Robert Lewandowski on Barcelona’s season, El Clasico, extra

Robert Lewandowski swapped perennial winners Bayern Munich for disaster membership Barcelona final summer time. After profitable 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 effectively. His 15 objectives in 21 appearances have helped Barca construct a nine-point lead over Real Madrid on the prime of LaLiga heading into Sunday’s Clasico. He additionally scored within the Supercopa conquer the identical opponents in January.

El Clasico: Stream LIVE 3/19, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN+ (U.S.)

Things 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 provides 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 endeavor beneath coach Xavi Hernandez, his recommendation for the membership’s kids in his function as a frontrunner and a midnight chat in a bar with Jurgen Klopp that modified the trail of his profession.

ESPN: You have achieved nearly the whole lot in your profession. How do you retain going?

Lewandowski: After so a few years in a single league, in a single nation, I believe I achieved the whole lot I might obtain. I’m very glad about what I gained with Bayern Munich, what I achieved there. But ultimately, you are pondering not solely about soccer [in terms of] soccer, however you are excited about soccer as your life. And at one level I assumed: ‘OK, I’ve achieved the whole lot, I’ve a consolation zone there, however ultimately what makes me extra completely happy?’ I [thought] perhaps I would like a change.

ESPN: There is a phrase that claims if you’re too comfy in a spot, transfer someplace the place you have got challenges.

Lewandowski: For certain. 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 unsuitable method, that might go down extra. I do know I’m 34 years previous now, nevertheless it’s solely a quantity as a result of I do know I can nonetheless play at a excessive stage for a number 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: When I got here to Barcelona, in my head the one problem is to win, it does not matter who we’re enjoying, it is to win, to attain objectives. Of course, at Barcelona, I’ve to determine what is typically extra vital: to attain the purpose 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 all the time that with the membership we now have to enhance. We should make the subsequent step to not solely play higher, however to win extra.

I noticed the potential within the group even when two years in the past Barcelona had massive issues. But now, I’m certain that the whole lot we’re doing, how arduous we’re working … ultimately we’ll obtain our objectives. Even nonetheless, for instance, we had the issues within the Champions League and that is what we now have to consider, what we will do higher subsequent season. It’s a course of and it is not possible 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 ultimate? From being aggressive at that stage?

Lewandowski: If we have been enjoying the Champions League now, we [would] in all probability nonetheless be enjoying within the Champions League as a result of we now have improved. We have improved though we’re solely speaking about a number of months later. And [when we were knocked out], we additionally we had a whole lot of accidents. You can study from these conditions, what you are able to do higher the subsequent future. I already gained [a] Champions League, 10 [Bundesliga titles], however for among the 18- and 19-year-olds [at Barca], this season could possibly be the primary time they win LaLiga. Of course, we nonetheless should combat till the final sport, however [winning] titles brings self-confidence. I bear in mind once I was 18 or 19 years previous, I had not gained league titles and I did not get this. But 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: Football is altering all the time. Always. If you examine how the groups or how soccer appears now and even 5 years in the past, it is completely different. Ten years in the past, everybody needed to play tiki taka, however soccer is extra bodily now. Everyone is aware of the way to put together their sport tactically, defensively the way to transfer, the way to change the system through the sport. It’s vital to not solely adapt, however perhaps to be one step ahead. Everyone needed to repeat Barcelona with [former coach Pep Guardiola], however even now should you see Manchester City, they do not play like that anymore.

Read also  For Andy Reid, this Eagles-Chiefs Super Bowl completes his NFL circle

ESPN: Also at Bayern, Guardiola performed in another way as effectively.

Lewandowski: He tried extra tiki taka, however he realised that we had completely different sorts of gamers. He needed to adapt. It’s 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’s not like earlier than. It’s nonetheless method, but in addition bodily video games. The groups are ready bodily, tactically as effectively. It’s vital as a result of the best way soccer goes [is to] be quicker, have extra pace. Players are quicker on the wings, upfront. This is the best way that soccer goes. Everyone desires to see very quick gamers, very technical. But I believe soccer nonetheless wants distinctive gamers as effectively.

ESPN: Right now Barcelona are profitable video games that previously they did not. Lots of 1-0s. But the philosophy will not be essentially seen in these video games. What do you concentrate on this?

Lewandowski: We are in a course of and you can not change or construct the whole lot, you need to be centered first to construct a really sturdy defence. And defensively we’re enjoying effectively, however offensively perhaps we now have so much to alter to play higher soccer, to create extra probabilities and rating much more objectives. The most vital factor is to win the sport. The subsequent step will likely be to [create] extra [chances] and rating extra objectives, however to nonetheless [remain strong] defensively. It’s additionally concerning the mentality. We should nonetheless be centered on defensive [qualities], however we now have to threat extra. We can’t be afraid as a result of in assault, and if you recognize that the again is protected, it is simpler to determine: ‘OK, I can take dangers, I can attempt one thing new.’

ESPN: Next up is the Clasico. Why is it so troublesome to play towards Real Madrid?

Lewandowski: Because they’ve a whole lot of good, superb gamers. They have expertise, they’ve already achieved the whole lot. You see additionally how self-confident they’re after they play, however ultimately that is one sport. This is the sport that is crucial sport, not solely perhaps in Spain but in addition on the earth between the golf equipment. You know what number of followers are ready for this sport everywhere in the world? And even I, earlier than, once I wasn’t enjoying in Barcelona, I knew that the Clasico is coming, so I’m going to observe this sport. Now I’m the a part of the Clasico. For me, it’s one thing particular, one thing superb.

But all the time should you’re enjoying at Camp Nou, all the time once I get on the pitch, even typically when I’m drained as a result of we had a whole lot of video games, I get additional powers. This feeling after they name my title, it is like: ‘Oh, come on, I’m prepared, I need to play already, I need to rating objectives, I need to win the sport. Wow, I’m enjoying right here.’ This stadium, even whether it is previous, it has historical past, it has magic. You really feel that.

ESPN: Let’s discuss coaches, you have got had among the finest. What is the most effective factor about Jurgen Klopp, for instance?

Lewandowski: His character. He is the man who will be like a father, the man that may assist you on a regular basis, but in addition he is the man who can attempt to push you. This is the man who you’ll be able to go to him, communicate with him. We are all human, all of us have issues. He’s not solely the coach, he’s the man who … you’ll be able to study from him, additionally [about] life. I discovered so much beneath him.

ESPN: Could you give an instance?

Lewandowski: I believe 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 type, 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 straight. It was perhaps midnight on the resort. I stated: ‘I need to communicate with you as a result of I do not perceive and I do not know what you need from me, what you anticipate from me.’ And this dialog was like, I assumed that perhaps we will communicate 5 minutes, 10 minutes, however we have been talking about an hour and a half. The most vital 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 once I was 16 years previous. Maybe since that point, I could not discover somebody who can discuss with me like that.

Read also  Lakers fall to the Knicks, lacking probability to achieve .500

Three days later, and bear in mind you can not 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 bought one help and we gained 4-0. That was Augsburg, I believe. 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. But I felt some freedom, similar to I’m clear in my thoughts. After this the whole lot modified.

ESPN: Do you bear in mind what he instructed you that evening?

Lewandowski: I do not bear in mind the whole lot, however what I bear in mind is he instructed me that if I give on the pitch through the sport, like 70% of my high quality from coaching, he will likely be completely happy. From that I understood that what I used to be doing was sufficient for him. I needed to make the subsequent step to convey 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 is particular about him?

Lewandowski: Pep is the coach who modified my thoughts about soccer. Sometimes I do not know if it is good or not, as a result of typically I’m pondering that perhaps if I’m silly, that it is simpler to play as a result of [now] I see an excessive amount of. I believe an excessive amount of and I see an excessive amount of typically through the sport. But that helped me so much 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 type or system.’

I used to be working with Pep for 2 years and I spoke with him so much. I bear in mind sooner or later he stated to me, ‘I can assist you solely with the way to construct the motion, the way to construct up with the ball, to convey the ball to the field. But what you will do with the ball, I can not assist you as a result of you recognize higher than me. But the whole lot till the field, I can assist you as a result of I understand how to construct it up, the way to change the edges, the way to transfer the place … the whole lot. But ultimately you’re higher than me. So you determine.’

ESPN: And Carlo Ancelotti?

Lewandowski: He’s 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’s a tremendous human. He’s the man who takes care of you.

ESPN: You’re speaking about people who find themselves being human with you similtaneously they need you to carry out. They see that the secret is to attach with a human being.

Lewandowski: That’s true. Sometimes individuals neglect that we’re human and suppose we’re a machine, robots, that we can’t have unhealthy emotions, a foul temper. People can suppose we’re the product, that we will coaching, to the sport and we do not do anything. It’s not right. OK, we bought the expertise, we’re working very arduous to be the place we’re, that’s one factor, but in addition we’re coming again [home], we now have a household, we now have youngsters, we now have issues, we now have to do these form of issues that everybody does day by day. We can have unhealthy moments. Sometimes it is like that one thing inside you are 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 number of moments in my life, for certain. It’s not like my method [has been] simpler. It was additionally painful at occasions. But even once I had these [dark] moments and I used to be pondering: ‘Come on, what is going on on?’ I attempt, I do, however one thing does not work. You should be affected person, you need to suppose: ‘OK, should you work arduous, if you’re centered on soccer, take into consideration what you are able to do higher, quicker, combat for a greater efficiency…’ I’ve to combat, I’ve to attempt. Maybe an answer [arrives]. Maybe I will likely be fortunate. Maybe I get a ball from somebody who makes a mistake and I’ve to be prepared.

ESPN: There are a whole lot 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, study English [laughing]. If you need to be worldwide man, you need to study English. I study Spanish now and look how previous I’m. So it isn’t an issue for you. It must be simpler to study English. But I can communicate with him in Spanish now. But if we’re speaking concerning the soccer, I inform him, ‘Gavi, it isn’t vital what you achieved within the final sport. The most vital is the subsequent sport and what you’ll be able to obtain.’ My thoughts is all the time [on the next] sport. You can’t suppose that the final sport would be the identical as the subsequent sport. Maybe 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 subsequent sport higher and be extra recent, have extra vitality, not two days earlier than or sooner or later earlier than. Because typically that’s too late to alter something.

Read also  How will Trayce Thompson develop into important for the Dodgers?

ESPN: Pedri?

Lewandowski: He’s the man who has superb method with the ball. But I inform him, ‘Pedri, the purpose is objectives: you need to rating extra objectives. You should … not solely objectives, but in addition assists. You can’t solely play soccer simply to play soccer. It’s additionally vital to have these numbers. I do know that your efficiency within the sport helped so much. But ultimately, objectives and assists are additionally vital. And to assault. Don’t be afraid, assault. If we rating one purpose, why can we not rating the second purpose?’

And that is additionally what I inform Gavi: ‘Gavi, we rating one purpose, OK? Don’t suppose that it is sufficient. Think 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? Everything is feasible. But you need to need to rating these objectives.

ESPN: Another participant, not so younger however nonetheless younger, is Ousmane Dembele.

Lewandowski: He is 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 will be the highest of the highest in his place. He is already however typically accidents … he bought an damage [in January]. But if he is on the pitch, he can all the time 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 potential to be so quick? And you see that from the primary coaching.

ESPN: What would you be your piece of recommendation to him?

Lewandowski: I do not need to discuss concerning the recommendation as a result of I’m not the man who can all the time say it is my recommendation to you. But for him typically as a result of he has the ability in his legs, he is so quick, however typically for him if he tried to search out one other method 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 forward to him. And if he used a unique kind of move or enjoying, he can create extra choices. What I say additionally to Ousmane is: ‘Ousmane, be near the purpose. From the contact line you do not rating the purpose, you do not make the help. OK, you’ll be able to dribble previous three or 4 gamers, however if you’re nearer to the purpose, you have got perhaps just one opponent. And that is it so that you can rating the purpose.’

ESPN: Football is about scoring, so bringing you is an efficient signal.

Lewandowski: Of course, I need to assault on a regular basis. But, ultimately, you need to discover the steadiness between what’s vital on your group and what’s vital for you. I do know that the time that is coming, perhaps quickly, our offensive sport will enhance. We can play higher. And that is perhaps the subsequent step in our course of.

ESPN: How do you think about the sport will develop for Barcelona?

Lewandowski: Sometimes we play very effectively, however typically we win even once we do not play effectively. This can be vital: to know the way to win, not the way to play to win. Now we all know the way to win, however the subsequent step will likely be to know the way to win and the way to play effectively and for the followers [be] extra spectacular. If we rating one purpose, we now have to suppose we will rating perhaps three objectives extra.

Let’s do that. Don’t be afraid. We have to present the followers one thing extra. People come to the stadium to see the emotion. That’s why it is vital to have this concept, mentality. It does not matter who we’re enjoying. It’s vital how we need to play.