Robert Lewandowski underlined his status as a world-class striker with a Champions League record four goals in 15 minutes, leaving even his rivals comparing him to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
The Bayern Munich star needed 14 minutes, 31 seconds to score his quartet in Tuesday’s 6-0 rout of Red Star Belgrade, making him the Champions League’s top-scorer with 10 goals in five games.
“I must admit, I’m addicted to goals,” Lewandowski, 31, wrote on Twitter, has now netted 27 goals in 20 games for Bayern this season.
Bayern has won all four games under interim coach Hansi Flick, conceding zero goals in the process and scoring 16 — seven of which were by Lewandowski.
“Robert is currently in top form,” said Flick. “He works incredibly professionally, always puts in extra work and has been rewarded for it again.”
His wife Anna, a former karate champion and fitness blogger, describes Lewandowski as a “machine” who puts in the hours at the gym to stay in top shape.
– ‘Machine’ –
“He really is a machine. His body is impressive. He is an absolute professional and sticks strictly to his diet plan,” she said.
His goal-scoring exploits are all the more remarkable given that Lewandowski needs a minor groin operation, most likely during January’s winter break.
Lewandowski, who was applauded off even by some Red Star fans, could have finished with five goals in Belgrade after a first-half effort was ruled out because of offside from team-mate Tolisso Corentin in the build-up.
However, the Frenchman made up for it by creating two of the four goals.
“He (Lewandowski) gets a lot of chances if we play like this,” said Thomas Mueller as Bayern enjoyed 71 per cent possession and peppered the Belgrade goal with 29 shots.
Lewandowski has 63 goals in 85 Champions League games, making him fifth in the list of all-time scorers behind Ronaldo (127), Messi (113), Spain’s Raul Gonzalez (71) and France’s Karim Benzema (64).
The Poland striker is the top-scoring foreigner in Bundesliga history with 281 goals in 302 games for Bayern and former club Dortmund.
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His Belgrade haul was reminiscent of the five he scored in nine minutes in a 5-1 rout of Wolfsburg at the Allianz Arena in September 2015.
He is no stranger to scoring four goals in the Champions League, having achieved the same stunning feat in Dortmund’s 4-1 hammering of Real Madrid in the 2013 semi-finals.
Lewandowski is deadly in the area for club and country.
The Poland captain has 61 goals in 108 internationals, sailing past the all-time record of 48 scored by Wlodzimierz Lubanski in the 1960s and 70s.
Adam Nawalka, Poland coach from 2013 until 2018, said he would not swap Lewandowski for either Ronaldo or Messi.
Bayern’s 4-0 trashing of Fortuna Duesseldorf away last Saturday was remarkable only because it was Munich’s first league game this season in which Lewandowski failed to score.
By netting in the first 11 league games, he smashed the record of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who scored for Dortmund in the first eight games of 2015/16.
– Free transfer –
“You can’t score every game unless your name is Robert Lewandowski,” joked RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner in early November.
“He’s currently in the same category as Ronaldo and Messi.”
The former Lech Poznan striker has not stopped scoring since breaking into the Dortmund team with eight goals in the 2010/11 season to help win the first of back-to-back league titles.
He forged an international reputation in four seasons at Dortmund, netting a hat-trick against future employers Bayern in the 2012 German Cup final before his four against Real in 2013.
Despite Dortmund’s best efforts to keep him, he walked away to join rivals Bayern on a free transfer in 2014, helping them win the Bundesliga five times and the German Cup twice.
However, he is running out of time to win the only title yet to elude him — the Champions League.
Bayern Munich is doing everything possible to keep their star happy.
After he demanded new big-name players were recruited last summer, Philippe Coutinho and Ivan Perisic arrived on loan.
In August, Lewandowski signed a new contract — reportedly worth 15 million euros ($16.5m) — until June 2023, just shy of his 35th birthday.