Robert Lewandowski’s decision to part company with long-time agent, the ex-Poland international Cezary Kucharski, last week has brought in its wake a torrent of speculation as to what the Bayern Munich striker’s motivations for such a move might be.
Lewandowski has entrusted Pini Zahavi to sort out his next move. The Israeli is now 74 and does not have an extensive list of clients on his books. Instead he has re-emerged on the scene as a facilitator of record-breaking transfers. He was involved, for example, in the deal last summer which took Neymar from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee.
While a contract renegotiation with Bayern for Lewandowski cannot yet be ruled out, it remains at best a distant possibility. His current deal runs until the summer of 2021 by which time the Poland captain will be touching on his 33rd birthday.
That, one imagines, would be far, far too late in the day for him to make a move to another super club in the shape of Real Madrid, PSG or one of the Premier League heavyweights. Zlatan Ibrahimovic did manage to secure a move to Manchester United at 35 but he did not even last a season before a knee injury put an end to his career at the top level.
Lewandowski boasts an enviable injury record and you would struggle to find a striker in better physical shape but, even still, 33 these days is regarded as too advanced an age to warrant long-term investment. It is likely that Lewandowski has change on his mind and the sooner the better.
He has been a consistent goal scorer in Germany for Bayern – and Borussia Dortmund for that matter – but has often found himself at odds with Bayern’s top brass over the club’s direction. Last summer in an interview with Spiegel, which was not authorised by the club, Lewandowski let rip.
He criticised Bayern for their failure to keep pace with the spending at the other super clubs around the continent. It was, for a first-team player at a club which is very, very careful about the messages its players send out, an astonishing outburst and one which not so much hinted but signposted a clear dissatisfaction at how the club’s transfer policy was being run.
Another quote from the same interview might also prove to be instructive in the months ahead.
“One should stop superimposing such emotions [loyalty to one club] on to professional football,” he said. “Loyalty is a beautiful word, a wonderfully romantic image and in private life it’s an important value. But in top sports other parameters count – success and money.
“The power structures in football have changed massively in recent years. If a player really wants to change clubs he can usually push that through.”
Lewandowski joined Bayern under Pep Guardiola in order to win the Champions League. That hasn’t happened and Lewandowski is frustrated by it. By ditching Kucharsky, Lewandowski has signalled his intent. If they don’t win it this season under Jupp Heynckes, he may well have in mind going somewhere else to achieve that goal.
He has given Bayern three-and-a-half seasons of top-level service. He has won three league titles, with a fourth imminent. He has scored 139 goals in 181 matches. He is rightly respected worldwide as the game’s greatest No.9.
That Neymar transfer changed the landscape in terms of transfer fees and salaries, and there has been a suggestion that Lewandowski’s new contract – signed in December 2016 – no longer represents his market value. Therefore, he is entitled to go out and get it.
It would be a wrench but from a cold-blooded business perspective the time might also be right for Bayern to consider cashing in. If Lewandowski sees out his days at Bayern – an eventuality which nowadays would come in at high odds – then it is assured that they will get no money at all for him.
And the more a contract runs towards its expiry, the more a price goes down. Lewandowski has more than three years on his contract right now and so Bayern would be asking for his full value. And, if Neymar is worth €222 million and Philippe Coutinho worth somewhere in the region of €140m, how much do you think they could get for Lewandowski?
Bayern are in the process of replenishing the team. Signings like Niklas Sule, Kingsley Coman and Serge Gnabry are designed to drastically reduce the average age of the squad and cashing in on Lewandowski would give them the opportunity to stock up in two or maybe three positions while at the same time sourcing a replacement.
It was the deal of the century getting him in for free in the first place but any new player they get in his place is going to cost them.
Timo Werner would appear to be a Bayern player-in-waiting. He may have had a difficult start to 2018 – as have his club RB Leipzig – but when on form he has the ability to lead the line even at a club like Bayern.
So Bayern may consider themselves at a crossroads with Lewandowski. Do they keep him on as he is – on the same money and with the same expiry date? Do they renew and give him a pay rise, as he turns 30, 31, 32 with his peak potentially narrowing all the time? Or do they take the risk and put him out to the market?
Lewandowski himself has laid his cards on the table by ditching his agent, over the next few months it’ll be time for Bayern to show their hand.