SOURCE: Photo, Roger Goraczniak, CC BY 3.0
Polish centre forward Robert Lewandowski has become an undisputed goalscoring sensation in Germanyâ€™s Bundesliga. The 31-year-old has scored 232 goals in 318 competitive appearances in Germany since his arrival in 2010. These stats underline why he is revered as one of the most effective strikers of his generation, showcasing lethal finishing, clever positioning and exceptional poise in front of goal.
As the 2019/20 Bundesliga season continues in earnest, oddscheckerâ€™s review of the campaign thus far reveals Lewandowski at the top of the charts in the WhoScored.com performance ratings, having netted an outstanding 25 goals in 23 outings thus far. But the Poleâ€™s reputation and career could have been oh-so different had it not been for the interruption of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull and its subsequent ash cloud back in 2010.
At the time, Blackburn Rovers boss Sam Allardyce was on the look-out for a new showpiece centre forward at Ewood Park, which the former England boss recently recalled in a talkSPORT interview. He was after a striker that would not only cement Rovers as a Premier League club but allow them to compete as a top-half force once again. At the end of the 2009/10 campaign, Robert Lewandowski had just completed the Ekstraklasa season in his native Poland with Lech Poznan. A two-year stint with Poznan saw him net 32 times in 58 appearances. It was form that saw many scouts across Europe sit up and take notice â€“ including Blackburnâ€™s.
Rovers were crying out for a striker to make the most of their creative service
Rovers had plenty of solid playmakers and creators at top-flight level. Reliable performers such as David Dunn and Morten Gamst Pedersen were firm favourites with the Blackburn faithful, but Allardyce desperately needed another forward to put convert more of those chances created. The likes of Franco Di Santo and Jason Roberts had flattered to deceive in 2009/10 and Allardyce knew a new number nine was his number-one priority in the close season.
Enter stage left, Robert Lewandowski. The Pole had caught the eye of Allardyceâ€™s head of recruitment, Martyn Glover. Allardyce and Glover travelled to watch Lewandowski in action for Lech Poznan before the 2009/10 season was out. Post-match, Allardyce and co. met with Poznanâ€™s club officials and by the end of those conversations, an agreement was in place with both the club and Lewandowski to become a Blackburn player that summer.
Manchester Airport was off limits to all travellers â€“ including Lewandowski
Lewandowski was scheduled to fly to Lancashire to discuss personal terms and see the club, but all flights into the UK were grounded at the time because of the volcanic ash cloud. Combine this with the uncertainty of Rovers chairman John Williams â€“ who was baulking at paying up to Â£4m for a striker from the Ekstraklasa â€“ and it was a recipe for disaster for Allardyce and Blackburn. The Pole, who already had a friend playing at Borussia Dortmund, was promptly whisked away to North Rhine-Westphalia under Blackburnâ€™s noses and the rest is history.
Whatâ€™s even more galling is that Lewandowski admitted in a 2017 interview that he â€œwanted to goâ€ to meet Blackburn and discuss terms â€œjust to see what the club is likeâ€. He added that there was every chance â€œit would have become [his] first choiceâ€ had he been able to view the club, the stadium and its facilities. You can almost hear the collective sigh of depression from the Lancashire town right now. Who was Allardyce able to sign in Lewandowskiâ€™s place that summer? Zimbabwean journeyman Benjani on a free transfer and Manchester Unitedâ€™s unproven Mame Biram Diouf on a season-long loan. Itâ€™s fair to say that Dortmund certainly got the better end of these negotiations.
Even Martyn Glover, who is considered one of the EPLâ€™s leading talent scouts, admits Lewandowski ranks near the â€œtop of any listâ€ of players that got away under his watch. Since then, the Pole has gone on to win seven Bundesliga titles with Dortmund and Bayern Munich, a Championsâ€™ League runner-up medal in 2013, three German Cups and has finished as the Bundesligaâ€™s top scorer on four occasions. What could have been, Rovers fansâ€¦