Being a new center forward at Barcelona isn’t easy, and there’s always the question of how long it will take to adapt, and whether it will work out at all.
Luis Suarez famously needed time for things to click with his teammates, while Zlatan Ibrahimovic was gone after one year.
With Robert Lewandowski, who just turned 34 years old, it felt different from the beginning.
For one, there are no superstars on this team. In fact, we may be living in a post superstar footballing world, with the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, and Neymar starting to fade from view.
But there will always be room for humble professionals who we can all recognize as the best at their position.
Lewandowski still holds that mantle, and you can see that he is more motivated than ever to keep it that way, especially with the likes of Erling Haaland applying pressure by scoring a hat-trick this weekend, and eager to steal his shine.
Make no mistake, the Pole will not go gentle into that good night of his career.
He is perfectly fit and as hungry as ever to be the best footballer he can be.
It’s starting to look like forcing an exit from Bayern Munich was a great personal decision. He knew they were moving past him, and that Barcelona was eager to secure his services, and to build their team around him in the short term.
Lewy is betting on himself. Like Pep Guardiola said, this is one of the most professional athletes you will ever meet. No one knows that better than the man himself who puts in the work every day to stay at the top of his game.
He has shown no signs of slowing down and works harder than anyone on the field. It’s amazing to see him check into the midfield to help in the build up, and then immediately sprint down the field to get behind a defender. He never stops moving.
And in the final third, it’s pure goal scoring instinct.
Consider Lewandowski’s first four goals for Barcelona.
First, against Real Sociedad, he came across and rescued a miscued cross from Alejandro Balde.
Later in the same game, he did the same thing with with a ball that Ansu Fati fought to just keep alive.
Against Real Valladolid, he came flying out of nowhere to get onto Raphinha’s cross, and he didn’t have a millisecond to spare.
Finally, he capitalized on a great run from Dembele, but scored on a final ball that was just behind him, from an impossible angle, with whatever part of the foot that was necessary, while covered by a defender, and with a goalkeeper closing down.
Robert Lewandowski continues to be the real deal, and he is doing more than scoring goals. He’s filling a leadership void.
Last season, the concern was whether Barca was developing a Pedri dependence. Too much was being asked of the young midfielder.
Other players, like Frenkie de Jong and Ousmane Dembele, are world class, but aren’t players you necessarily turn to when your back is against the wall. In the past, there was always Messi who would come to the rescue just when you needed him.
Now, all the other guys can just focus on being excellent players. They don’t need to be our new superstars, at least not right away.
Lewandowski is capable of taking on that pressure. He is a leader on the field and in the locker room, both by his professional example, and by his performances on the pitch.
But even he needs the right players around him, and a system that prioritizes giving him service, although don’t get me wrong, if the ball doesn’t come to him, he will go and find it.
In this case, Lewandowski knows how good he has it to be surrounded on all sides by Pedri, Dembele, Raphinha, and Frenkie. These are players who are more than happy and capable of putting him in positions to succeed in front of goal.
I for one appreciated that Xavi went back and simplified his system in this game. From the beginning, the balance was right, and everyone knew their role and quickly overwhelmed Real Valladolid.
They did benefit from playing against a low tier opponent who isn’t afraid to play openly.
Questions will continue to be asked when Barcelona plays a team like Rayo Vallecano who sit deep, waste time, and play anti-football.
But with a center forward like Lewandowski, there is hope that, more times than not, this Barcelona team will find a way.
My wish as the transfer window closes, however, is that Pierre Emerick Aubameyang stays as well. We don’t want to run anyone into the ground, and Lewandowski will need rest to keep him performing at his best.
Ferran Torres, Ansu Fati, and Memphis Depay aren’t nearly as effective through the middle, and let’s not even mention Ferran Jutgla’s name given his form with his new club.
Barcelona will need depth and rotation, and if they can wake up on September 1st with most of this roster still intact, they will have what they need to compete for every trophy.
That’s why Lewandowski is here. Anything less is not acceptable.