. “Calling him a goalscorer is reductionist Everyone he knows how to do it is the hardest thing of all. And in front of a goalscorer, he’s a player anyway. Someone you can give the ball to and who never lets you down.” That’s part of it: you never know if it will work out for every footballer, and even if the productivity may not have surprised some games: the intelligence, the touch , the movement, the subtlety, the vision and the variety. The timing that isn’t just about finishing. After assisting Pedri with a great back-heel assist, Eric García insisted, impressed: “I can’t see that pass from the bench and he can see it on the pitch.” Xavi says: “He understands the game” knows what to do and when.
Then there is personality, a natural superiority over others that is worn easily and not eroded over the years. “He’s comfortable, he’s adapting, he’s aware of his responsibility to come here,” says Xavi. “He has maturity, he talks to the young players, he’s humble and he works hard. He’s calm, he’s confident and he’s a natural leader for the team.”
You may know a footballer is good but not how Well; You may see him elsewhere, but it’s not the same as showing up on your team, your league. There is always a discovery, even of the known. There’s always doubt, a hint of risk, and when a player comes into an environment where there’s already enough doubt, even more so. Lewandowski came up with 34 on one four years Deal, Bayern refuse to offer more than one. And he admitted to seeing firsthand some of the problems Barcelona faced last season when he was at the other side; However, he also insisted that he focus on where they were going rather than where they came from, a quiet authority over him. If a good player can always be brought down, a really good one can bring those around them up.
Because of this, what happened in Mallorca impressed less than other nights, but was more important and symbolized something significant.
A wild weekend ended on Sunday as Osasuna, the revelation of the season so far, saved Madrid with a 1-1 draw. Kike García headed a goal that Antonio Rüdiger described as ‘one in a million’ and then Benzema hit the bar with a penalty ten minutes from time – the fourth he had missed in six, three of them against Herrera. It was the first time Madrid hadn’t won all season but enough to allow Lewandowski’s goal to propel his team to the top.
It’s still very early that classic coming soon, injuries and the fixture list suggest they will be vulnerable this month and Barcelona have not beaten their most famous opponents: Mallorca, Elche, Cadiz, Valladolid and Sevilla are all in the bottom half. The streak of six wins and one draw wasn’t just about Lewandowski either – Marc André ter Stegen extended his clean sheet streak to a personal best of 534 minutes and that’s 18 away games unbeaten under Xavi into last season pass back. But this is the first time they have been at the top since Ernesto Valverde took charge and the first time ever since June 2020 – when Quique Setién was in charge and the stadiums were still empty 91 games ago. Valencia, Granada, Betis, Madrid, Getafe, Real Sociedad and Atlético have all been there since then, but Barcelona have not. Lewandowski has, and is now back in position, fighting for his ninth straight championship title, his 11th in 13 years.
“Lewandowski is a blessing,” says Xavi.
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