Robert Lewandowski's move to FC Barcelona is as predictable as it is lengthy. In his new home, the former Bayern Munich star does not look back. His coach is speechless, his old club worried: he'll be back next Tuesday - with Barcelona.
Football is a strange business. The heroes who are still beaming today are already stumbling tomorrow and are looking for a new job. Great players miss their exit and are sitting on the bench after many years at the top of the world. They are expelled and become a problem, the mere mention of which at completely different clubs will bring down the once shining heroes.
But there are constants. For example, they listen to the name Pep Guardiola, who has been working on a new football for over a decade with a lot of money at first Barcelona, then Bayern Munich and now Manchester City and on the way there has found something like total dominance. Winning the Champions League alone hasn't been so easy for him since his time in Catalonia. He now wants to end the story of failure with Erling Haaland.
The former BVB striker is unstoppable. He hits and hits and hits, almost has more goals than touches. He is the future of the game alongside PSG star Kylian Mbappé. A future that is already behind Cristiano Ronaldo, whose mention at Stamford Bridge was partly responsible for Thomas Tuchel's departure. Mbappé and Haaland are even closer to 20 than 30. They have plenty of time, they will dominate the game into the 2030s. Other stars don't have that time. You must deliver now. Because by 2030 they will have retired long ago, before that they will be working on new records. You can look back on many successful years and are ready for the final highlights. Then they have to make the jump.
In the eternal cycle of stories of rise and fall, which ensure with the breathless urgency of the narratives that the sport is never forgotten, Robert Lewandowski is currently one of the most impressive constants. The best modern Bundesliga striker always scores. Even if he no longer plays in the Bundesliga at all. As is well known, he switched from FC Bayern Munich to FC Barcelona for 45 million euros in the summer, with a lot of media noise.
Lewandowski has already scored eight goals in just five competitive games, three of them in FC Barcelona's 5-1 win over Viktoria Pilsen in the Champions League. Every goal a classic Lewandowski. Experienced and razor-sharp from a distance, cool and with perfect positioning in the penalty area. His hat-trick against the Czech representative catapulted him back into the top three of all-time top scorers in the premier club. He is now 89 goals ahead of Real Madrid's Karim Benzema and only behind Ronaldo, who we'll probably never see among the best again, and Lionel Messi.
"I'll soon run out of praise for him," said Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez after the game. "He delivered a hat-trick but it's not just that. The way he plays and lets the team play, finds team-mates, reads space, his pressing. I'm just blown away by him. He's a fantastic new signing. It gives us so many options in attack. He's a leader, a winner, just an incredibly fantastic new signing."
A fantastic new addition that keeps breaking records in passing. It happened again on Wednesday. His goals against Pilsen made Lewandowski the first player in the premier club to score at least a hat-trick for three different clubs. He had previously done so for Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern.
Barcelona and Lewandowski, ennobled by Xavi as the "spectacular" number nine, will meet in the coming week, almost exactly two months after his move. On Säbener Strasse they would have gladly done without it, not because they don't want to see their former star player again, but because he scares them a little before the game in the Allianz Arena next Tuesday.
At least that's what the statements from Munich suggest. "Robert Lewandowski is a world-class striker, no question about it. We're all looking forward to seeing him again. But he can save himself the goals in the game," said midfielder Leon Goretzka and coach Nagelsmann commented in awe: "I'm looking forward to Robert - not as an opponent because he's very good, but as a person."
Football is a strange business. The heroes of a club who are still beaming today are tomorrow's biggest opponents. They have set out in search of a new job and tell a story of advancement. Until they fall. But Robert Lewandowski is still right at the top. "Don't know if he's the best number 9 in the world but he's the best number 9 for us. If he's not the best number 9 then he's up there with Karim Benzema and Erling Haaland," Xavi said. "But without making any comparisons, Robert is spectacular and it's an absolute honor to have him in our team."