Robert Lewandowski comes face-to-face with the heir to his goalscoring throne in Erling Haaland during Der Klassiker… but who will make the difference in the Bundesliga clash of the titans on Saturday?
- Robert Lewandowski comes up against Erling Haaland on Saturday evening
- The Bayern Munich marksman has been the Bundesliga’s star striker for a decade
- But his mantle looks set to be taken by Borussia Dortmund hotshot Haaland
- Polish striker Lewandowski made his breakthrough at Dortmund 10 years ago
- But with 12 years between them, who has the edge ahed of Saturday’s contest?
With 12 years separating them, comparisons between 32-year-old Robert Lewandowski and 20-year-old Erling Haaland may seem unwise, even unfair. But then you see the goal tallies and you realise – these two are on a different planet.
Lewandowski, who was the frontrunner for the Ballon d’Or this year before its cancellation, has had a scintillating 2020 for all-conquering Bayern, a year which saw the Pole complete his club trophy-set with the Champions League in August.
Haaland, meanwhile, has burst onto the Bundesliga scene since his arrival at Dortmund from Red Bull Salzburg in January and will want to throw down a marker in the first Bundesliga Der Klassiker of the season on Saturday night.
Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has been one of 2020’s standout players
Erling Haaland’s goal-rate has been stunning since signing for Borussia Dortmund in January
Goals since beginning of 2019-20
Lewandowski: 67 (in 57 matches)
Haaland: 65 (in 50 games)
The statistics make one thing quite clear: on Saturday, at Signal Iduna Park, Bundesliga’s goal king of the past decade takes on the likely heir to his throne.
So far this season, the pair are neck-in-neck in all competitions, with Lewandowski on 12 goals in 10 games and Haaland on 10 in 10.
As for the 2019-20 campaign, the Polish striker scored a remarkable 55 goals in 47 matches while Haaland – who spent half the season in Austria – had a similar conversion percentage of 44 strikes in 40 games.
For a player who only turned 20 in July, Haaland’s prowess and clinical nature in the box is innate.
It was around this time last year, in the opening stages of the Champions League, when the Norwegian first broke onto the continental scene in Europe’s flagship competition.
A matchday one hat-trick for Salzburg against Genk sent pulses racing and despite the Austrian side not eventually qualifying for the knockout stages, he finished the group stage on eight goals in six matches.
A move was inevitable – but perhaps the destination wasn’t. Manchester United were keenly interested, with Haaland having worked with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Molde in their native Norway.
Haaland scored a hat-trick on his Bundesliga debut following his move to Dortmund in January
But it was Dortmund who landed their man and negotiated a contract with Haaland’s agent Mino Raiola, who has a well-known prickly relationship with Old Trafford chiefs.
Now, that fee of £18m looks an absolute snip. Haaland hit the ground running, scoring a stunning double against PSG in the Champions League as well as a hat-trick on debut and seven goals in his first three Bundesliga matches.
His imperious form continued post-lockdown, though Dortmund could not halt the Bayern juggernaut from claiming their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title.
Haaland has been prolific in his 11 months at Dortmund, and has scored 10 times this season
But the Norwegian and his team-mates are still bidding to stop Bayern’s streak of titles
That’s the thing. Despite Haaland’s heroics, Bayern in the end won the German top-flight by 13 points as they stormed to a second treble in seven years, repeating the same feat they achieved in 2013.
Lewandowski is an integral – perhaps the most integral – cog to the Bayern wheel rolling so smoothly in the past 12 months.
Though the German giants relieved manager Niko Kovac of his duties this time last year, following a 5-1 defeat away at Eintracht Frankfurt, a change of managers did not effect the Pole’s supreme efficiency in front of goal.
He scored in every single one of his first 11 Bundesliga games, netting 16 in total, and was just as lethal in the Champions League, scoring in every appearance last season except the final victory against PSG.
Lewandowski has been in imperious form since the beginning of the 2019-20 season
The 32-year-old was named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year as Bayern completed the treble
At the age of 32, following a decade which has seen Lewandowski dominate in both yellow and red, he has hit his prime.
Personal awards have followed, including the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year gong, but it is his continued occupation at the top of the goalscoring charts which will satisfy him the most.
His ascent has been quite outstanding. It’s worth bearing in mind that when he was 20 – Haaland’s current age – he had just transferred from Polish second-division side Znicz Pruszkow to Lech Poznan in 2008.
Lewandowski was at Lech Poznan at 20 years of age before Dortmund snapped him up in 2010
A late bloomer, a shock move to Blackburn Rovers in 2010 was on the cards but the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud, Eyjafjallajokull, as well as financial difficulties meant a move to the Premier League did not materialise.
He instead made the switch to Germany and Dortmund – and the rest is history.
Lewandowski made his name in four years at the Westfalenstadion, particularly as Dortmund won the league title in 2011 and 2012 and as he scored a sensational four times in a Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid in 2013.
Lewandowski made his name at Dortmund during four years of success under Jurgen Klopp
Haaland could match the Pole’s trajectory, but who will be the match-winner on Saturday?
Is Haaland now set to repeat Lewandowski’s trajectory? It certainly seems so.
But for now, with both players at the top of their game, their form in front of goal come Saturday night could just decide the match and thus have a huge say in the destination of the German league title at the end of the season.
Lewandowski has led the way for over a decade in the Bundesliga’s goalscoring charts – but is it now Haaland’s time to take his crown?
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