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The incredible rise of Robert Lewandowski

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Robert Lewandowski put Real Madrid to the sword in Borussia Dortmund’s incredible 4-1 win last week.

The towering Polish international scored four times, the first man ever to score four in a Champions League semifinal, to cement his place in the history books.

But is hasn’t always been like this.

Lewandoski’s tale is one of perseverance, dedication. His rise to stardom from the third-tier of Polish soccer has been a rapid one. With Znicz Pruszków he became the top scorer in the third division, then the second and then led the way for Lech Poznan in the top flight.

68 goals in 117 league games over four seasons in three different leagues is quite an impressive record.

More: Manchester United up massive bid for Lewandowski

How many of Europe’s other elite forwards can say they’ve been the top scorer in every division in their homeland?

One coach recalls how Lewandowski slight frame was of concern in his early playing days. “He was very thin, his legs were like sticks and I was always scared that others would break them,” Krzysztof Sikorski, told UEFA.com. “I wanted him to be physically stronger and even advised him to eat more bacon!”

So there you have it folks, you want to score four against Real Madrid? Bacon is the answer.

Joking aside, Lewandowski’s form has been sensational this season. The 24-year-old is the leading scorer in the Bundesliga with 23 and has scored 10 goals in the UCL.

More: Video of Lewandowski’s four goals vs. Madrid

But can he produce one more stunning display to see his side into the UCL final in May? You bet.

Teams don’t know how to mark him. He is huge, yet his movement is reminiscent of a smaller forward who likes to play on a defender’s last shoulder. The way in which he darts in at the back post to latch onto and finish the many probing crosses Dortmund’s midfielders deliver is quite sublime. You simply cannot teach that knack of edging away from the danger area then attacking the ball instinctively while it’s in the air.

The “Big-Lewandowski” is sure to give Madrid another tough time tonight. He doesn’t have to, his side are all but assured of their place in the UCL final thanks to his four-star display.

But knowing his background, the relentless goals scorer won’t want to wait in the shadows. It’s crazy what a few strips of bacon can do for you…

Southampton: Van Dijk won’t leave, selling days likely done

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29:  Ralph Krueger the Southampton Chairman looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Southampton and Newcastle United at St Mary's Stadium on March 29, 2014 in Southampton, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
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Ralph Krueger doesn’t plan on selling any more big Southampton stars, and there’s none brighter than Virgil Van Dijk.

The Dutchman is perhaps the best center back in the Premier League, regularly linked with transfers to anywhere from Manchester City to Liverpool.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

But Krueger says Saints have had enough of selling big assets. Southampton has sold Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Sadio Mane, and Nathaniel Clyne in the past three seasons, and those are just the names to go to Liverpool. Morgan Schneiderlin and Victor Wanyama have also moved on from St. Mary’s.

From Sky Sports:

“We would like to move away from that and we feel confident this summer will be a lot quieter in Southampton and we can keep the core of this team moving forward for a few years.

“That is going to be important when you see how excellent the group is right now and how exciting the football is. The game we are playing is a pleasure to watch and a pleasure to be part of.”

Saints were the more effective side in a 3-2 EFL Cup Final loss to Manchester United this weekend, but are well off the pace in the race to make back-to-back trips into Europe.

It will be hard to hold onto Van Dijk and even new bright light Manolo Gabbiadini without Europe, but Krueger is a strong leader with the ability to convince almost anyone to buy into a plan.

Real Salt Lake signs Plata to multi-year DP deal

Real Salt Lake forward Joao Plata (8) gestures while walking during an MLS soccer game against New York City FC Saturday, May 23, 2015, in Sandy, Utah. (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP) DESERET NEWS OUT; LOCAL TELEVISION OUT; MAGS OUT
Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP
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SANDY, Utah (AP) Real Salt Lake has re-signed forward Joao Plata to a multi-year contract and he will continue to hold a designated-player spot.

The 24-year-old was acquired from Toronto FC before the 2013 season and he has 30 goals and 30 assists in regular-season play with RSL.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

Plata ranks No. 3 on the team’s all-time assists list and No. 5 in goals. He has 33 goals and 35 assists during his MLS career.

Real Salt Lake begins the season Saturday when it hosts Toronto FC.

Gotze out indefinitely with metabolism disorder

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - NOVEMBER 06:  Mario Goetze (R) and Ann-Kathrin Broemmel attend the MTV Europe Music Awards 2016 on November 6, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV)
Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for MTV
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Mario Gotze’s last few seasons have not fulfilled the expectations thrust about the World Cup-winning attacker.

Gotze, 24, scored the 113th minute goal that lifted Germany past Argentina in the 2014 World Cup, but has endured successive disappointing seasons between Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

[ MORE: Liverpool hires new CEO ]

With just two goals this season, Gotze has played just 24 minutes since BVB came back from winter break. On Monday, the club revealed why: a metabolism disorder that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. From Sky Sports:

“We are glad to know the reasons for Mario’s complaints and we are convinced that after recovering he will give us extra quality with his exceptional abilities,” said Dortmund’s director of sport Michael Zorc.

“Mario gets the full backing and maximum support from all of us at Borussia Dortmund on his way back.”

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Gotze at his best, and here’s hoping this problem is both curable and the reason for his struggles.

Liverpool hires EA Sports executive as new CEO

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Liverpool has named Peter Moore as the successor to chief executive office Ian Ayre.

Ayre, 53, is off to 1860 Munich this summer, and has stepped down early to allow Moore to take over.

[ MORE: Liverpool flops vs LCFC ]

A Liverpool-born executive, Moore was the chief operating officer at EA Sports and has also worked with Microsoft and SEGA.

The move “completes a transitional phase” which saw several new names join the fray. From The Liverpool Echo:

The appointment completes a transition plan by FSG which included appointing Michael Edwards as sporting director while Billy Hogan was promoted to the role of managing director and chief commercial officer.