With Lewandowski, Poles may not be too far apart at Euro 2016
Don't be surprised if red-hot Lewandowski joins former boss Klopp at Liverpool
(Grzegorz Krychowiak 13, Robert Lewandowski 42)
REP OF IRELAND 1
(Jonathan Walters 16-pen)
Real Madrid, Manchester United and Juventus have no one quite like him. Spain and Brazil could use him and even the Germans would benefit from his unerring consistency.
Robert Lewandowski is in a league of his own - a relentless, unstoppable scoring machine. A terminator in the penalty box, he always comes back.
He's the reason why Poland defeated the Republic of Ireland 2-1 yesterday morning (Singapore time) in Warsaw and qualified for Euro 2016 without the Russian roulette routine of a play-off.
He's the reason why German engravers might as well scribble in Bayern Munich's name on the Bundesliga trophy now.
A star will undoubtedly shine at Euro 2016, but he was born at Borussia Dortmund. Bayern refined him, but Juergen Klopp made him.
Media stories already hint at the restart of a beautiful friendship. An old boy turned new at Liverpool would recalibrate the Reds with a single signature.
Lewandowski is the man to make Anfield sing once more. He never walks alone in the penalty box. He runs. And no one can catch him.
At 27, Lewandowski's prime looms large on the horizon. His fee and salary are not a concern for Liverpool's owners, as long as they put aside their nonsensical Moneyball ideals for a little hard-nosed Premier League reality.
The cash frittered away on Christian Benteke, Danny Ings and Divock Origi (not to mention Mario Balotelli) arguably covers the colossal sums required to swop Munich for Merseyside and, ludicrous though it may seem, reports still insist that Pep Guardiola remains unconvinced of the striker's long-term suitability.
Taken at face value, Guardiola's alleged scepticism appears absurd, but his greatest Barcelona sides weren't typically built around conventional strikers.
When Lewandowski smashed in five against Wolfsburg, his Bayern manager's wide-eyed, head-smacking reaction was priceless, as if even the great coaching professor could not explain his student's dramatic evolution.
But Klopp is under no illusion. He speaks of Lewandowski as a favourite son, his best signing and greatest coaching success.
He beams at the mention of the striker's name, recalling how he hand-reared the Dortmund star after signing him from Lech Poznan in 2010.
Lewandowski's rapid progress exceeded Klopp's expectations, but never surprised him. The German coach always knew he had a diamond in the rough. He just smoothened out the right edges.
Both sides were in evidence against the Republic of Ireland yesterday morning. Lewandowski, naturally, had a hand in both goals.
Two defenders and a goalkeeper were needed to block his first effort after 12 minutes. Grzegorz Krychowiak rifled in Poland's opener from the subsequent set-piece.
John O'Shea and Richard Keogh took turns to handle the hot potato, unable to do anything beyond palming him off to the other. They were left with their fingers burnt.
In recent months, chasing Lewandowski has been as fruitless as chasing a plastic bag on a windy day. Everyone can see him. They just can't catch him.
Those five goals against Wolfsburg caught the eye, but Lewandowski's peerless work for his country, a Polish side not blessed with Bayern's bustling attacking talents, takes the breath away.
His double against Scotland last Friday mercilessly ended their dreams of qualification. His winner yesterday morning put Ireland's ambitions on hold.
He's destroying the hopes of opponents one by one, crushing their resistance with an assassin's lack of compassion.
His winning header - a record-equalling 13th goal of the campaign - belongs on a video loop in a museum; it was ruthless finishing in its purest, artistic form.
Twisting his body, he met Krzysztof Maczynski's cross with an impeccable header at the penalty spot. He found the only space available in Ireland's goal.
Of course, the rough part of the diamond exposed itself in the second half. As the Irish searched for a point, Lewandowski's cynicism took control.
He niggled defenders. He hoodwinked officials. He played for time, rather than the ball. For a hitman, he goes down like the victim of a sniper's bullet.
For Lewandowski, the means justified the end. Poland are on their way to Euro 2016, carried on the shoulders of a No. 9 who's a ferocious throwback to days when goals came through centre forwards rather than nifty, inverted wingers.
Germany's hiccups during their qualification journey are due in large part to an absentee at their apex.
They do not boast a brutish, balletic presence quite like Lewandowski. Thomas Mueller is a better footballer, but Lewandowski the superior finisher. Fifteen goals in five games present quite a winning argument.
Before the game, Poland coach Adam Nawalka called Lewandowski the best No. 9 in the world. That was a big statement, but Liverpool could make a bigger one.
No defender can stop Lewandowski right now. But Klopp is probably the only manager who could sign him.
SCORED IN EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP QUALIFYING
- Robert Lewandowski Poland (Euro 2016)
- David Healy Northern Ireland (Euro 2008)
- Klaas-Jan Huntelaar Holland (Euro 2012)
- Davor Suker Croatia (Euro 1996)
- Raul Gonzalez Spain (Euro 2000)
- Toni Polster Austria (Euro 1996)
- Ole Madsen Denmark (Euro 1964)
- Eduardo Croatia (Euro 2008)
- Hristo Stoichkov Bulgaria (Euro 1996)
- Darko Pancev Macedonia (Euro 1992)
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