SportsRobert Lewandowski about his achievements. "I am proud of what I have. I have not stolen anything from anyone."

Robert Lewandowski about his achievements. "I am proud of what I have. I have not stolen anything from anyone."

Robert Lewandowski about his achievements. "I am proud of what I have. I have not stolen anything from anyone."
Images source: © GETTY | Alex Caparros

11:24 AM EDT, April 10, 2024

Robert Lewandowski has important moments ahead. On Wednesday, Barcelona plays in the Champions League against PSG, and the Red and White will already participate in the EURO in June. Polish media outlet WP SportoweFakty spoke with the Poland national team captain about this, but it also asked him about many non-sports matters.

Robert Lewandowski helped the national team advance to the EURO finals, although he didn't score a goal in the play-offs matches. However, The national team captain took the first penalty in the eleven-match series against Wales and rejoiced with his teammates after Wojciech Szczesny stopped a rival's shot in the fifth round.

How does Lewandowski recall those moments? What did the Polish national team Michal Probierz do that made it possible to advance? With such a difficult group, can Poland achieve something in Germany? But the Barcelona striker also reveals what kind of father he is, what he is responsible for at home, and what the biggest boast of his... garage is.

Piotr Kozminski, WP SportoweFakty journalist: Which penalty kick in Cardiff was more stressful for you? The one you scored yourself, or the last one, ultimately defended by Szczesny, which you turned away from and didn't see?

Robert Lewandowski, captain of the Polish national team, FC Barcelona striker: The one of mine, though. From the middle of the pitch... It's a path that goes on and on. And then you see that goal, which narrows, gets smaller. On top of that, behind the goal were probably the most ardent supporters of the rivals. This is the moment when you have to focus, switch off, and do your best. These are big challenges. But we passed this test very well.

On the one hand, you've scored plenty of such penalties in your career, but on the other hand, this was probably one of the toughest?

Mentally, for sure. Here, it's a fraction of a second that decides, and if you don't have that fraction of a second under control, you just might not score. And here, it's not like in some matches, where you can have the opportunity to rehabilitate right away. This is the here and now. And these are difficult moments. Someone has to approach this penalty. Not everyone wants to do it, not everyone can do it.

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: Robert Lewandowski of Poland scores his penalty in the shootout during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Final match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales.(Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: Robert Lewandowski of Poland scores his penalty in the shootout during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Final match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales.(Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)© GETTY | Charlotte Wilson/Offside

As for that Wojtek Szczesny penalty, he joked afterward that you never see him do something good, and that's why you think he's weak. Then maybe you at least watched the replay?

Before that last one, I turned away because I was looking at the earlier ones, but all of them were scored. In the end, I thought he was a bit short of saving, but maybe it will be the next penalty. He waited until that fifth one, maybe to get the whole shoot-out more nervous. I felt the Welsh were not confident in taking these penalties. It was evident from the way they shot. And I was sure that Wojtek would catch something in the end.

Wojtek has earned praise but announced the end of his national team career after the EURO finals. Meanwhile, for a goalkeeper, he is young, at 34 years old. However, as a captain and good colleague, will you urge him to change his decision?

Just kidding a bit, Wojtek and I have been talking about it for a couple of years now. Like a goalkeeper, Wojtek often has a different point of view, his vision of how he wants to lead his career. I would like him to play for as long as possible, especially since, as a goalkeeper, he still has a few years of his career ahead of him. But above all, he is the one who knows what he wants. He is such a wise, mature man that if he makes a decision, it will be well-considered. But if he resigned, it would be a great pity for the entire Polish football community.

Hand on heart: what would have happened to you if Poland had not advanced to the EURO?

I didn't think about it. Yes, I had difficulty thinking about this national team, but that was more related to what was happening around the association. Of course, our style of playing probably didn't help either. Many things had to be taken on for someone, which also cost a lot of strength. A lot of people rather tried to shift the blame to the players. I felt discouraged.

For many years, you have been the one with the greatest responsibility, the one with the greatest expectations of you. Is it mentally difficult?

It depends on how you approach it. I could say that it makes me tired and is mega hard. But I've always approached it from the other side: it's a challenge for me, I don't want to be afraid of it, and I can't be afraid.

Do you feel this match against Wales is a closure of this bad stage? That poor play, those scandals around the national team and the Polish Football Association. That Cardiff could be a new opening?

This is a new opening. When Probierz became coach, I felt that something had changed. It was such a breath of fresh air before the playoffs. I said that I believed in this promotion and that I was calm about the promotion. I think we are back on track.

Poland is going to the EURO. And...?

I believe that at this championship, we will fight for something. We will play good matches, win, and score points. Of course, we have a difficult group, maybe the most difficult in the tournament, but we are internally and mentally strong. The qualifiers were weak; we must remember that, but now something has really been born in this team. Something like this: we will show a good side and score points with the Netherlands, Austria and France.

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: Robert Lewandowski of Poland leads the celebrations after the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Off Final match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales.(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: Robert Lewandowski of Poland leads the celebrations after the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Off Final match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales.(Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images)© GETTY | Visionhaus

Closing the topic of the playoffs, these were two games in which you helped the team but did not score a goal. In general, many people say that when "Lewy" does not score, he is angry about it. 

During the match against Estonia, I thought that even if I didn't score, it would be good for the goals to be distributed to others. Of course, maybe if I scored a fourth or fifth goal, then somewhere, that inner hunger of mine would be satisfied. But I knew it was important for something to move in the national team, too, so that others would also get wind in their sails, a substitute for confidence. I thought I could do the donkey work there on the sidelines; the playoffs are for promotion. And at the European Championships, you can show the best of what you have.

Then what did Probierz do that finally achieved the goal?

I think normality has returned.

Was it abnormal before?

I wouldn't take the word acutely, so zero-one. I think that coach Santos... That this was not his backyard. He ended up in an area that was foreign to him, he probably didn't know many things. He couldn't find his way around. The lack of communication between the coach and others was something that made it harder for him to work.

And how would you describe your relationship with Michal Probierz?

Coach Probierz is fair. Even when he has to make a tough decision, he says what he thinks. He will say it face to face, even if it's difficult. And a footballer will always respect honesty. Honesty and a clear message about how we want to play, what we want to play, and the fact that he supports us all the time helps us believe in ourselves - sometimes the simplest things are the most effective. Probierz knows what we need, but he also knows how to convey it to us.

Probierz has been referred to as the "Polish Guardiola" for years. You know both of them. Do they have something in common?

For a coach, he has that football chill. It's known that you can't take everything loosely because sometimes, when he's sharper in training, a briefing, or at halftime, that's cool, too. He just has a good attitude. This makes the player more aware of what the coach expects and goes blind in the direction set. Probierz also knows when to push hard and when to let go.

We are also human beings. There have been times when coaches have been so oversensitive that they have banned us from leaving the hotel. But it works the other way around. It shuts us down so much, blocking us among ourselves and on the pitch. The freedom to function causes you to have more freedom on the pitch later on, too.

Let's now move on to Barcelona. Wednesday's Champions League quarterfinal against PSG. Is there a favourite for this clash?

I think at a level like the quarterfinals, it's generally 50/50. One good match could see us advance. We realize that PSG is a mega-strong team; they have mega individuals and can always work something out. But I believe in playing a really good match, especially in Paris.

Some will probably set it up a bit like Mbappe vs. Lewandowski. Does that bother you?

Mbappe is certainly one of the best players in the world. He's incredibly fast, gets space easily and plays super one-on-one. A top player.

And what will be Barcelona's success this season? In this difficult season.

Advancing to the semifinals of the Champions League will already be a success. If we beat PSG, you can build on that already for the rest of the season.

And the LaLiga?

We are fighting. Real "caught" weaker matches and sometimes lost points. It's still 8 points, but one or two matches can put us back in the fight for the championship.

Robert Lewandowski centre-forward of Barcelona and Poland celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the LaLiga EA Sports match between Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium on March 17, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Robert Lewandowski centre-forward of Barcelona and Poland celebrates after scoring his sides first goal during the LaLiga EA Sports match between Atletico Madrid and FC Barcelona at Civitas Metropolitano Stadium on March 17, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images)© GETTY | NurPhoto

From the beginning of your stay in Barcelona, you did not need acclimatization and you and your family felt perfectly comfortable there. Do you want to stay there permanently?

Barcelona is the city where we see ourselves at some point. Of course, Poland, Warsaw... We will also be there. We have family and friends, so we will go there, but I definitely think Barcelona could be such a base.

It was easier for you because you "went to work" right away. What about acclimating your family? Is it true that your daughters speak better Spanish than you, and the younger one even communicates in Catalan?

When I miss a word, I ask my daughters. It is known that children in school quickly absorb languages. And I didn't start learning until I was in my teens. The first, then the second, third, and fourth, and they actually have these couple of languages at the start, and it's a big capital. I envy them.

And aren't you afraid that the Polish language will escape them a bit?

No, we speak Polish at home, not Catalan. And now comes learning to read in our language. We read books in Polish, for example.

And who is responsible for this at home?

Me. I'm the one who reads the books to them in the evenings. I really like to do it before they go to bed. It's also up to me to do the math when it comes to helping my daughters learn. I happen to have always liked math, so I also do it with pleasure.

So with you, it is the father who is responsible for such home education?

Mom, too, we share. I also want to do it because time passes so quickly, you never come back to certain things, and it's worth reliving those moments with your children so that later you don't regret that something got away.

What kind of dad is Robert Lewandowski like? Strict or pampering?

I am more of the strict ones, from spoiling is Anna. I try to let the kids know what they should do and what they can and can't do.

So if anyone is sometimes the bad cop at home, it's dad.

Yes, I'm the one who sometimes has to step into that role. Explaining to children what is allowed and what is not is important because if you allow something once, a second, or a third time, it's hard to undo it later. So, I sometimes prefer to react earlier than too late.

Ending the children's thread... in a while, Poland will be looking for Lewandowski's successor. A bit of a joke, but you know....

Oh, Jesus! Let me tell you that I'm proud to have two daughters. It's a super feeling. I don't know what it's like to have a son. And will I have the opportunity to do so? We'll see. We still have some time. I'm not saying no. I'm not saying yes. It is known that it is also Anna's decision.

And do you imagine that Barcelona will be your last club?

It all depends on how I feel physically and what my heart tells me. There are so many of these things that I haven't started thinking about yet because it's just not that moment yet. I see constantly on the field or in training that it's OK.

Sooner or later, the career will end. No other Polish footballer has worked with so many great coaches. How do you want to pass on such knowledge?

These ideas are many. Certainly, the idea of creating such an institution, which would be a place to transfer knowledge to coaches, is germinating. But not only my knowledge. People from abroad would come to Poland and share what they know.

And what are we doing wrong? Recently, someone told me that a country of 38 million people should have more good soccer players, play higher at events, and not just get promoted but reach higher somewhere. You can diagnose this because you've been to Poland and many other places. What's not playing?

Of course, we are still talking about training itself and how everything around it works, how coaches train, what they pay attention to, and what they don't pay attention to. For example, there is the problem that the coach has to prove the result in these groups from the youngest. He is not focused on training the young footballer in a direction that will benefit him most. I can't imagine a child under 10 being trained as a defender. Across the board, the position of a defender is a little easier to teach, and if we teach each footballer to play with the ball, to think how to receive, how to play, how to think, how to look for the game forward, then later this defensive aspect is much easier to teach.

There are a lot of such details. Coaches also have a problem with parents. When I was young, parents were also a big problem with many colleagues. Their parents discouraged some from playing, who shouted on the field. I had the value that my dad was a physical education teacher. My mom was the same way, and I don't remember them speaking up even once during training or a match. I was young, but I could already see the difference because many of my colleagues had impulsive parents. It hurts these children in the end and discouraged them. Anyway, now some parents also shout, thinking they know better than the coach, the teacher, and everyone around them.

And after your career would you like to be a coach?

As I think about it now, no, because I know how hard it is, how much work you must put into it. However, I don't know what will happen in 10 years. Maybe I will miss the locker room smell and decide to try my hand at it. But I don't know if I would be ready for that, well, because already a career as a footballer is a great sacrifice, it takes a long time; I know how much it costs not only me but also the people around me. And I'm not just talking about family anymore.

Then maybe you can imagine that you could become president of the Polish Football Association. You would travel, solicit votes from delegates, etc.

Well, that's the problem, that I can't solicit or ask. But let's start with the fact that I don't have it in my plans. I don't know if I would be suitable. I acutely prefer to work, to do my own thing, rather than talk or try to get someone to do something. All my life, I haven't asked anyone for anything. I have a big problem with that. I know that sometimes, to ask someone for something is not a bad thing, but I have always preferred my independence.

One of your less-talked-about passions is automotive. I've heard that your garage is quite impressive.

I've always been interested in automobiles. It started with motorcycles. I even remember the first one I bought. I went to get it with my dad. As it is in motorcycles, everything has started to break down. Carburettors, spark plugs. I was able to dismantle the engine and twist it. Later, I had a Romet and then moved on to bigger motorcycles. I learned to ride before I passed my license. There was such an opportunity because I lived in the countryside and there were a lot of fields. My dad taught me how to ride.

And what is the biggest jewel in your automotive stable?

My biggest pride is a Ferrari. I have always dreamed of it. When I was a kid, I used to tell my mother that when I grew up and made a lot of money, I would just buy a Ferrari. And I did buy one. Although I don't drive it much, I still keep that first car to this day. It would be hard for me to get rid of it. It's a sentiment.

I know some people will immediately say it's a fad, but it was my dream. I have the money for it, I can afford it. I earned it myself, so I also want to speak out about it. There is a bit of this vibe in Poland that people are afraid to talk about money, that they earned it. But I didn't steal anything from anyone. I earned it myself, and I worked for it for many years.

What would you choose if you had to point to a moment that best illustrates how high you've gone? I am struck by the classification of all-time Champions League scorers, where Cristiano Ronaldo is first (140), Leo Messi is second (129), and the Polish boy is third (94) with a huge lead over many legends, such as Shevchenko and Henry.

I don't want to be immodest, but you could find a lot of such moments. And as for this Champions League, I never even dreamed of coming close to 100 goals in the Champions League. These are things that I couldn't imagine: that I would be where I am now, that I would have so many records. These are reasons to be proud. Definitely. And is it tempting to make that hundred? Sure, it's tempting. Let's hope it works out!

Source: WP Sportowe Fakty. Author: Piotr Kozminski

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