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.