Lewandowski interview: Striker on Barca, El Clasico and midnight chats with Klopp
Last summer, Robert Lewandowski traded Bayern Munich for the crisis-ridden Barcelona. Having won 10 Bundesliga titles (two for Borussia Dortmund, then eight for Bayern), the Polish striker wanted a new challenge. He wanted to help Barça return to the top of Spanish and European football.
Domestically, things are going well. His 15 goals in 21 games helped Barca lead nine points clear of Real Madrid to top La Liga ahead of Sunday’s game. Clasico. He also scored in the Super Bowl against the same opponents in January.
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However, things didn’t go so smoothly in Europe, with Barça being eliminated from the Champions League group stage and then losing to Manchester United in the Europa League play-offs, but Lewandowski says it gives them something to lean on. next season.
In an interview with Sportzshala correspondent Martin Einstein, he spoke about the exchange of Bayern for the Catalan coast, the process that Barça are under the leadership of coach Xavi Hernandez, his advice to the youth of the club as a leader and a midnight conversation in a bar with Jurgen Klopp. which changed the direction of his career.
Sportzshala: You’ve accomplished just about everything in your career. How do you keep going?
Lewandowski: I think after so many years in the same league, in the same country, I have achieved everything I could. I am very happy that I won with Bayern Munich, which I achieved there. But in the end, you don’t only think about football [in terms of] football, but you think of football as your life. And at some point I thought: “Okay, I have achieved everything, I have a comfort zone there, but in the end, what makes me happier?” I [thought] maybe I need to change.
Sportzshala: There’s a phrase that says if you’re too comfortable in a place, move to where you’re having trouble.
Lewandowski: Certainly. I had one moment [when I realised] I didn’t feel the way I felt before. I was afraid that if I didn’t change something, then this energy, this love for football, which went in the wrong direction, would fade even more. I know I’m 34 now but that’s just a number because I know I can play at a high level for a few more years.
Sportzshala: Javi Hernandez gave you a lot of compliments a couple of days ago. He said you changed the mentality of the club. Why did he say so?
Lewandowski: When I came to Barcelona, my only goal was to win, no matter who we play with, you need to win, score goals. Of course, at Barcelona I have to decide what is sometimes more important: to score a goal or to win a match. I know that Barca need time after some difficult seasons, but titles are also important. So, the first thing to always do with a club is to improve it. We must take the next step to not only play better, but win more.
I saw potential in the team, even though Barcelona had big problems two years ago. But now I’m sure that everything we do, how hard we work… in the end we will achieve our goals. Even so far, for example, we’ve had problems in the Champions League and that’s something we have to think about, that we can do better next season. It’s a process and it can’t be changed [everything] in a week or a month. You need more time.
Sportzshala: How far away are Barcelona from re-qualifying for the Champions League final? From being competitive at this level?
Lewandowski: If we were playing in the Champions League now, we would [would] We will probably still play in the Champions League because we have improved. We have improved, although we are only talking about a few months later. AND [when we were knocked out]We also had a lot of injuries. You can learn from these situations what you can do better in the future. I already won [a] Champions League, 10 [Bundesliga titles]but for some 18 and 19 year olds [at Barca], this season they can win La Liga for the first time. Of course, we still have to fight until the last game, but [winning] Titles give confidence. I remember when I was 18 or 19, I didn’t win championship titles and I didn’t get that. But then it was easier and more confident [came] and I [could] prove it on the field.
Sportzshala: You and Xavi both say football has changed. How so?
Lewandowski: Football is constantly changing. Always. If you compare how teams look or how football looks now and even five years ago, everything is different. Ten years ago everyone wanted to play Get tickets, but football is now more physical. Everyone knows how to prepare their game tactically, defensively, how to move, how to change the system during the game. It is important not only to adapt, but maybe to be one step ahead. Everyone wanted to copy Barcelona from [former coach Pep Guardiola]but even now, if you look at Manchester City, they don’t play like that anymore.
Sportzshala: Guardiola also played differently at Bayern.
Lewandowski: He tried more Get tickets, but he realized that we had different players. He had to adapt. It’s like maybe one day, I don’t know how old, you’ll find players like [Andres] Iniesta, Xavi, Lionel Messi, Dani Alves…
Sportzshala: So, describe modern football, what’s working now?
Lewandowski: Now it’s more physical, you even see it in La Liga, it’s changed. It’s not like before. It’s still technique, but also physical games. The teams are prepared physically, tactically. This is important because the way football is played [is to] be faster, have more speed. Players are faster on the flanks, in front. This is how football goes. Everyone wants to see very fast players, very technical. But I think that football still needs unique players.
Sportzshala: Barcelona are now winning games that they haven’t been able to win before. Lots of 1-0s. But the philosophy is not necessarily visible in these games. What do you think about it?
Lewandowski: We are in a process and you cannot change or build everything, you must focus first to build a very strong defense. And in defense we play well, but in attack we may need to change a lot in order to play better football, create more chances and score more goals. The most important thing is to win the game. The next step will be [create] more [chances] and score more goals but still [remain strong] on the defensive. It’s also about mentality. We still need to be defensively focused. [qualities]but we have to take more risks. We can’t be afraid, because in attack, and if you know that your back is safe, it’s easier to decide: “OK, I can take a risk, I can try something new.”
Sportzshala: Next comes Clasico. Why is it so difficult to play against Real Madrid?
Lewandowski: Because they have a lot of good, great players. They have experience, they have already achieved everything. You also see how overconfident they are when they play, but at the end of the day, it’s one game. This is the most important game not only in Spain but in the world between clubs. Do you know how many fans around the world are waiting for this game? And even I knew before, when I didn’t play in Barcelona, that Clasico is coming, so I’m going to watch this game. Now I’m a part Clasico. For me, this is something special, something amazing.
But whenever you play at the Camp Nou, whenever I’m on the pitch, even sometimes when I’m tired because we’ve had a lot of games, I get extra strength. That feeling when they call me by my first name, it’s like, “Oh come on, I’m ready, I already want to play, I want to score goals, I want to win the game.” Wow, I’m playing here.” This stadium, even though it is old, has a history, it has magic. You feel it.
Sportzshala: Let’s talk about the coaches, you’ve had some of the best. What, for example, is the best thing about Jurgen Klopp?
Lewandowski: His personality. He’s a guy who can be like a father, a guy who can help you all the time, but he’s also a guy who can try to push you. This is a guy you can approach and talk to. We are all human, we all have problems. He’s not only a coach, he’s a guy who… you can learn from him too [about] life. I learned a lot from him.
Sportzshala: Could you give an example?
Lewandowski: I think one situation changed my career. It was the first season, maybe the beginning of my second season in Dortmund. I wasn’t in the best shape, I didn’t score so many goals. I didn’t know what Jürgen wanted from me. After the game we lost, I went straight to him. It must have been midnight at the hotel. I said, “I want to talk to you because I don’t understand and I don’t know what you want from me, what you expect from me.” And this conversation was like that, I thought that maybe we would talk for five minutes, ten minutes, but we talked for about an hour and a half. The most important thing is that I talked to him, maybe like a father. And I missed my dad because I lost my dad when I was 16. Maybe since then I could not find a person who could talk to me like that.
Three days later and remember you can’t change anything in training because you don’t have time, we played in the Bundesliga and I had a hat-trick and one assist and we won 4-0. I think it was Augsburg. At that moment, I realized that the mentality and what is in your head is so important because I did not change anything. But I felt a certain freedom, as if I had a clear mind. After that, everything changed.
Sportzshala: Do you remember what he told you that night?
Lewandowski: I don’t remember everything, but I remember that he told me that if I show on the field during the game, for example, 70% of my qualities in training, he will be happy. From this I realized that what I do is enough for him. I had to take the next step to bring that quality to games. This little change has changed my life and may have changed my path. [I was on] in my life.
Sportzshala: Guardiola. What is special about it?
Lewandowski: Pep is a coach who…