In 2010, after finishing as the top goalscorer in the Polish Skstraklasa, Lech Poznan striker Robert Lewandowski held talks with several interested clubs. He flew to Genoa to watch the derby with Sampdoria. But Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted and its ash canceled flights across Europe, including Lewandowski's proposed trip to see Sam Allardyce's Blackburn.
Instead, he joined Borussia Dortmund.
It hasn't turned out too poorly. On Wednesday, Lewandowski scored four goals against Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal first leg, a 4-1 triumph for the Bundesliga side.
The only other player to score four times in a European semi or final is Ferenc Puskas, in 1960. Only three other players have scored four goals against Real Madrid, and none in European competition: Josep Samitier (1926), Eulogio Martínez (1957) and Diego Milito (2006). The only other team to score four or more goals against Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho is Barcelona (5-0 in 2010).
Borussia Dortmund is the only unbeaten team in the Champions League this year.
"This is an unbelievable team. I can't explain it in English," Jürgen Klopp told Sky Sports. "We are like Robin Hood."
Klopp went on to mention that Mario Götze closed down Xabi Alonso well. Götze threatened to overshadow the tie with the announcement that he would join rival Bayern Munich coming only two days before the match.
However, as Mats Hummels said after the match, two days proved sufficient to process the 37 million euro transfer.
"He is 20 years old. He made a decision," Klopp told Sky. "The consequences of a decision will always show afterward. Everything is fine."
Instead, Lewandowski wrote all the headlines. (Modest suggestion: The Big Lewandowski.)
The 24-year-old opened the scoring in the eighth minute. A slickly curled cross from Götze caught Pepe too busy trying to wrestle Lewandowski to actually defend it, and Lewandowski slid to direct the ball in at the far post.
Just before half, Dortmund nearly unraveled. Marco Reus went down in the box. Replays showed that contact with Raphaël Varane, if there was any, came outside the box. As BVB players protested, Madrid shot up the other way. Luka Modric looped a ball backward over his head that Hummels prodded tamely toward his own goal, laying it into the path of Gonzalo Higuain.
Higuain centered and Cristiano Ronaldo ushered the ball home for his 50th career Champions League goal, tying him with Thierry Henry for fourth in the all-time Champions League scoring charts. It was his 21st goal in 18 Champions League games. He joined Burak Yilmaz and Marouane Chamakh, of all people, as the only to score in six straight CL matches.
"That was surely a penalty for Dortmund when Reus was fouled, and then Real scores with their only chance," German national team coach Jogi Löw told Sky at halftime. "That is severe."
Löw may recant his verdict after a few replays, but he sums up the emotional state of the young Dortmund team that had conceded two minutes before half. Instead of capitulating, however, the team showed increased hunger after the break.
"How the boys handled my mistake was great," Hummels told Sky. "The mistake really bothered me. You can't be satisfied with me today, but everyone else on the field and the stands did great."
As Dortmund gathered strength from its famed Yellow Wall of fans, Madrid players looked hungover on Yellow Tail.
Lewandowski scored three more, two of the jaw-dropping variety. Five minutes into the second half he somehow controlled a stray Reus shot with one touch and flicked the ball inside the near post with a second. Another five minutes later a Marcel Schmelzer shot deflected off Modric. Lewandowski dragged the ball back under his cleat to round Pepe and slammed a shot into the top of the goal.
Xabi Alonso slapped his thighs in frustration. Klopp did a Hulk-flex to celebrate.
Modric was the only change to Mourinho's previously announced lineup. He replaced Angel Di Maria, who flew into Germany the day of the match after the birth of his baby on Monday. It wouldn't have made a difference.
In the 67th minute, Alonso pushed over Reus in the box and Lewandowski smashed his penalty straight down the middle for his 21st goal in 19 games.
"We know everything about Lewandowski, absolutely everything," Mourinho said. "We studied him from every detail possible and we still lost him in three goals."
Bild, the same outlet that broke the Götze story, reported during the match that Mourinho will join Chelsea next season, along with Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao, who shares Mourinho's agent.
Besides Falcao, Lewandowski is the other elite striker who may move this summer. Jupp Heynckes' agent claims that a deal to bring him to Bayern Munich is done.
"The fact is that Robert has contract till 2014. Unlike Mario [Götze], he has no release clause. We want Robert to play next year in Dortmund," BVB general manager Hans-Joachim Watzke told ZDF. "The transfer fee does not matter. I want him to stay, and in my life a lot of my wishes came true."
Lewandowski ducked questions about his future after the match.
A potential double-transfer would add further zest should Bayern (4-0 winner over Barcelona in the other semi first leg) meet Dortmund at Wembley, which would be a first all-German Champions League final.
Lewandowski's last hat trick came against Bayern, in a 5-2 German Cup win in May 2012. Lewandowski also scored the opener in October when Borussia Dortmund beat Real Madrid in the CL group stages.
Superstitious Jose Mourinho altered much of Los Blancos' pregame ritual from that trip to Westphalia. They stayed at a different hotel. They trained in Westfalenstadion the day before. They canceled a morning walk around the hotel.
Real Madrid can keep its superstitions and karma. Dortmund just wants to keep Lewandowski.
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