When it was announced that the Ballon d’Or award ceremony would be cancelled in 2020, it was considered something of a shame that a giant – in all senses of the word – would not have his moment in the sun.
Nevertheless, Robert Lewandowski has been recognised for a phenomenal year in football by landing the FIFA Best Player trophy, which given cancellations elsewhere is very much the most prestigious trophy available to an individual player.
The Polish striker bludgeoned 55 goals in the 2019/20 season for Bayern Munich, who would clinch both the Champions League and German Bundesliga titles on the back of Lewandowski’s prolific nature in front of goal. And to say the award has been a long time coming would be an understatement – the 32-year-old has now netted an extraordinary 177 goals in 201 games for the club.
The win comes 15 years after Lewandowski was turning out for amateur side Delta Warsaw in his native country, and a decade since an Icelandic volcano prevented him from completing the most unlikely of transfers.
Lewandowski to Blackburn?
It’s not often that a volcanic ash cloud prevents a football transfer from happening.
But when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupted its load into the skies, all flights in and out of the UK were downed for a number of weeks back in April 2010.
At that time, Blackburn Rovers were scrapping for their lives in the Premier League, and a frontline of Jason Roberts, Franco Di Santo and David Hoilett – with no disrespect intended – was arguably not up to the level required in the top flight.
The Lancashire club needed a new striker, and the club’s head of recruitment, Martyn Glover, thought he’d found a low-key gem – a gangly frontman by the name of Robert Lewandowski.
He was rattling in the goals for fun at Polish side Lech Poznan at the time, but even so he was available for a reasonably affordable price.
However, Glover just could not persuade Blackburn’s chairman to take a chance on the little-known striker.
“The chairman (John Williams) was worried that Poland wasn’t famous for producing prolific goal scorers and there were questions raised around the fee, which was around £3m, rising to £4m,” he said.
Nevertheless, Lewandowski had been scheduled to fly to England to discuss terms, but that was cancelled due to the volcanic ash and Borussia Dortmund took advantage, snapping up the Pole for £4.5 million. The rest, as they say, is history.
Sam Allardyce was the Blackburn manager at the time, and he knew his employer had missed out on a golden opportunity.
“I think about it every time I see him play,” Big Sam said. “My distant memory isn’t that great, but I think John Williams [former Rovers chairman] and the board said we are not going to commit that amount of money.
“I think they wanted three or four million euros (£2.6 million or £3.5 million), but we were particularly strapped financially at the time at Blackburn.”
Curiously, they splashed out £6 million on Nikola Kalinic instead, who scored seven times in 44 appearances. How many would Lewandowski have netted for the club?