Interview: Robert Lewandowski Shares the Secrets of His Success

Golden Shoe winner Robert Lewandowski is better than ever and at 33, he believes he can still improve his play. In this interview, the record-breaking striker shares the secrets of his success, the roots of his outstanding mental strength, and reveals what has changed under his new coach Julian Nagelsmann.

The Interview

Question: You said in a recent interview that you want to reach the “next level”. Where do you still see room for improvement to reach that next level?

Robert Lewandowski (RL): That’s always an option and a possibility. Of course, when we talk about goals then you can maybe say there’s three, four or five goals more. But what I meant was there’s also the way of playing. Where can you improve? Where can I improve my movement, my creative play? Can I create a goal for a teammate in a situation? That’s also the direction I want to go in and improve because football isn’t just about goals. I also need teammates. When the team plays well, then I benefit from that with goals. But I know that sometimes the team needs my help. In the end, we can only win as a team. That’s also the next step for me in my career, with my way of playing. There are a few things there to still improve.

Q: What does mental strength mean for you in sport?

RL: I think it’s not just footballers but all sportspeople. When you’re at the top, you just have to be mentally strong. That’s to do with expectations, the pressure, the world we live in where it’s not just the good things you do but also the bad things that attract a lot of attention, including in the media. Then fans and people talk about a situation. When it’s a good situation, that’s always positive. But there are also bad situations or moments. And for sportspeople and footballers, it’s also important that you remain mentally strong. Regardless of what happens, you need to be able to shut out external things and still focus on your thing. Regardless of what happens, you always have to think positively and keep believing in your success.

Q: You’ve also stressed today how important your wife Anna has been in your development. Can you explain the influence she’s had in terms of diet or additional training methods that she knew from her successful career in an individual sport in karate?

RL: It all started about ten years ago. We started with a few things. I thought it was all fine, it isn’t a big bother. We started with little things, like with diet, also with specific training sessions away from football. And then one or two months later I’d always see the first little effects. Then we would keep going step by step with something new. They were small things but so important. When I was 20 or 21, I would always have a breakfast with normal milk and cornflakes. Then at training I was always a bit empty, a bit tired. I was thin – a bit of normal muscle – but I never thought food could impact how you extracted power from within your body.

That’s why we started with things and I noticed I could recover quickly, work even harder in training. You can’t expect it to completely change your world within a week or a month. You need time and patience. We always found something new. When I’d come home after games, I’d always speak with my wife about what I could do better, what happened. I was always someone who wanted to try to solve problems for himself. Then I tried speaking with my wife. Having kids made me more open as a person. Then I just saw a lot of things where I can simply help myself by talking, explaining where things work or don’t work.

Q: When did you notice that you could go all the way to the top as a sportsman?

RL: I think that was the time my first performances back at Borussia Dortmund… Of course, the first step where I knew I’d be a professional footballer, that was when I went to Lech Poznan at 18. But that was the first step. It wasn’t my dream to play at that level. My dream was always to play in the biggest stadiums and win things with the biggest teams. Step by step and year on year, I always improved something. I think I’ve said a few times down the years that I’m at the top. Sometimes the small things make the small difference. That’s how I knew I had to improve the small things, and together you see the result and the performance.

Q: Were there also special moments on that journey?

RL: There have been a lot of moments. When I scored four against Real Madrid in the Champions League, then scoring five goals in nine minutes. You then think what you’ve just done is something special, but success with the team is also important. Like I said, it’s important in football… I know what it means that I’ve come from a so-called smaller nation, where there aren’t so many players at the top level. You’ve had to do some harder work than the players from bigger nations with greater national accomplishments.

Q: You’ve started this season with seven goals in five games. That rate would again likely see you reach 40. Is there another record you’re eyeing up?

RL: At the moment I’m saying no because it’s still too early. And it’s also the strain of having so many games this season, like the last one as well because of covid, with so many games and strain. We’re also on the road a lot, including with the national team. That’s never easy. I know the season is long. What you’re doing now isn’t that important. What’s important is what you do in the most important moments and against the most important teams. That’s why I have to remain patient, do my job, but also think a step ahead about what could come later in the most important period, not right now.

Q: You’ve got two years left on your contract and could even stay at Bayern longer. Does that mean Gerd Müller’s all-time Bundesliga record of 365 goals is a realistic target?

RL: I don’t know exactly how many goals I am from the record, but of course you’d need over 30 goals each season. I’m not thinking about it right now. That’s still a long way off. If I ever get closer, I can think more about it. But that’s still too early right now because the season only just started two months ago. This season will also be very long and you need to perform – not just every week but every three days with our workload and games. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against or where. Then there’s the national team on top of that as well. So, it’s important for me that I maintain my scoring rate, but the way of playing and assists are also in there as well.

Q: What has changed for you since the arrival of Julian Nagelsmann?

RL: Not much has changed for me as a striker. Of course, you can’t do much new in terms of tactics in modern football, but a new coach, Julian, with his ideas and his path, we quickly understood what he wanted. When you play at the top level, you know what it means to play with a new line-up or system. It’s nothing new. Of course, it’s important that the coach says exactly what he wants from us or what he expects – and that is exactly what happened. He said straight away what he’s expecting, what direction we want to go in. We all understood that quickly, wanted to go along with it and just do our thing.

Q: You are the pinnacle of sporting physique, but can even a Robert Lewandowski treat himself and celebrate a bit after winning the Golden Shoe?

RL: I think the time when I can celebrate all my trophies is still to come. I know I can enjoy everything that’s happening now or to come, but I know tomorrow is a new day, off to training and the next game a few days later. Still, after such a nice day and nice moment and the nice words you’ve heard, you then need to put that aside for the next game and focus on your job. Of course, everything I’ve won – or we’ve won – isn’t the future. It’s already happened. The future is always a new challenge. For me personally, of course, I can sit on my sofa after my career and look at my trophies, just enjoy the time. Right now, I’m very proud, very happy, but I know the journey goes on.