'Lewangoalski' could be ace in Poland's pack

18 May 2012 03:17

Robert Lewandowski is at the top of his game and will carry Poland's hopes at the sharp end of their Euro 2012 attack on home turf.

After a hat-trick in Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund's 5-2 rout of league runners up Bayern Munich in the German Cup final -- their first domestic double -- the Pole is on a roll.

"I can't find words to describe what's happened," he posted on his Facebook profile. "It's fantastic, amazing, superb!"

But following an inspired season that saw him voted Poland's player of the year, Lewandowski's feet are firmly back on the ground.

"The Euro's looming, and that's my number one target," he told the daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

As fans hope the unheralded Poles will repeat the feats of the iconic 1970s and 1980s World Cup generation, the striker is squarely in the spotlight.

"Lewandowski: Our greatest Euro hope," headlined the newspaper Polska, while the tabloid Fakt asked "Will Lewandowski win the Euro for us?" -- despite the fact that pundits say qualifying from the group stage will be success enough.

Euro 2012 could be a shop window, with Lewandowski rumoured to be on the English Premier League radar especially that of Manchester United.

But Dortmund say he's not for sale and Poland manager Franciszek Smuda says that Germany is the best place for him to develop.

"He is a striker with exceptional technique," says Dortmund manager Juergen Klopp, whose side were also Bundesliga champions in 2011.

Arsenal and Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny is full of praise.

"He'd be the strong point of any team in the world," he says. "Robert's proved he's a world class striker."

Lewandowski was born in Warsaw in August 1988 to a footballing father from low-profile club Hutnik and a mother from volleyball side AZS.

Unlike Szczesny, snapped up by Arsenal in 2006, Lewandowski took time to climb the ladder, starting at cash-strapped youth side Varsovia Warsaw.

"It was there that I learned that you have to train, train and train," he says.

"It never makes a difference for whom I play, how, and whether there's a handful of fans or 80,000."

His Varsovia coach, Marek Krzywicki, says: "He worked hard. But above all, he had passion."

In 2004, the year his father died, Lewandowski signed to fifth-tier Delta Warsaw.

He then played a fourth-division season with Legia Warsaw's reserves, before injury sidelined him and he was released to third-tier Znicz Pruszkow in 2006.

He thrilled fans, becoming the division's top gun with 15 goals, winning promotion. The next season, he was the second tier's leading scorer with 21.

The top flight woke up and in 2008 he signed for Lech Poznan, proving his mettle with a table-topping 20 goals, then 18 in 2009-2010, as Lech won their first title in 17 years.

In June 2010 he signed a four-year deal with Dortmund for a Polish record fee of 4.5 million euros. The website transfermarkt.de now values him at 15 million.

After a first season in the shadow of Paraguay's Lucas Barrios, he took his chance when injury ruled the latter out and won the nickname "Lewangoalski".

He found the Bundesliga net 22 times this season, thriving alongside Dortmund and Poland midfielder Kuba Blaszczykowski and defender Lukasz Piszczek -- a trio named in the league 11 by German magazine Kicker.

Lewandowski won his first senior cap in 2008, after Poland returned from their lacklustre debut at Euro 2008 in Austria.

"That fulfilled a childhood dream," he says.

In 40 appearances, he has scored 13 times, albeit mostly in friendlies after Poland flunked their 2010 World Cup qualifiers and with an automatic berth at Euro 2012, Poland haven't played a competitive match since October 2009.

Source: AFP