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'It was an emotional game'

Lewandowski immortalizes himself and ensures goosebumps

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“At that moment you just have to do your job, stay focused and calm.” With these rather unexcited words, Robert Lewandowski described the moment when he stepped up to take a penalty in FC Bayern’s Matchday 33 encounter at Freiburg. It was to be a historic moment, though. The resulting goal was the Pole’s 40th of the season, thus equaling a record that has stood for almost 50 years.

We followed Lewandowski on this historic day:

Legend Gerd Müller scored 40 goals in the 1971/72 season, a record that long seemed unattainable – until May 15th, 2021. “I can’t yet comprehend what I’ve just achieved,” said the 32-year-old following the 2-2 draw in Breisgau, overwhelmed by this “legendary record." In tribute and admiration of der Bomber, Lewandowski celebrated with a shirt bearing Müller’s face and the words ‘4 EVER GERD’ – a touching moment. “It was an emotional game and even the preparation for the game all week was emotional,” said the leading scorer.

Record leaves impact on Lewandowski

These were no empty words, and perhaps explain why, in the 78th minute, Lewandowski missed two big chances that he would normally put away in his sleep. Thomas Müller described it as “human," while Lewandowski himself was not too bothered. “Maybe you can’t equal such a record and set a new one on the same day,” he said, reflecting on the missed chance to score a 41st goal and claim the record for himself.

This chart of the season shows how the pair’s goals tally steadily increased. Müller scored his 40th goal one matchday earlier than Lewandowski.

Praise and admiration from all sides

But even by equalling the record, Lewandowski has immortalized himself in the history books as one of the best strikers of all time. “Seven years ago we brought him to FC Bayern on a free, and he's become one of the most valuable players in the club's history,” praised Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, once himself a world-class striker who played alongside Müller. “I know Gerd would want Robert to have this day. Both players are strikers who stand out in footballing history,” continued the FCB chairman.

More goals than a third of the league

Just how impressive an achievement it is for one player to score 40 goals in a season is highlighted by the fact that six Bundesliga teams have scored fewer goals so far this term. It’s therefore no surprise that Lewandowski received congratulations and admiration from across the league. “He’s the best and most flexible centre-forward of this era,” said Freiburg coach Christian Streich, for example, with his captain Christian Günter adding: “For me, he’s been the best striker on the planet for years. He’s extraordinary. The nice thing is he’s a great guy too.”

We analysed Lewandowski and Müller’s record-breaking seasons in detail:

So, something that people have been excitedly anticipating for weeks has now happened.  “I never thought I could manage to share the record with Gerd Müller. I'm very proud and I can't quite believe it yet. I still need some time to process it,” summarised Lewandowski. He’ll get that time now, until next Saturday when he has the historic chance to extend the record and become the outright holder.

Read more reaction to Lewandowski’s incredible record:

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