Lewandowski interview: Striker on Barca, El Clasico and midnight chats with Klopp
Robert Lewandowski swapped perennial winners Bayern Munich for disaster membership Barcelona final summer season. After successful 10 Bundesliga titles (two for Borussia Dortmund, then eight at Bayern), the Poland striker needed a brand new problem. He needed to assist take Barca again to the highest of Spanish and European soccer.
Domestically, issues are going properly. His 15 objectives in 21 appearances have helped Barca construct a nine-point lead over Actual Madrid on the prime of LaLiga heading into Sunday’s Clasico. He additionally scored within the Supercopa overcome the identical opponents in January.
– El Clasico: Stream LIVE 3/19, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN+ (U.S.)
Issues did not go so easily in Europe, nonetheless, with Barca eradicated from the Champions League group stage after which dropping their Europa League playoff to Manchester United, however Lewandowski says that offers them one thing to construct on subsequent season.
In an interview with ESPN’s Martin Ainstein, he speaks about swapping Bavaria for the Catalan coast, the method Barca are enterprise underneath coach Xavi Hernandez, his recommendation for the membership’s kids in his position as a frontrunner and a midnight chat in a bar with Jurgen Klopp that modified the trail of his profession.
ESPN: You will have achieved nearly all the pieces in your profession. How do you retain going?
Lewandowski: After so a few years in a single league, in a single nation, I feel I achieved all the pieces I might obtain. I am very glad about what I received with Bayern Munich, what I achieved there. However in the long run, you are pondering not solely about soccer [in terms of] soccer, however you are enthusiastic about soccer as your life. And at one level I believed: ‘OK, I’ve achieved all the pieces, I’ve a consolation zone there, however in the long run what makes me extra joyful?’ I [thought] perhaps I want a change.
ESPN: There’s a phrase that claims in case you are too snug in a spot, transfer someplace the place you have got challenges.
Lewandowski: For positive. I had one second [when I realised] I did not really feel what I felt earlier than. I used to be afraid if I did not change one thing, that this vitality, this love for soccer that was going the flawed approach, that might go down extra. I do know I’m 34 years outdated now, however it’s solely a quantity as a result of I do know I can nonetheless play at a excessive degree for a couple of years.
ESPN: Xavi Hernandez gave you a lot compliments a few days in the past. He stated you modified the membership’s mentality. Why did he say that?
Lewandowski: After I got here to Barcelona, in my head the one problem is to win, it would not matter who we’re enjoying, it is to win, to attain objectives. In fact, at Barcelona, I’ve to determine what is typically extra vital: to attain the aim or to win the sport. I do know that Barca wanted time after a troublesome few seasons but in addition that titles are vital. So, the very first thing is at all times that with the membership we’ve to enhance. We have now to make the following step to not solely play higher, however to win extra.
I noticed the potential within the crew even when two years in the past Barcelona had large issues. However now, I am positive that all the pieces we’re doing, how onerous we’re working … in the long run we are going to obtain our objectives. Even nonetheless, for instance, we had the issues within the Champions League and that is what we’ve to consider, what we will do higher subsequent season. It is a course of and it is inconceivable to alter [everything] in a single week or one month. You want extra time.
ESPN: How far are Barcelona from once more reaching a Champions League remaining? From being aggressive at that degree?
Lewandowski: If we have been enjoying the Champions League now, we [would] most likely nonetheless be enjoying within the Champions League as a result of we’ve improved. We have now improved regardless that we’re solely speaking about a couple of months later. And [when we were knocked out], we additionally we had loads of accidents. You may be taught from these conditions, what you are able to do higher the following future. I already received [a] Champions League, 10 [Bundesliga titles], however for a number of the 18- and 19-year-olds [at Barca], this season could possibly be the primary time they win LaLiga. In fact, we nonetheless should struggle till the final sport, however [winning] titles brings self-confidence. I keep in mind after I was 18 or 19 years outdated, I had not received league titles and I did not get this. However later it was simpler and extra self-confidence [came] and I [could] show it on the pitch.
ESPN: You and Xavi each say soccer has modified. How so?
Lewandowski: Soccer is altering the entire time. At all times. In case you examine how the groups or how soccer appears to be like now and even 5 years in the past, it is totally different. Ten years in the past, everybody needed to play tiki taka, however soccer is extra bodily now. Everybody is aware of learn how to put together their sport tactically, defensively learn how to transfer, learn how to change the system through the sport. It is vital to not solely adapt, however perhaps to be one step ahead. Everybody needed to repeat Barcelona with [former coach Pep Guardiola], however even now should you see Manchester Metropolis, they do not play like that anymore.
ESPN: Additionally at Bayern, Guardiola performed in another way as properly.
Lewandowski: He tried extra tiki taka, however he realised that we had totally different sorts of gamers. He needed to adapt. It is like perhaps one time in I do not know what number of years, you discover the gamers like [Andres] Iniesta, Xavi, Lionel Messi, Dani Alves…
ESPN: So describe soccer these days, what’s working proper now?
Lewandowski: Now it is extra bodily, you even see it in LaLiga, it is modified. It isn’t like earlier than. It is nonetheless approach, but in addition bodily video games. The groups are ready bodily, tactically as properly. It is vital as a result of the best way soccer goes [is to] be quicker, have extra pace. Gamers are quicker on the wings, upfront. That is the best way that soccer goes. Everybody desires to see very quick gamers, very technical. However I feel soccer nonetheless wants distinctive gamers as properly.
ESPN: Proper now Barcelona are successful video games that previously they did not. Lots of 1-0s. However the philosophy shouldn’t be essentially seen in these video games. What do you concentrate on this?
Lewandowski: We’re in a course of and you can’t change or construct all the pieces, you need to be targeted first to construct a really sturdy defence. And defensively we’re enjoying properly, however offensively perhaps we’ve loads to alter to play higher soccer, to create extra probabilities and rating much more objectives. An important factor is to win the sport. The following step will probably be to [create] extra [chances] and rating extra objectives, however to nonetheless [remain strong] defensively. It is also concerning the mentality. We have now to nonetheless be targeted on defensive [qualities], however we’ve to threat extra. We can’t be afraid as a result of in assault, and if you already know that the again is secure, it is simpler to determine: ‘OK, I can take dangers, I can strive one thing new.’
ESPN: Subsequent up is the Clasico. Why is it so troublesome to play in opposition to Actual Madrid?
Lewandowski: As a result of they’ve loads of good, superb gamers. They’ve expertise, they’ve already achieved all the pieces. You see additionally how self-confident they’re once they play, however in the long run that is one sport. That is the sport that is crucial sport, not solely perhaps in Spain but in addition on the planet between the golf equipment. You know the way many followers are ready for this sport all around the world? And even I, earlier than, after I wasn’t enjoying in Barcelona, I knew that the Clasico is coming, so I’ll watch this sport. Now I’m the a part of the Clasico. For me, it’s one thing particular, one thing superb.
However at all times should you’re enjoying at Camp Nou, at all times after I get on the pitch, even generally when I’m drained as a result of we had loads of video games, I get additional powers. This sense once they name my title, it is like: ‘Oh, come on, I am prepared, I wish to play already, I wish to rating objectives, I wish to win the sport. Wow, I am enjoying right here.’ This stadium, even whether it is outdated, it has historical past, it has magic. You are feeling that.
ESPN: Let’s speak about coaches, you have got had a number of the greatest. What’s the neatest thing about Jurgen Klopp, for instance?
Lewandowski: His persona. He’s the man who could be like a father, the man that may assist you to on a regular basis, but in addition he is the man who can attempt to push you. That is the man who you possibly can go to him, converse with him. We’re all human, all of us have issues. He is not solely the coach, he’s the man who … you possibly can be taught from him, additionally [about] life. I realized loads underneath him.
ESPN: Might you give an instance?
Lewandowski: I feel that one scenario modified my profession. It was the primary season, perhaps the start of my second season, at Dortmund. I wasn’t in good kind, I did not rating so many objectives. I did not know what Jurgen needed from me. After a sport that we misplaced, I went to him instantly. It was perhaps midnight on the lodge. I stated: ‘I wish to converse with you as a result of I do not perceive and I do not know what you need from me, what you count on from me.’ And this dialog was like, I believed that perhaps we will converse 5 minutes, 10 minutes, however we have been talking about an hour and a half. An important factor was that I used to be talking with him, perhaps like a father. And I missed my father as a result of I misplaced my father after I was 16 years outdated. Perhaps since that point, I could not discover somebody who can speak with me like that.
Three days later, and keep in mind you can’t change something in coaching as a result of you do not have time, we have been enjoying within the Bundesliga and I scored a hat trick and obtained one help and we received 4-0. That was Augsburg, I feel. In that second I understood that mentality and what you have got in your head is so vital as a result of I did not change something. However I felt some freedom, similar to I am clear in my thoughts. After this all the pieces modified.
ESPN: Do you keep in mind what he advised you that night time?
Lewandowski: I do not keep in mind all the pieces, however what I keep in mind is he advised me that if I give on the pitch through the sport, like 70% of my high quality from coaching, he will probably be joyful. From that I understood that what I used to be doing was sufficient for him. I needed to make the following step to carry this high quality into video games. This small change modified my life and perhaps modified the highway [I was on] in my life.
ESPN: Guardiola. What’s particular about him?
Lewandowski: Pep is the coach who modified my thoughts about soccer. Typically I do not know if it is good or not, as a result of generally I am pondering that perhaps if I’m silly, that it is simpler to play as a result of 1679084003 I see an excessive amount of. I feel an excessive amount of and I see an excessive amount of generally through the sport. However that helped me loads additionally, if I see and I can change issues and [communicate that to] my teammates: ‘They’re enjoying like this, so perhaps we alter additionally our motion, our fashion or system.’
I used to be working with Pep for 2 years and I spoke with him loads. I keep in mind in the future he stated to me, ‘I may also help you solely with learn how to construct the motion, learn how to construct up with the ball, to carry the ball to the field. However what you will do with the ball, I can not assist you to as a result of you already know higher than me. However all the pieces till the field, I may also help you as a result of I understand how to construct it up, learn how to change the edges, learn how to transfer the place … all the pieces. However in the long run you’re higher than me. So that you determine.’
ESPN: And Carlo Ancelotti?
Lewandowski: He is the man who gave me superb self-confidence. He gave me perhaps what I missed and he gave me the self-confidence that I did not have earlier than. He is an incredible human. He is the man who takes care of you.
ESPN: You are speaking about people who find themselves being human with you similtaneously they need you to carry out. They see that the hot button is to attach with a human being.
Lewandowski: That is true. Typically individuals neglect that we’re human and assume we’re a machine, robots, that we can’t have dangerous emotions, a nasty temper. Folks can assume we’re the product, that we will coaching, to the sport and we do not do anything. It isn’t appropriate. OK, we obtained the expertise, we’re working very onerous to be the place we’re, that’s one factor, but in addition we’re coming again [home], we’ve a household, we’ve youngsters, we’ve issues, we’ve to do these sort of issues that everybody does each day. We are able to have dangerous moments. Typically it is like that one thing inside you’re feeling, however you do not know what it’s precisely.
ESPN: Did you have got these darkish moments in your life?
Lewandowski: I had a couple of moments in my life, for positive. It isn’t like my approach [has been] simpler. It was additionally painful at instances. However even after I had these [dark] moments and I used to be pondering: ‘Come on, what is going on on?’ I strive, I do, however one thing would not work. It’s a must to be affected person, you need to assume: ‘OK, should you work onerous, in case you are targeted on soccer, take into consideration what you are able to do higher, quicker, struggle for a greater efficiency…’ I’ve to struggle, I’ve to strive. Perhaps an answer [arrives]. Perhaps I will probably be fortunate. Perhaps I get a ball from somebody who makes a mistake and I’ve to be prepared.
ESPN: There are loads of younger, proficient gamers at Barcelona. What can be your recommendation to them?
Lewandowski: It relies upon which gamers we’re speaking [about]. To Gavi? At first, be taught English [laughing]. If you wish to be worldwide man, you need to be taught English. I be taught Spanish now and look how outdated I’m. So it is not an issue for you. It needs to be simpler to be taught English. However I can converse with him in Spanish now. But when we’re speaking concerning the soccer, I inform him, ‘Gavi, it is not vital what you achieved within the final sport. An important is the following sport and what you possibly can obtain.’ My thoughts is at all times [on the next] sport. You can’t assume that the final sport would be the similar as the following sport. Perhaps a sport finishes at like 11 p.m. So for me, 11:30 p.m. I’m already pondering how can I put together for the following sport higher and be extra contemporary, have extra vitality, not two days earlier than or in the future earlier than. As a result of generally that’s too late to alter something.
Lewandowski: He is the man who has superb approach with the ball. However I inform him, ‘Pedri, the aim is objectives: you need to rating extra objectives. It’s a must to … not solely objectives, but in addition assists. You can’t solely play soccer simply to play soccer. It is also vital to have these numbers. I do know that your efficiency within the sport helped loads. However in the long run, objectives and assists are additionally vital. And to assault. Do not be afraid, assault. If we rating one aim, why can we not rating the second aim?’
And that is additionally what I inform Gavi: ‘Gavi, we rating one aim, OK? Do not assume that it is sufficient. Assume that we will rating one other one. If we rating two objectives, why we can’t rating three objectives?’ I scored 5 objectives in 9 minutes [for Bayern against Wolfsburg in 2015.] So why can we not rating 5 objectives in 90 minutes? The whole lot is feasible. However you need to wish to rating these objectives.
ESPN: One other participant, not so younger however nonetheless younger, is Ousmane Dembele.
Lewandowski: He’s the man who from the primary coaching session at Barcelona, I used to be very stunned [by], positively stunned by how [much] expertise [he has] and the way good he’s, how briskly his toes are. For me, he’s actually the man who could be the highest of the highest in his place. He’s already however generally accidents … he obtained an damage [in January]. But when he is on the pitch, he can at all times do one thing with the ball. He can dribble really easy, so quick, like pure, pure expertise. And this dribbling, should you see how he does it, how is it attainable to be so quick? And also you see that from the primary coaching.
ESPN: What would you be your piece of recommendation to him?
Lewandowski: I do not wish to speak concerning the recommendation as a result of I am not the man who can at all times say it is my recommendation to you. However for him generally as a result of he has the facility in his legs, he is so quick, however generally for him if he tried to search out one other option to make the assists, for instance, as a result of he is quick together with his pace everybody is aware of he is good at that, he is good and that is why the opponents already look ahead to him. And if he used a unique sort of cross or enjoying, he can create extra choices. What I say additionally to Ousmane is: ‘Ousmane, be near the aim. From the contact line you do not rating the aim, you do not make the help. OK, you possibly can dribble previous three or 4 gamers, however in case you are nearer to the aim, you have got perhaps just one opponent. And that is it so that you can rating the aim.’
ESPN: Soccer is about scoring, so bringing you is an effective signal.
Lewandowski: In fact, I wish to assault on a regular basis. However, in the long run, you need to discover the stability between what’s vital on your crew and what’s vital for you. I do know that the time that is coming, perhaps quickly, our offensive sport will enhance. We are able to play higher. And that is perhaps the following step in our course of.
ESPN: How do you think about the sport will develop for Barcelona?
Lewandowski: Typically we play very properly, however generally we win even once we do not play properly. That is additionally vital: to know learn how to win, not learn how to play to win. Now we all know learn how to win, however the subsequent step will probably be to know learn how to win and learn how to play properly and for the followers [be] extra spectacular. If we rating one aim, we’ve to assume we will rating perhaps three objectives extra.
Let’s do that. Do not be afraid. We have now to provide the followers one thing extra. Folks come to the stadium to see the emotion. That is why it is vital to have this concept, mentality. It would not matter who we’re enjoying. It is vital how we wish to play.