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 wished a brand new problem. He wished to assist take Barca again to the highest of Spanish and European soccer.

Domestically, issues are going properly. His 15 targets in 21 appearances have helped Barca construct a nine-point lead over Real Madrid on the high 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.)

Things did not go so easily in Europe, nonetheless, with Barca eradicated from the Champions League group stage after which shedding their Europa League playoff to Manchester United, however Lewandowski says that offers 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 below coach Xavi Hernandez, his recommendation for the membership’s children 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 have achieved nearly every part 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 every part I may obtain. I’m very glad about what I received with Bayern Munich, what I achieved there. But in the long run, you are considering not solely about soccer [in terms of] soccer, however you are enthusiastic about soccer as your life. And at one level I assumed: ‘OK, I’ve achieved every part, 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 is a phrase that claims in case you are too comfy in a spot, transfer someplace the place you will have 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 power, this love for soccer that was going the flawed means, that may go down extra. I do know I’m 34 years outdated now, nevertheless it’s solely a quantity as a result of I do know I can nonetheless play at a excessive stage for a couple of years.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 taking part in, it is to win, to attain targets. Of course, at Barcelona, I’ve to resolve what is typically extra necessary: to attain the aim or to win the sport. I do know that Barca wanted time after a troublesome few seasons but additionally that titles are necessary. So, the very first thing is all the time that with the membership we have now to enhance. We must make the following step to not solely play higher, however to win extra.

I noticed the potential within the staff even when two years in the past Barcelona had massive issues. But now, I’m certain that every part we’re doing, how arduous we’re working … in the long run we’ll obtain our targets. Even nonetheless, for instance, we had the issues within the Champions League and that is what we have now to consider, what we are able to do higher subsequent season. It’s a course of and it is inconceivable 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 closing? From being aggressive at that stage?

Lewandowski: If we had been taking part in the Champions League now, we [would] in all probability nonetheless be taking part in within the Champions League as a result of we have now improved. We have improved despite the fact that we’re solely speaking about a couple of months later. And [when we were knocked out], we additionally we had quite a lot of accidents. You can be taught 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 few of the 18- and 19-year-olds [at Barca], this season may very well be the primary time they win LaLiga. Of course, we nonetheless must combat 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. 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 the entire time. Always. If you examine how the groups or how soccer seems now and even 5 years in the past, it is totally different. Ten years in the past, everybody wished to play tiki taka, however soccer is extra bodily now. Everyone is aware of learn how to put together their recreation tactically, defensively learn how to transfer, learn how to change the system in the course of the recreation. It’s necessary to not solely adapt, however possibly to be one step ahead. Everyone wished to repeat Barcelona with [former coach Pep Guardiola], however even now in case you see Manchester City, they do not play like that anymore.

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

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

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

Lewandowski: We are in a course of and you can not change or construct every part, it’s important to be targeted first to construct a really robust defence. And defensively we’re taking part in properly, however offensively possibly we have now so much to alter to play higher soccer, to create extra probabilities and rating much more targets. The most necessary factor is to win the sport. The subsequent step can be to [create] extra [chances] and rating extra targets, however to nonetheless [remain strong] defensively. It’s additionally concerning the mentality. We must nonetheless be targeted on defensive [qualities], however we have now to threat extra. We can’t be afraid as a result of in assault, and if you recognize that the again is secure, it is simpler to resolve: ‘OK, I can take dangers, I can strive one thing new.’

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

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

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

ESPN: Let’s discuss coaches, you will have had a few of the finest. What is the perfect factor about Jurgen Klopp, for instance?

Lewandowski: His persona. He is the man who will be like a father, the man that may allow you to on a regular basis, but additionally he is the man who can attempt to push you. This is the man who you may 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 may be taught from him, additionally [about] life. I discovered so much below him.

ESPN: Could you give an instance?

Lewandowski: I believe that one state of affairs 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 targets. I did not know what Jurgen wished from me. After a recreation that we misplaced, I went to him instantly. It was possibly 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 possibly we’ll communicate 5 minutes, 10 minutes, however we had been talking about an hour and a half. The most necessary 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. Maybe since that point, I could not discover somebody who can speak with me like that.

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Three days later, and bear in mind you can not change something in coaching as a result of you do not have time, we had been taking part in within the Bundesliga and I scored a hat trick and received one help and we received 4-0. That was Augsburg, I believe. In that second I understood that mentality and what you will have in your head is so necessary as a result of I did not change something. But I felt some freedom, similar to I’m clear in my thoughts. After this every part modified.

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

Lewandowski: I do not bear in mind every part, however what I bear in mind is he instructed me that if I give on the pitch in the course of the recreation, like 70% of my high quality from coaching, he can 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 convey this high quality into video games. This small change modified my life and possibly modified the street [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 generally I’m considering 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 generally in the course of the recreation. But that helped me so much additionally, if I see and I can change issues and [communicate that to] my teammates: ‘They’re taking part in like this, so possibly we modify 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 someday he stated to me, ‘I can assist you solely with learn how to construct the motion, learn how to construct up with the ball, to convey the ball to the field. But what you’ll do with the ball, I am unable to allow you to as a result of you recognize higher than me. But every part till the field, I can assist you as a result of I understand how to construct it up, learn how to change the edges, learn how to transfer the place … every part. But in the long run you might be higher than me. So you resolve.’

ESPN: And Carlo Ancelotti?

Lewandowski: He’s the man who gave me superb self-confidence. He gave me possibly what I missed and he gave me the self-confidence that I did not have earlier than. He’s an incredible 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 bottom line is to attach with a human being.

Lewandowski: That’s true. Sometimes individuals overlook that we’re human and assume we’re a machine, robots, that we can’t have dangerous emotions, a foul temper. People can assume we’re the product, that we’ll coaching, to the sport and we do not do the rest. It’s not appropriate. OK, we received the expertise, we’re working very arduous to be the place we’re, that’s one factor, but additionally we’re coming again [home], we have now a household, we have now youngsters, we have now issues, we have now to do these form of issues that everybody does day-after-day. We can have dangerous moments. Sometimes it is like that one thing inside you’re feeling, however you do not know what it’s precisely.

ESPN: Did you will have these darkish moments in your life?

Lewandowski: I had a couple of moments in my life, for certain. It’s not like my means [has been] simpler. It was additionally painful at instances. But even after I had these [dark] moments and I used to be considering: ‘Come on, what is going on on?’ I strive, I do, however one thing does not work. You must be affected person, it’s important to assume: ‘OK, in case you work arduous, in case you are targeted on soccer, take into consideration what you are able to do higher, sooner, combat for a greater efficiency…’ I’ve to combat, I’ve to strive. Maybe an answer [arrives]. Maybe I can be fortunate. Maybe I get a ball from somebody who makes a mistake and I’ve to be prepared.

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

Lewandowski: It relies upon which gamers we’re speaking [about]. To Gavi? At first, be taught English [laughing]. If you need to be worldwide man, it’s important to be taught English. I be taught Spanish now and look how outdated I’m. So it isn’t an issue for you. It ought to be simpler to be taught 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 necessary what you achieved within the final recreation. The most necessary is the following recreation and what you may obtain.’ My thoughts is all the time [on the next] recreation. You can’t assume that the final recreation would be the similar as the following recreation. Maybe a recreation finishes at like 11 p.m. So for me, 11:30 p.m. I’m already considering how can I put together for the following recreation higher and be extra recent, have extra power, not two days earlier than or someday earlier than. Because generally that’s too late to alter something.

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ESPN: Pedri?

Lewandowski: He’s the man who has superb approach with the ball. But I inform him, ‘Pedri, the aim is targets: it’s important to rating extra targets. You must … not solely targets, but additionally assists. You can’t solely play soccer simply to play soccer. It’s additionally necessary to have these numbers. I do know that your efficiency within the recreation helped so much. But in the long run, targets and assists are additionally necessary. And to assault. Don’t 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? Don’t assume that it is sufficient. Think that we are able to rating one other one. If we rating two targets, why we can’t rating three targets?’ I scored 5 targets in 9 minutes [for Bayern against Wolfsburg in 2015.] So why can we not rating 5 targets in 90 minutes? Everything is feasible. But it’s important to need to rating these targets.

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 shocked [by], positively shocked 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 generally accidents … he received 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, in case you see how he does it, how is it attainable 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 speak 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 generally as a result of he has the ability in his legs, he is so quick, however generally for him if he tried to search out one other solution 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 anticipate him. And if he used a special kind of go or taking part in, 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 will have possibly just one opponent. And that is it so that you can rating the aim.’

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

Lewandowski: Of course, I need to assault on a regular basis. But, in the long run, it’s important to discover the steadiness between what’s necessary in your staff and what’s necessary for you. I do know that the time that is coming, possibly quickly, our offensive recreation will enhance. We can 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: Sometimes we play very properly, however generally we win even once we do not play properly. This can be necessary: to know learn how to win, not learn how to play to win. Now we all know learn how to win, however the subsequent step can be to know learn how to win and learn how to play properly and for the followers [be] extra spectacular. If we rating one aim, we have now to assume we are able to rating possibly three targets extra.

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