By Peter Staunton
This week brought significant developments in shaping the future of Robert Lewandowski.
The Borussia Dortmund CEO, Hans-Joachim Watzke, conceded on Thursday that an announcement on the destiny of his highly-prized striker was imminent.
One of the striker's agents, Cesary Kucharski, told TVN24 this week: "Robert will join Bayern this summer. There is no point in pretending that he will not move to Bayern. Robert wants to leave and that is what will happen.
"It is a matter of time."
His other representative, Maik Barthel, said in May: "We have reached an agreement with another club and intend to switch clubs this summer. All of Borussia Dortmund's demands will be met."
Lewandowski himself took the opportunity on Wednesday to reveal to the press while on international duty that he expects a move to his "dream club" this summer to be arranged soon. "I expect that everything will be dealt with. That will be in everybody's best interest," he told Sport Bild. "Dortmund are a fantastic club that will always have a special place in my heart. However, I am looking for a new challenge for the future."
|LEWANDOWSKI'S TOP-FLIGHT STATS
|Lech Poznan (08-10)||82||41|
The identity of that club would appear to be the worst-kept secret in this transfer window. Looming, as always, and ready to snatch the prime talent in the Bundesliga are Bayern Munich.
That their new coach has not yet been appointed, no matter. Business there is done even over the coach's head as the transfer of Mario Mandzukic from Wolfsburg last summer illustrates. Uli Hoeness, the club president and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the CEO, saw him at the European Championship and fancied him.
And had Lewy enjoyed a better Euro 2012 it could have been he who was bought instead. His agents Kucharski and Barthel, allegedly on the guest list for Bayern's post-Champions League victory banquet, have been vocal presences in the press during the past two seasons and were hoping to move their client on to Bayern after the Poland-Ukraine showpiece.
"Borussia are seen as a good club but, in terms of popularity, they will never match Bayern," Kucharski said before the tournament.
All roads for Lewy lead to Bavaria. Coming as it does on the trail of Mario Gotze's €37m move in the same direction, the deal is a devastating blow to Dortmund.
For their part, however, the outgoing German champions have been prepared for this eventuality and accept it.
As early as December they were briefing the press on Lewandowski's exit. A club official told Focus: "He will go but the departure of Robert Lewandowski [at the] end of the season is a done deal."
And despite their outward bluster that Lewandowski could wait out the terms of his contract, they have been on the lookout for a replacement.
"If Lewandowski were to go, we are prepared," coach Jurgen Klopp told ZDF in February. "I will not be angry with him regardless of what happens." Christian Benteke of Aston Villa and Romelu Lukaku, along with Edin Dzeko, are all candidates for the striking berth at the Westfalenstadion.
Nonetheless, the prematurely haughty conduct of the outgoing treble-winning coach Jupp Heynckes, as well as his agent, has riled Kloppo.
"We have not received an official offer from Bayern Munich as of yet, so I still expect Robert to play for Dortmund next season," he told Bild in May. "The funny thing is that everybody acts as if it is already a done deal. Jupp Heynckes said so, his agents say so, yet we have not received an offer."
Bayern even took steps to be seen to do the right thing earlier on in the season when the rumours grew out of control. Former Bayern captain, Lothar Mattheus, claimed a deal was done leading the Bavarians to post a denial on their website. "Bayern Munich have taken notice of various reports about Robert Lewandowski and want to make it clear that Lewandowski does not have a contract with Bayern," it read.
Although Bayern look certain to complete the move this summer, at one stage Manchester United were firm favourites to sign the now 24-year-old. Juventus, Italian champions the last two seasons in spite of a lack of striking depth, were also credited with interest. In April, as talk of Gotze's transfer took centre stage, Bayern moved quickly and offered Lewandowski the opportunity to be main man at the Allianz Arena. Despite Wayne Rooney's likely summer exit, the Pole would have had to battle with Robin van Persie for the striking berth at United, and that may have swayed him.
|THE VIEW FROM GERMANY
Robert Lewandowski will play for Bayern Munich – that is the consensus in Germany.
Whether the Dortmund striker will leave for Bavaria this summer for a transfer fee of €25 million or join Bayern next summer for free is still uncertain.
Bayern is said to be having a habit of weakening Bundesliga opponents by attracting their star players and you could argue that Lewandowski is another example for that.
If you have just recently won the Champions League with Mario Mandzukic up front, what could Lewandowski add to the starting line-up?
Only Bayern know the answer.
- Daniel Buse | Goal Germany
The club have claimed that they could gamble on Lewandowski staying; their reason being that the €29.5m fee forfeited this summer would be made back through Champions League qualification brought about by Lewandowski's goals. "Having Lewandowski play one more season could make more sense economically than to cash in a huge transfer sum," Watzke told the press in November.
Lewandowski's contract runs until 2014 and it is the only one he ever penned at BVB. Signed in 2010 from Lech Poznan for around €5m, he is not among Dortmund's best-paid players. Prudent as they are following their flirtation with oblivion, Dortmund never saw fit to place the forward among their top earners.
Lewandowski's initial deal at the club is worth just €1m per annum while team-mates like Marco Reus earn closer to €5m. Dortmund's offer to increase Lewandowski's wage to €3m at the end of the hugely-successful 2011-12 term failed to impress the player or his entourage.
Dortmund lost their chance, in that respect, and the Poland captain can now reasonably think that he is capable of earning five times his current wage elsewhere. "We are disappointed with the offer. I've said this to the president," Kucharski told Revier Sport at the time. "A player of this class should be among the highest-paid footballers at Dortmund."
Real Madrid have been in touch, with Lewandowski admitting that he met with their president Florentino Perez after the Champions League semi-finals. The home leg of that sequence showed Lewandowski's potential to the watching world as he became the only man to score four goals against the Spaniards in their European history.
It was the final major event in Lewandowski's Dortmund career, which has taken in two titles and a DFB-Pokal. He has given the club great service and becomes another stellar example of buying low, extracting maximum worth and selling for profit. That he is lost towards his peak is an occupational hazard for a club operating on Dortmund's plans.