Robert Lewandowski is big in Warsaw, the city where he was born and raised. During Euro 2012 there was nobody bigger; a giant poster of Poland's golden boy covered one side of the Orco Tower, a 115-metre skyscraper in the country's capital. Now his face is ready to decorate another sort of poster: Europe's most wanted.
The 24-year-old Borussia Dortmund striker is wanted in Bavaria, Italy, Spain and most particularly in England. The new year will open with renewed speculation as to where Lewandowski will make his new home – it is taken as read that he will move, either in January's window or next summer because on his current deal with the German champions, who operate a rigid wage structure, he becomes a free agent in 2014.
Arsenal, Chelsea and especially both Manchester clubs have been advanced as suitors for a player who scored 30 times last season to open Dortmund's route to a league and cup double. United had a £16m approach rejected last summer but with his dwindling contract it may not take millions more to swing a deal.
He comes accompanied by no shortage of references. Miroslav Klose calls him a "super player"; Franck Ribéry is another admirer, publicly instructing his bosses at Bayern to recruit him; Leo Beenhakker, the much travelled Dutch coach who gave him his first cap four years ago, described him as "the future of Polish football". But it is the testimony of Jürgen Klopp, a man not given to hyperbole, that is most telling. The Dortmund manager labels Lewandowski the "most exciting player I have seen in the last 10 to 15 years".
Klopp is instructive on Lewandowski's strengths. The Pole is an all-round package. At 6ft he carries an aerial presence – he scored the opening goal of Euro 2012 with his head – and he is quick enough, but it is when he has his back to goal that he carries most threat. Klopp lauds his technique and control which, allied to an instinct for scoring, make up a player able to damage most opponents.
Lewandowski's performance against Manchester City in the Champions League demonstrated much that is good about him, as well as cautioning that he remains a work in progress – his career at the top level is still in relative infancy. He missed chances against City, as he did during the Euros, notably in the game against the Czechs when Poland lost and made an early exit from their own tournament.
He first pulled on his national shirt in 2008 at Molineux, winning an Under-21 cap in a 0-0 friendly against an England side boasting Joe Hart and Ryan Shawcross. Later that year, Beenhakker selected him for the full side and his faith was rewarded with a goal on debut. It came against San Marino – of the 15 goals Lewandowski has scored for his country in 48 caps, three have come in competitive games and two of those have been against the San Marinese. The goal against Greece that promised so much is his sole score in a game of note.
There remain questions over his effectiveness at international level, with whispers that he reserves his best for his German employers. But of course he is surrounded by better players at Dortmund. The two key providers for Lewandowski in the Poland side play alongside him in the Bundesliga – but Jakub Blaszczykowski will not feature tomorrow, the loss of their playmaker and captain to injury being a serious blow to the home side but Lukasz Piszczek will be in place to help him if he comes through a fitness test.Reuse content