Robert Lewandowski (Warsaw, 1988) has just picked up his second Golden Boot from his scoring exploits at Bayern Munich. Now with Barcelona, his goalscoring instinct remains intact. The Pole explains what his first months at Camp Nou have been like and the aspirations he has for Qatar.
Q: This is your second Gold Boot. What does it mean to you?
A: It means a lot to me because I know how tough it is to score big goals and so many goals. I am very happy and very proud to win this Golden Boot a second time in a row but it’s not only about my goals, but also about the goals of the team.
Q: Are you thinking about the third Golden Boot because Haaland is also very strong at the moment?
A: I never think about this. This is something extra at the end of the season. In my mind, I don’t think about scoring lots of goals just to win this award. I always try to do my best… not only to score goals but also to help my team. At Barca, it’s not only about me scoring goals, but also about my movement on the pitch. So many people watch me and say that if I’m scoring, I’m playing well and if im not, I’m playing badly but that’s not the case. The style at Barcelona is different and I knew that when I came here, I had to adapt and show I was capable of doing more than just scoring goals.
Q: The Word Cup is around the corner… is this international break a good thing or a bad thing?
A: I don’t know. For sure, it’s something new for everyone. Having the world cup during the season is a huge challenge. For me personally, I feel ready for it. For teams, it’s also tough because they hardly have any time to prepare for the tournament. This is part of the challenge: you have to be ready and perform at your best despite what’s going on.
Q: What are the reasons for Barcelona’s exit from the Champions League?
A: I knew that in my first season at Barcelona, we were not going to win everything. This team is still being rebuilt and it needs time, this is part of the process. We should be playing the next round of the Champions League, but we have learnt a lot, especially because we have a lot of young players. We made a few mistakes and at this level, you must always be ready. It doesn’t matter how you do it, you need to learn how to win. It doesn’t how good or how bad you play because at the end of the day, the three points are the most important.
Q: How do you evaluate Poland in this World Cup?
A: It’s a huge challenge and it’s a very tough group- each game will be difficult. In the World Cup, it’s important to know how you’re going to play. For everyone playing in Qatar at this part if the season, it’s a huge challenge. We have to be ready for this, we have to fight from the first minute and it doesn’t matter how hard it’s going to be, you have to show your best.
Q: You play Argentina is the group, do you think they’re one of the favorites?
A: Yeh, I think Argentina with Messi are one of the favorites to win the World Cup. They haven’t lost in 30 games; they play well and you can see they are a really good team. They have a plan, which they are following as a group.
Q: Have you spoken to Messi about a possible return to Barcelona? Would you like to play with him?
A: Messi is absolutely brilliant with the amazing passes he plays to the striker. If you think about Messi, he has this brilliant connection with strikers. He knows how to put the ball into the box, between the lines… he’s the best in the world at that. I don’t know what’s going on right now, but for a striker it would be a dream to play with Lionel Messi for sure.
Q: It’s been said that football owes Messi the World Cup. Do you agree?
A: If look at football for the past 10/15 years, the main two figures have been Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and, in the end, if you think about who deserves to win this World Cup, these two names always pop up. They are legends. But on the flip side, this is football and you can never say what is going to happen because it’s a dramatic and unpredictable game. But in Messi’s case, it’s impossible for his achievements to be replicated as his amazing story continues. Now he’s dreaming to win the world cup. For him, that’s the big challenge. He wants to now win the World Cup with Argentina, but this is a World Cup and you can never know what is going to happen.
Q: What do you think about the Spanish national team?
A: I think that even though they have a lot of young players; they are still one of the favorites to win the World Cup. They could reach the semifinal or the final. For two years they’ve been playing well and they have the potential but as always this is the World Cup and you need something more. You need luck, you need to be in the right position in the right moment, especially given this year teams don’t have time to prepare the first game- they have just one week and not three or even four like in previous World Cups.
Q: You played against Spain a year ago, do you think the team has grown over the past year?
A: They have grown up. Game by game they have got better, even since the European Championships they’ve improved. Since then, they qualified to the world cup, they have shown they can play not only beautiful football, but also effective football. With all this potential, they can prove themselves by winning the World Cup.
Q: You play every day with young players like Pedri and Gavi, do you think they can be the surprise of the tournament?
A: I think it’s their time. I think they are going to take a huge step forward not only at the World Cup but also this season. For young players, their first big tournament not only gives them experience, but it also gives them a kind of new feeling, a new power and new self-confidence. For these young players, the World Cup will help them progress with their performances and Pedri and Gavi will take this next step.
Q: Messi, Ronaldo, de Bryne, Neymar, Mbapp, Lewandowski, who will be MVP of the tournament?
A: My role on the pitch with Poland is very different to that of Barcelona. I have to play for the team to win for the team. For me it will be a huge challenge to win it (MVP) because we don’t attack a lot and we don’t have loads of chances to score goals so for the striker it’s not the easiest. But, I’m ready for this and everything I do will be for the team, not for my personal statistics. It will be tough. It depends on the team- if the team follow you, it’s easier to achieve something special.
Q: What kind of football will we see at the world Cup… more physical, more technical?
A: I think it will be physical tournament, for sure. Given the timing of the World Cup, the players already have a rhythm because they have already been playing. I think teams will play with more risk, because the distance between the first and the last game of the group is very small- it’s a week or ten days.
Q: Which are the strongest Italian teams in Europe and what do you think about Inter Milan?
A: If you are talking about the Italian League, AC Milan and Inter are on the up. Maybe Juventus this season has had more problems. When you compare these teams now with those from five years ago, you can see there has been a jump in quality. Even AS Roma won the Conference League last season. They worked hard to improve and get back on the right track after many years getting stuck behind. Even though Juve haven’t played well this year, in the past few years they have always been at the top, competing at the highest level.
Q: How far can Inter Milan go in this Champions League this year?
A: Defensively they are very good. It depends on the draw. If they get a tough opponent, it will be difficult to play in the next round. But maybe if they get an opponent they can beat, they could reach the quarterfinal. The nature of the draw means some of the ‘big’ teams could go out in the next rounds.
Q: What are the biggest differences between the Bundesliga and LaLiga?
A: Each league is different, for sure. In LaLiga there are more clubs, more games. But, it’s difficult to say exactly what the differences are. In the Bundesliga, perhaps there are more teams that play defensively and wait to play on the counterattack. I think that the Bundesliga was perhaps more physical, but you have to remember there are more teams and that’s why it’s difficult to compare them.
To be honest, it depends on this team, not the league. Maybe after this season, after a bit more time, I’ll be able to tell you more about the differences between the Bundesliga and LaLiga. In LaLiga, I’ve also seen defensive teams that try to play with the ball, even at the Camp Nou. It’s still too early for me to say what the differences are.
Q: What do you think Germany can achieve at the World Cup?
A: I know that Hanzi Flick is an amazing coach and with him they can achieve a lot at the world cup. It also depends on the injuries you have before the first game. Lots of players have already got injured and during the World Cup you play a game every 3 days, so often it’s difficult to stay fit. But Germany has a great coach and a good mix of old and young players. They’ve been in good form recently and they definitely could reach the semifinal and once you reach the semifinal, you never know what could happen. I know they will be very dangerous.
Q: Chupo-Moting has recently morphed into the new Lewandowski. Did you expect him to be so successful?
A: If the team plays well, for the striker it’s easier He’s scored a few goals now, he’s in good form. I know him, he’s a good guy. I worked with him at Bayern. I know he’s going through a good run. I’m really pleased he’s scored some goals but the season is long. All I can say is good luck and I hope he keeps up this form into the rest of the season.
Q: You’ve played against Leipzig’s Hungarian goalkeeper Pter Gulcsi many times. What do you think about him?
A: He’s one of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga. He’s been playing at the top level for years and he’s one of the best in the league for sure.
Q: You started the World Cup on the bench with Paulo Sousa but now your manager is Czesaw Michniewicz. What do you think about the two managers?
A: Every coach has a different mind, different ideas. For us, we knew we had to change the coach before the World Cup pay-offs and we did it. With the new coach, we’ve already played a few games and we know we need to move on. With his plan, we know at the World Cup we will be ready and we will be a tough opponent for everyone.
Q: You came to Barcelona at a time when it was rebuilding? When will you see Barca back to the level it was in the old days? Could it be in a few seasons?
A: I think that even in a few months, you can see the progress we’ve made at Barcelona. At the beginning of next year, we can show our better performances and we can grow up as a team. Even next season will be much better and we’ll have more stability. In football, you can win a lot in a short amount of time. We’ve had a lot of injuries and as a result we lost a lot of stability. If you lose stability in the Champions league, you struggle. In that sense, we haven’t had much luck. In just a few weeks we lost a lot of players. Then, when you consider we also had to play a new system with a new set of players, it made things even more difficult. But now we’ve learnt from this and now we can move forward.
Q: What do you think about the European Super League?
A: I have to say, I don’t have much information about this, only what I’ve heard. I don’t have enough information to say more about this.
Q: Do you want to stay in football when you retire?
A: I have a lot of things to do in my life, not just football. But for me, I want to stay in football because with all my experience, I want to be able to help someone and give advice. I don’t know what that role might be, but at least part of my life will have something to do with football.
Q: Leaving Bayern must have been a difficult decision. What did Xavi say to you to convince you to join Barcelona?
A: It was a very tough decision but I knew it was the right moment for me to leave. At Bayern, I had everything under control and I was in my comfort zone. But, in my head, I knew it was my team to leave- I wanted to play a long career and continue to be happy. When I started to talk to Barca, I knew for my personal and footballing life, the best decision was to move to Barcelona to play in LaLiga. It was always my dream to play in La Liga.
Also, I didn’t want to play my entire life just in one league and that was another reason, even after I won everything at Bayern. I will always proud and grateful for that, but my head was clear and I wanted to move on to Barcelona. I have a new happiness now.
Q: How many goals are you going to score at the World Cup?
I depends how many chances I get. For me, it’s more important what we achieve as a team. If I can score lots of goals and the team does well, that would be great.
Q: Finally, Spain plays Germany in the group stages. Do we (Spain) have a chance?
I think that both teams will get to the next round. The next Spain could meet Germany would be the final right (laughs). The result will depend on the day, I think.