The summer of 2022 marked the end of an era for Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich, ending an eight-year spell with the German giants in what was possibly the greatest free transfer of all time.
Since joining the Bavarians in 2014 from arch rivals Borussia Dortmund (that cost them absolutely nothing – it should be reiterated), Lewandowski has scored a grand total of 344 goals in all competitions between 2014 and 2022. In that matching period, the Pole has scored 15 goals more than Lionel Messi.
His goals led Bayern Munich to never ending prizes of eight Bundesliga titles, a UEFA Champions League, a FIFA Club World Cup, three DFB-Pokals (German Cup) and a UEFA Super Cup.
The only glittering trophy that evaded the 33-year-old was the FIFA Ballon d’Or, and it continues to baffle why he never won the award in either 2020 or 2021.
Still, his time in Germany is now over as FC Barcelona hope the main man up front can replicate his days at the Allianz Arena. Here, we take a look at the knock-on effects of his move.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) July 19, 2022
Liverpool may regret letting Mane depart
Once the transfer was sealed and announced by the Catalonians, many Bundesliga supporters questioned whether or not the German champions can win the league as comfortably, ahead of the start of the 2022/23 campaign.
Is it finally a time where the likes of Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen can dethrone The Reds, while Lewandowski is out of the picture? Let’s not forget: Bayern are bidding for an 11th straight league title.
In Julian Nagelsmann’s second ever season as Bayern Munich Manager, the pressure feels bigger than ever for the young German mastermind. Winning the Bundesliga last year was the standard target for any Bayern manager when starting out, but this season the club will be hoping a crack at the Champions League once more.
CEO and goalkeeping legend of the club, Oliver Kahn, placed his faith – and that of the board – into then 33-year-old Nagelsmann when hiring him from RB Leipzig just over 12 months ago.
Even before Lewandowski had departed, Nagelsmann took no risks at all by preparing for the new season with or without the Polish star by signing Sadio Mane from Liverpool.
Nagelsmann brought in a player that was vital to Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool. Last season, Mane found the net 23 times in 51 appearances (all competitions) averaging around 0.45 goals per game. It has been suggested that Mo Salah’s presence at Anfield may have overshadowed the Senegal international, but in reality, Mane outscored his teammate after both players returned from the Africa Cup of Nations in February.
When combining both their Premier League and Champions League goals in the 2nd half of last season (after AFCON 2022), Salah scored eight times (seven in PL, one in UCL) while Mane scored 11 times (eight in PL, three in UCL). Not a huge difference between the two but Mane’s late contributions to his Liverpool spell may have made it difficult for Klopp to let the AFCON champion walk through the exit door.
It’s been quite a ride! Thank you for all the good times and I wish you all the best in your new adventure! You will be missed by all of us. pic.twitter.com/zndPry1mfg
— Mohamed Salah (@MoSalah) June 22, 2022
Still plenty of firepower in the Bayern changing room
Mane joins an impressive supporting cast featuring Serge Gnabry, Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane and the exciting young prospect of Jamal Musiala. Between the five of them, Nagelsmann will be hoping that Lewandowski’s absence goes unnoticed.
And so far, it has.
In Bayern’s opening two games to the new season, they have already scored 11 goals. Last Friday was the start of their title defence away to last season’s UEFA Europa League winners, Eintracht Frankfurt. In the first half alone, Nagelsmann’s men hit the net five times with five different scorers (Kimmich, Pavard, Mane, Musiala and Gnabry) before going onto win the match 1-6.
— FC Bayern Munich (@FCBayernEN) August 10, 2022
The result brought a sense of Deja Vu, as just one week earlier Bayern put five past RB Leipzig – again with five different scorers – in the German Super Cup.
The goal tally is demonstrative of a side hungry to kick-start the season off to a flyer. Their match stats show just how clinical they have been already.
Bayern had 10 shots on target away at Frankfurt while they also had 23 shots in total. When up against Leipzig, there were 8 shots on target but only registered 12 shots overall.
Nagelsmann inspired by Pep’s lack of centre forward
Nagelsmann’s current setup rather reminds you of Manchester City’s squad from last season, as they defended the Premier League successfully without a proper centre forward.
Rather than lean on a Lewandowski-type figure, Guardiola preferred to generate the same output by spreading the goalscoring burden across the front line. Ultimately, it bore fruit, as the likes of Kevin De Bruyne (15 goals), Raheem Sterling (13) and Riyad Mahrez (11) all contributed heavily to their success.
When you have a Lewandowski, relying on one man isn’t such an issue. But without him, Bayern have recognised the need for change. The addition of Mane is a smart one, and their early output shows incredible promise.
It maybe early days for Bayern Munich but depth up front could be the biggest key to their success this season.