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

Robert Lewandowski swapped perennial winners Bayern Munich for disaster membership Barcelona final summer season. 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 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, nevertheless, 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 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’ve gotten achieved virtually all the things 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 all the things 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 things, I’ve a consolation zone there, however in the long run what makes me extra comfortable?’ I [thought] possibly I would like a change.

ESPN: There’s a phrase that claims in case you are too comfy in a spot, transfer someplace the place you’ve 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 mistaken approach, that may 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 I do know I’m 34 years outdated now, however it’s solely a quantity as a result of I do know I can nonetheless play at a excessive stage for just a few years.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: Once 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 resolve what is typically extra essential: to attain the aim or to win the sport. I do know that Barca wanted time after a tough few seasons but additionally that titles are essential. So, the very first thing is at all times that with the membership we’ve got to enhance. We now have to make the following 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 large issues. However now, I am positive that all the things we’re doing, how exhausting 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 got to consider, what we are able to do higher subsequent season. It is a course of and it is inconceivable to vary [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 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’ve got improved. We now have improved though we’re solely speaking about just a few months later. And [when we were knocked out], we additionally we had quite a lot of accidents. You may study 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 need to battle till the final recreation, however [winning] titles brings self-confidence. I bear 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 all the time. At all times. In the event you examine how the groups or how soccer seems to be 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. Everybody is aware of put together their recreation tactically, defensively transfer, change the system in the course of the recreation. It is essential to not solely adapt, however possibly to be one step ahead. Everybody needed to repeat Barcelona with [former coach Pep Guardiola], however even now for those who see Manchester Metropolis, they do not play like that anymore.

ESPN: Additionally at Bayern, Guardiola performed otherwise as properly.

Lewandowski: He tried extra tiki taka, however he realised that we had completely different sorts of gamers. He needed to adapt. It is like possibly 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 additionally bodily video games. The groups are ready bodily, tactically as properly. It is essential as a result of the best way soccer goes [is to] be sooner, have extra pace. Gamers are sooner on the wings, upfront. That is the best way that soccer goes. Everybody needs to see very quick gamers, very technical. However I believe soccer nonetheless wants distinctive gamers as properly.

ESPN: Proper now Barcelona are profitable video games that previously they did not. A whole lot 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 things, it’s important to be targeted first to construct a really sturdy defence. And defensively we’re enjoying properly, however offensively possibly we’ve got loads to vary to play higher soccer, to create extra probabilities and rating much more objectives. An important factor is to win the sport. The subsequent step shall be to [create] extra [chances] and rating extra objectives, however to nonetheless [remain strong] defensively. It is also concerning the mentality. We now have to nonetheless be targeted on defensive [qualities], however we’ve got to danger extra. We can’t be afraid as a result of in assault, and if you understand that the again is protected, it is simpler to resolve: ‘OK, I can take dangers, I can attempt one thing new.’

ESPN: Subsequent up is the Clasico. Why is it so tough to play in opposition to Actual Madrid?

Lewandowski: As a result of they’ve quite a lot of good, wonderful gamers. They’ve expertise, they’ve already achieved all the things. You see additionally how self-confident they’re once they play, however in the long run that is one recreation. That is the sport that is a very powerful recreation, not solely possibly in Spain but additionally on the planet between the golf equipment. You understand how many followers are ready for this recreation everywhere in the world? And even I, earlier than, after I wasn’t enjoying in Barcelona, I knew that the Clasico is coming, so I will watch this recreation. Now I’m the a part of the Clasico. For me, it’s one thing particular, one thing wonderful.

However at all times for those who’re enjoying at Camp Nou, at all times after I get on the pitch, even typically when I’m drained as a result of we had quite a lot of video games, I get additional powers. This sense once they name my identify, 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’ve had a number of the greatest. What’s the neatest thing about Jurgen Klopp, for instance?

Lewandowski: His character. He’s the man who could be like a father, the man that may assist you to on a regular basis, but additionally he is the man who can attempt to push you. That is the man who you may go to him, converse with him. We’re all human, all of us have issues. He isn’t solely the coach, he’s the man who … you may study from him, additionally [about] life. I discovered loads underneath him.

ESPN: May you give an instance?

Lewandowski: I believe that one scenario modified my profession. It was the primary season, possibly 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 recreation that we misplaced, I went to him instantly. It was possibly midnight on the resort. 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 anticipate from me.’ And this dialog was like, I believed that possibly 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, possibly 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 bear 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 believe. In that second I understood that mentality and what you’ve in your head is so essential 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 things modified.

ESPN: Do you bear in mind what he informed you that night time?

Lewandowski: I do not bear in mind all the things, however what I bear in mind is he informed me that if I give on the pitch in the course of the recreation, like 70% of my high quality from coaching, he shall be comfortable. 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 possibly 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. Generally I do not know if it is good or not, as a result of typically I am pondering that possibly 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 in the course of the recreation. 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 possibly we modify additionally our motion, our fashion or system.’

I used to be working with Pep for 2 years and I spoke with him loads. I bear in mind at some point he stated to me, ‘I might help you solely with construct the motion, construct up with the ball, to carry the ball to the field. However what you’ll do with the ball, I can not assist you to as a result of you understand higher than me. However all the things till the field, I might help you as a result of I understand how to construct it up, change the perimeters, transfer the place … all the things. However in the long run you might be higher than me. So that you resolve.’

ESPN: And Carlo Ancelotti?

Lewandowski: He is the man who gave me wonderful self-confidence. He gave me possibly what I missed and he gave me the self-confidence that I did not have earlier than. He is a tremendous human. He is the man who takes care of you.

ESPN: You are speaking about people who find themselves being human with you concurrently they need you to carry out. They see that the hot button is to attach with a human being.

Lewandowski: That is true. Generally folks neglect that we’re human and suppose we’re a machine, robots, that we can’t have unhealthy emotions, a nasty temper. Folks can suppose we’re the product, that we will coaching, to the sport and we do not do anything. It isn’t right. OK, we obtained the expertise, we’re working very exhausting to be the place we’re, that’s one factor, but additionally we’re coming again [home], we’ve got a household, we’ve got children, we’ve got issues, we’ve got to do these form of issues that everybody does day by day. We will have unhealthy moments. Generally it is like that one thing inside you are feeling, however you do not know what it’s precisely.

ESPN: Did you’ve these darkish moments in your life?

Lewandowski: I had just a few moments in my life, for positive. It isn’t like my approach [has been] simpler. It was additionally painful at occasions. However even after 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 would not work. It’s a must to be affected person, it’s important to suppose: ‘OK, for those who work exhausting, in case you are targeted on soccer, take into consideration what you are able to do higher, sooner, battle for a greater efficiency…’ I’ve to battle, I’ve to attempt. Perhaps an answer [arrives]. Perhaps I shall be fortunate. Perhaps I get a ball from somebody who makes a mistake and I’ve to be prepared.

ESPN: There are quite a lot of younger, gifted gamers at Barcelona. What could be your recommendation to them?

Lewandowski: It relies upon which gamers we’re speaking [about]. To Gavi? At first, study English [laughing]. If you wish to be worldwide man, it’s important to study English. I study Spanish now and look how outdated I’m. So it is not an issue for you. It must be simpler to study 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 essential what you achieved within the final recreation. An important is the following recreation and what you may obtain.’ My thoughts is at all times [on the next] recreation. You can’t suppose that the final recreation would be the identical as the following recreation. Perhaps a recreation 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 recreation higher and be extra recent, have extra vitality, not two days earlier than or at some point earlier than. As a result of typically that’s too late to vary something.

ESPN: Pedri?

Lewandowski: He is the man who has wonderful approach with the ball. However I inform him, ‘Pedri, the aim is objectives: it’s important to rating extra objectives. It’s a must to … not solely objectives, but additionally assists. You can’t solely play soccer simply to play soccer. It is also essential to have these numbers. I do know that your efficiency within the recreation helped loads. However in the long run, objectives and assists are additionally essential. 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 suppose that it is sufficient. Assume that we are able to 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 it’s important 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 typically accidents … he obtained an harm [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, for those who see how he does it, how is it potential 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 typically as a result of he has the ability in his legs, he is so quick, however typically for him if he tried to seek out one other strategy to make the assists, for instance, as a result of he is quick along with his pace everybody is aware of he is good at that, he is good and that is why the opponents already anticipate him. And if he used a special sort of move 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 may dribble previous three or 4 gamers, however in case you are nearer to the aim, you’ve possibly just one opponent. And that is it so that you can rating the aim.’

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

Lewandowski: In fact, I wish to assault on a regular basis. However, in the long run, it’s important to discover the stability between what’s essential on your group and what’s essential for you. I do know that the time that is coming, possibly quickly, our offensive recreation will enhance. We will play higher. And that is possibly the following step in our course of.

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

Lewandowski: Generally we play very properly, however typically we win even after we do not play properly. That is additionally essential: to know win, not play to win. Now we all know win, however the subsequent step shall be to know win and play properly and for the followers [be] extra spectacular. If we rating one aim, we’ve got to suppose we are able to rating possibly three objectives extra.

Let’s do that. Do not be afraid. We now have to present the followers one thing extra. Folks come to the stadium to see the emotion. That is why it is essential to have this concept, mentality. It would not matter who we’re enjoying. It is essential how we wish to play.

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