The biggest storyline out of North Rhine-Westphalia this summer is one that promises to keep giving throughout the entire 2013-14 season.
Robert Lewandowski, the Borussia Dortmund striker who notched an outlandish 35 goals in all competitions last season, was temporarily denied his dream move to rivals Bayern Munich this summer.
Despite the single year remaining on Lewandowski’s contract, Dortmund preferred to forgo the $40-46.5 million (€30-35m) transfer fee in favor of keeping their star man for one last season.
The decision was bold.
One one hand, it risked infuriating Lewandowski.
On the other hand, it was the ultimate compliment – telling a player that he is so good that the club is willing to eat a huge chunk of money to keep him for one season.
So naturally, everyone wanted to know – how would Lewandowski the situation?
Would he continue to dominate? Or would his on-field performances slack? Even worse, would he become a cancer in the dressing room?
These are questions that will persist the entire season. This past weekend, we found some early answers as Lewandowski and BVB defeated Munich 4-2 in the German Super Cup.
On the pitch, Lewandowski did not score but was nevertheless consistently dangerous, energetic and looked to be his typical self.
Off the pitch, the Polish international said all the right things – mostly.
“I will give everything I’ve got for Dortmund,” Lewandowski said. “It does not matter what happened. I am not interested about that on the pitch. When I am out on the pitch, then Dortmund is all I think about. I want to give it all I’ve got and be successful.”
But it wasn’t all cotton candy as Lewandowski hinted at where some lingering drama resided. “I feel fine in the team, but with other people I do have a problem. That is a difficult issue.”
Conventional knowledge suggested the statement was directed at Dortmund CEO Aki Watzke and sporting director Michael Zorc, who were the decision makers that put Lewandowski’s dream move to Bayern on hold.
Watzke, addressed the striker’s insinuations to German tabloid, Bild: “It’s obvious Robert is focused on me, but I need to make decisions for the good of the club. I can accept that Robert bears a small grudge against me.”
And therein lies Dortmund’s goal for the season – keeping Robert’s grudge small.