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Lewandowski at Barcelona: has it been a success so far?


Warsaw, Poland – Robert Lewandowski is one of the most recognisable “pure number 9s” in world football. He scores goals. That’s not strictly true as he does more than that – as all great players must – but he scores goals.

He was prolific at Dortmund, playing a starring role in Klopp’s heavy metal football. At Bayern, he was supercharged by the team around him, assembled by Pep Guardiola, Hansi Flick, and Julian Nagelsmann. His time at Barcelona will cap his career. It gives him a new league to define himself, and it gives Barca a striker they can rely on.

But has it gone according to plan? In the big money move that was consistent with Barcelona’s summer-window strategy – spend everything and bet it all on a Champions League title, the glory that every fan who has Champions League tickets wants to witness of their team – his arrival was a standout, but in Xavi’s on-field system, has he shone?

The season so far

La Liga is where there’s been success. The Spanish league system’s top division is a funny place. But it is a happy one for Barcelona (and Real Madrid) nine-times-out-of-ten. If Barcelona and Real Madrid aren’t in the top-two positions, then there’s something wrong. Like in 2020/2021, when Barca finished third – but that was a pivotal season in their recent history, as Joan Laporta was re-elected as president.

This season – 2022/2023 – has seen Barcelona return to the league’s summit, generating comfortable gaps of Real Madrid which have grown and shrunk over the course of the match-weeks. But has it been built on a free-flowing and explosive attack? No.

Lewandowski has had a productive debut season so far. Across 1,592 minutes in La Liga, he’s notched 15 goals and 5 assists. He’s participated in an attack that has scored only one less goal than Real Madrid this season, which is blessed with Benzema and Vinicius in blistering form.

Barca’s defence, though, has been the stand-out. With 24 games into the season, they’ve only conceded 8 goals. It’d be negligent to say Lewandowski doesn’t participate in this. It’s been proved many times how much defending demands of all 11 players, and Xavi’s team often defend with the ball too, during which Lewandowski has an obvious presence.

The seasons beyond

Barcelona have to evolve. That much is always true. Lewandowski’s career is drawing to a close, as he is now 34 years old. The club will have to bring in a younger talent soon. They’ll want him to learn from Lewandowski and will need someone ready when his injuries mount.

Lewandowski, though, isn’t playing in Barcelona for the future. He’s here for now. It’s likely Barcelona lift the La Liga title this season. Next year, they’ll have the same target, but with the addition of a Champions League one.

These goals haven’t changed for Lewandowski since he signed for Dortmund: a domestic league title and a European title. This move is all about finding more glory and doing it now.

With Barcelona’s bet during the summer of 2022 suffering an immediate blow when they failed to get out of their Champions League group, and more questions being asked about their finances and probes about payments to referees, Barcelona, then – the club itself – seem to be the only ones that can scupper the success of this transfer, not Lewandowski himself.