Robert Lewandowski broke Gerd Müller’s 49-year-old Bundesliga single-season goals record in 2020/21, scoring 41 goals in the campaign. Is he capable of breaking his own record?
Müller established a Bundesliga record of 40 goals in 1971/72, and many felt it would never be beaten. Dieter Müller came closest with 34 goals for Cologne in 1976/77, while Lewandowski equaled that total for Bayern in 2019/20.
Müller’s record, though, eluded the brilliant Polish striker – just as it had eluded many other Bundesliga strikers before him. That is, until the 2020/21 campaign, when it became clear early on that an apparently unbreakable record that had stood for nearly half a century may eventually be surpassed.
The Bundesliga and European champions began the 2020/21 season with an 8-0 hammering of Schalke, with Lewandowski starting his season account. The following week was less successful for him and Bayern: no goals and a 4-1 loss to Hoffenheim.
He had to wait until the third matchday of the season to establish his rhythm, scoring all four of Bayern’s goals in a 4-3 victory over Hertha Berlin. A brace against Arminia Bielefeld the next week preceded an astonishing hat-trick against Eintracht Frankfurt. Lewandowski already had ten goals after five matches, and the quest for Müller’s goal record was on.
Watch: Lewandowski‘s 41 goals for Bayern Munich in 2020/21
This was confirmed following a stunning nine-game scoring streak from mid-December to mid-January, which featured three consecutive braces against Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen, and Mainz. From there, the goals continued to fall at his feet: three in a dramatic 4-2 home triumph in Der Klassiker and three more two weeks later against VfB Stuttgart to bring his season total to 35, shattering his own Bundesliga personal best in the process.
With eight games remaining, only five more were required to tie the record. Lewandowski’s logic and the percentages were truly in his favor as he hooked up with his compatriots for FIFA World Cup qualifying.
Unfortunately for Poland’s captain, he was substituted after injuring the ligaments in his right knee during his country’s 3-0 victory over Andorra. He would miss four crucial Bundesliga games but returned in Bayern’s defeat at Mainz, when he scored in the 94th minute.
Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions for the ninth consecutive year the following matchday with a thrashing victory against Gladbach, which included three more goals for Lewandowski.
With two games remaining, two more were required to break the record.
Robert Lewandowski equaled Müller’s Bundesliga record of 40 goals with a penalty in the 2-2 draw against Freiburg. On the final matchday, time was running out with 89 minutes remaining.
The predator then pounced on a parry by countryman and close friend Rafal Gikiewicz and tucked the ball away to create history. He’d accomplished the unthinkable – 41 goals in a single season.
Following this historic achievement, the Pole was adamant that he could have landed even more fish, stating: “I was unable to attend [five] games. Who knows what I may have accomplished had I not?” He also stated that it would be “difficult” to match Müller’s efforts, given the caliber of opposition and workload in today’s game, but as former coach Hansi Flick put it, “If anyone can do it, it’s him.”
“I don’t believe anyone, probably with the exception of Lewandowski, will break the record,” former Bayern Munich coach and player Jürgen Klinsmann told bundesliga.com during a January media round-table. “He has a chance to surpass his personal career high of 41 goals. He’s one of those individuals who could play till they’re 40 years old.”
Müller died tragically in August 2021, with Lewandowski and Bayern paying tribute to him prior to kick-off of their DFL Supercup victory against Borussia Dortmund.
The freshly crowned record-breaker maintained his dominance throughout the 2021/22 Bundesliga season, with Bayern leading the Rückrunde by nine points. Lewandowski scored 19 goals in the Hinrunde under new Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann – three fewer than his total at the same level last season.
Seven goals in his first five appearances of 2022 – including his second Bundesliga hat-trick of the season in Matchday 19’s 4-0 win over Cologne – have now brought Lewandowski level with his 26 goals in the first 23 games of last season.
Knowing Robert Lewandowski, he can be anticipated to continue improving his performance in the second half of the season, with Bayern creating more gilt-edged chances than ever before this season.
He has scored in 18 of his 23 appearances, and the 33-year-old has not missed a matchday this season. Due to his absence from Matchdays 6, 27, 28, 29 and 30 in 2020/21, Lewandowski will essentially have a five-game head start this time around as he attempts to equal his own record.
After all, he has already surpassed last season’s totals for braces (four in 2020/21, five in 2021/22) and hat-tricks (one in 2020/21, two in 2021/22). Off the field, Lewandowski finished second in the 2021 Ballon d’Or voting, behind PSG’s Lionel Messi, and then defeated Messi for the second year in a row to win the FIFA Best Men’s Player of the Year award.
After nearly half a century of Müller holding the single-season record, Lewandowski now has the possibility to break it within the next 12 months. And with his 300th Bundesliga goal under his belt, Müller’s league record of 365 goals appears to be less distant than it once was.
If anyone is capable of doing so, it is undoubtedly LewanGOALski…