Germany Soccer Bundesliga

Is Robert Lewandowski on his way to Bayern Munich?

2 Comments

In a week of ripples through soccer worlds, one just radiated through the German Bundesliga. If German outlet Der Spiegel has this one right, Poland international Robert Lewandowski — the dangerman for back-to-back Borussia Dortmund title-winners — may be ready to pull the pin and toss a grenade between the two biggest rivals in Germany. In a move sure to bring a smile to Luis Figo’s face, Lewandowski is reported to have agreed to a contract with Dortmund rivals and Bundesliga titans Bayern Munich.

Lewandowski signed a four-year deal with Dortmund when he moved to Germany from Poland in 2010, so he’s not free to move. Next season would be the last on that original deal, a status that has fueled speculation in summer move. Manchester United had been widely assumed to be the leading contender for the 24-year-old, an assumption that’s part of today’s shock. Where did Bayern Munich come from?

That’s the big story here. The Manchester United part? Yeah, cute footnote. But Bayern? Nobody saw this coming, and it’s still unclear what kind of number would be required to sell Lewandowski to the Bundesliga’s other huge power. If midfielder Javi Martínez moved to Bayern this summer for $50 million, how much will BVB want for Lewandowski?

The move would be reminiscent of Portuguese superstar Luis Figo’s 2000 move from Barcelona to Real Madrid. Bought for a then-record $54 million, Figo engendered a sense of betrayal among Barcelona’s fans as he crossed the divide between the world’s biggest rivals. Now Lewandowski’s not Figo, and Bayern-Dormtund is nowhere near Barcelona-Real, but there are obvious parallels. Lewandowski’s move to München would represent a significant loss for BVB, one directly inflicted by their biggest rivals.

Another player that comes to mind is Marco Reus, the 23-year-old attacker who chose Borussia Dortmund over Bayern when he moved from Borussia Moechengladbach this summer. For a talented, young, German international to reject an interested Bayern is huge. And for that player to elect to go to an emerging rival, one that would later prove capable of re-signing its core players? It was a statement. Dortmund was more than pesky. They were dangerous. Bayern forcing Dortmund’s hand on Lewandowski could reverse some of their momentum.

After an initial adjustment season in Germany, Lewandowski has been on of the league’s best strikers, hitting for 22 goals in 34 Bundesliga matches in 2011-12. He finished the season with 30 goals in 47 all-competition appearances, a rate he has replicated this year with 19 in 29.

Were he to move, it’s unlikely incumbent No. 9 Mario Gomez would stay. The German international has scored 97 goals for Bayern since moving from Stuttgart in 2009, but as we heard ahead of Gomez’s summer ankle injury, FCB’s management isn’t offering universal praise for the 27-year-old’s. Add in the stylistic dissonance that will come when Pep Guardiola lands in Germany and Gomez moving on this summer makes sense.

The Guardiola factor is also worth considering. Why would a player like Lewandowski, who could almost choose his destination within the soccer world, potentially pick such a controversial move, particularly when he could me similar or higher wages by jumping to England or Spain? In addition to Bayern’s brand, history, and obvious quality, only Munich can offer Guardiola.

It’s way too early so know for sure. We’re in the well-reported rumor stage, not the move’s postmortem. If Lewandowski ends up at the Allianz Arena we can dive into the Guardiola factor, the influence on rivalry, and the effect on the Bundesliga scales. For now, the mere possibility that a prominent Dortmund player — one everybody assumed would jump abroad — could move to Bayern is worth our pause.

Watch Live: Chelsea vs. West Brom (Lineups, Stream)

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 22:  Diego Costa of Chelsea and Joleon Lescott of West Brom battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and West Bromwich Albion at Stamford Bridge on November 22, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea hosts West Bromwich Albion from Stamford Bridge (Watch live, 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) as the Blues look to extend their eight-match win streak.

WATCH LIVE ONLINE HERE

The Blues make one change from last weekend’s 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Manchester City as Cesc Fabregas makes way in the starting XI for Nemanja Matic.

Antonio Conte‘s side will be opposed by a West Brom side that is unbeaten in their last four Premier League matches. The Baggies remain unchanged from last week’s 3-1 win over Watford as the side looks to move above eighth in the table.

LINEUPS

Chelsea: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard. Subs: Begovic, Aina, Ivanovic, Chalobah, Fabregas, Willian, Batshuayi.

West Brom: Foster; Dawson, McAuley, Evans, Nyom; Yacob, Fletcher (c); Brunt, Morrison, Phillips; Rondon. Subs: Palmer; Olsson, Robson-Kanu, Gardner, McClean, Galloway, Chadli.

“Pretty unreal, a fairy tale” — Alonso, Marshall celebrate Sounders title

@NicholasMendola
@NicholasMendola
Leave a comment

TORONTO — Talk about penalty kicks all you want, and definitely talk about that save, but Seattle’s formative heart kept Toronto FC’s vaunted attack off the scoreboard to win its first MLS Cup final.

Veterans Chad Marshall, Osvaldo Alonso, Stefan Frei, and Roman Torres simply got the job done against Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and the high-flying Reds.

“We knew what a great offensive team they are,” Marshall said. “Giovinco and Jozy are incredible. The amount of goals they put up this postseason is pretty ridiculous, so to keep them off the board for 120 minutes is incredible.”

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

The man in front of him, Alonso, was a prime reason for that. Countless connecting passes and perfect spacing limited TFC’s chances with the ball. After an MVP caliber season, you could argue that Alonso deserved just as much of a shout for MLS Cup MVP as winner Frei.

“In the final you have to give everything you have to win,” Alonso said. “I step on the field to play for my team, play for myself, and play for my family. And I think I did that.”

Both Alonso and Marshall spoke of the moments following Torres’ match-winning PK, as the Sounders crew flew down to pitch to celebrate in front of a rave green and blue visitors section high above BMO Field.

[ MORE: Bradley apologizes to fans ]

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

“I think I threw my back out on the run to Roman, and he flew right by me,” Marshall said. “It was just nuts. I lost my voice in a matter of 20 seconds. It’s just so exciting.”

Alonso was filled with pride for the fans at the game, and the ones back in Seattle who stood by the Sounders after a midseason coaching change.

“They deserved this, the trophy, because they are always there for us,” Alonso said. “Even when we were down at the bottom of the table. This trophy means a lot for me.”

Marshall admitted the words weren’t coming to him, even an hour after the game.

“I don’t know if I can. It’s an incredible feeling, from where we in July, the Kansas City game, to this moment right now, it’s pretty unreal, a fairy tale.”

Follow @NicholasMendola

Bradley lauds “fearless” teammates after heart-wrenching MLS Cup loss

@NicholasMendola
@NicholasMendola
Leave a comment

TORONTO — Michael Bradley paused to collect himself, several times actually, before apologizing to Toronto FC’s supporters.

The game of football, with its soaring highs and gutting lows, was the latter now. TFC had dominated Seattle over a lackluster 120 minutes, Bradley engineered several big interventions and some delightful balls that didn’t have an end product.

[ MLS CUP: Seattle wins in PKs | 3 things ]

Much of that won’t be remembered, though, because Bradley passed his penalty kick right into the path of a waiting Stefan Frei. Surrounded by reporters in the TFC locker room, Bradley chose his words carefully.

“When you put everything you have into something, when you come in every day ready to pour your heart and soul into something, the highs are amazing and emotional and incredible in a positive ways,” Bradley said. “And the setbacks… hit you hard. Every guy here is going to have to take the time to get over this one, to let it hurt, let it frustrate you, let it anger you.

“It’s not for the weak, and you see that on nights like tonight.”

[ MORE: Altidore, Frei on that save ]

Bradley was one of the final men to emerge from the showers at BMO Field, and he answered every question with brutal honesty.

“On behalf of the team, we can only thank every person in this city for their support and for the passion and the emotion and the energy that they put into this, together with us,” he said. “I’m sick to my stomach that we couldn’t reward them with the biggest trophy tonight.”

In defeat, it was easy to see why TFC’s locker room is drawn to its captain. Bradley shirked nothing, answering the tough questions and humoring those who would lob softballs about his family.

Among the former was this response, one of those quotes that moves a team into formation.

“The margins are so small, and on nights like this you have no choice but to go for it,” he said. “We talked about having a group of guy who were gonna, on the biggest of nights, be fearless and go after things in an aggressive way. And we did that. We were strong, brave, and went after the game in a really, really hard away from the first minute right up until the 120th minute.”

That Bradley missed a PK will howl to the moon in Toronto to the wee hours of this Sunday morning, and his critics will be happy to join in. But as the 29-year-old prepares for a winter that could see him head across an ocean before returning for World Cup qualifying and another MLS season, Toronto can be happy to put its faith — and its backbone — in No. 4.

Follow @NicholasMendola

Altidore, Frei react to “that save” after Sounders claim MLS Cup

TORONTO, ONTARIO - DECEMBER 10:  Stefan Frei #24 of the Seattle Sounders stops Michael Bradley #4 of the Toronto FC during the penalty kick phase during the 2016 MLS Cup at BMO Field on December 10, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Seattle defeated Toronto in the 6th round of extra time penalty kicks. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images
Leave a comment

TORONTO — When it came down to it, Jozy Altidore and Toronto FC were inches away from becoming MLS Cup champions.

The man who walked away with MLS Cup MVP was the reason they didn’t land the title.

[ WATCH: Frei’s big save ]

Deep in extra time, Altidore leapt high to loft a header toward the far post. Frei adjusted his body for one dramatic lunge, just slapping the ball toward Roman Torres for a clearance.

“(Altidore) does the right thing because he goes against the way that I’m coming from, and that point you just move your feet as quick as you can see what’s possible,” Frei said.

Altidore thought it was in.

“I thought so,” he said. “It was a tough ball to begin with. … It was a hell of a save. At the end of the day you’ve got to pull off something special.”

Follow @NicholasMendola