It proved to be one of the most perfect striker performances in the Champions League, up among the Gods with Ronaldo’s excellence at Old Trafford in 2003 with Real Madrid and Lionel Messi’s five goals against Bayer Leverkusen last season. Robert Lewandowski went above and beyond, reaching the near-impossible rating of 10 in L’Equipe on Thursday morning. It wasn’t the moment the world woke up to the Borussia Dortmund striker’s talents, as one English pundit confidently exclaimed; it was, however, the building of tension and excitement for what may be the forward’s final few months at Signal Iduna Park.
Borussia Dortmund has already expressed their desire to keep Lewandowski into next season, despite the player’s contract coming to an end in 2014. They were quick once again last night to confirm their stance, probably hoping in a way that glory in Europe this season will be enough to keep the key elements of their group together.
But on some level you can see through the confident tones, acknowledging that they’re more hopeful than anything else. Bayern Munich may come calling once again, adding to the storm created by their successful approach for Mario Goetze, while rumours have already arisen that Bayern have indeed stolen a march on the rest of Europe for Lewandowski’s signature.
Yet it remains the case that the Premier League is the destination many on the continent hold as the pinnacle of the game in Europe. Manchester United have made their interested known, while the most recent incident involving Luis Suarez means Liverpool may well be in the hunt for an elite forward this summer. In fact, you could make a strong case for any of the teams currently competing for the top four in England as legitimate destinations for Lewandowski.
At this point, however, you can’t ignore the possibilities and suitability of Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea. All three London clubs are in the hunt for a striker to elevate them onto the next level, with two wanting to build themselves back up to consistent title challengers, and the other needing the break into the Champions League on a yearly basis and build from there.
Manchester United have put their interest forward in at least two of Europe’s best strikers leading into the summer, but the form of Robin van Persie and the continued muddy future of Wayne Rooney suggests that for now, Lewandowski would be used in rotation rather than as the undisputed starter.
Arsenal, however, and provided rumours of a £24 million price tag are to be believed, could be the ideal club for Lewandowski moving forward. His style of play suits Arsenal far more than, say, Mario Gomez, who remains on the borders of a match until he comes into his element inside the box. Lewandowski, meanwhile, has been talked up as one of the best complete forwards in the world, with the ability to act as creator and goal scorer. His technique, versatility and intelligence could see other forwards in the Arsenal team thrive, while his status as a prolific striker is exactly what is needed to link up with Santi Cazorla in the playmaker role.
The price tag of just above £20 million isn’t too much of an issue, either. Arsenal are continuing to push the idea that this will be the summer of change, with figures of least £70 million spoken of regularly in relation to Arsene Wenger’s summer budget. If Arsenal is serious about pushing on next season, they need to make themselves known in the race for Lewandowski. But money aside, it will be about convincing the player that the club are genuinely taking steps to become a real contender for the title as soon as next year.
With Chelsea continuing down the road towards Radamel Falcao, it opens up an avenue for Arsenal to accelerate towards Lewandowski. It will take an enormous amount of convincing, for both the club and player, but the Polish international is the level of signing Arsenal need to be making in order to convince their fans that the club are moving on from year-on-year mediocrity.
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