Robert Lewandowski: Bayern Munich star on Thierry Henry, Jurgen Klopp and early rejection

Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski has been the Bundesliga's top goalscorer on three occasions

He is one of the world's most feared strikers.

Since turning professional in 2006, Robert Lewandowski has scored more than 400 goals for club and country and reached double figures in 12 of the 13 seasons he has played.

But it was not all plain sailing for the Poland international captain as he explained to Guillem Balague - in an interview for BBC Radio 5 Live - about growing up, his idols and working under Jurgen Klopp.

'I believe dreams come true'

Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski meeting his idol...

Lewandowski was born in the Polish capital of Warsaw, playing for three youth clubs in the city. But it was a Premier League legend and France World Cup winner from whom he drew inspiration.

"Growing up my dream was to play in the big stadiums with 80,000 fans but when I was young in Poland, we did not have any top players. I knew I could not just think about my country - I had to think bigger.

"I looked at the best player in the world and thought, why can a player from Poland not be one of the best in the world?

"When I was six, I remember Roberto Baggio at the 1994 World Cup. When I was between 10 and 14, Alessandro del Piero was the best player for me. Then my idol was Thierry Henry. He was amazing - it was not just how he scored the goals but what he did for the team.

"When he was at Arsenal, I remember how easily he scored goals from different situations. He could score from the left side into the far corner with his right foot. It was so easy for him - I wanted to score a lot of goals too and I could learn from him.

"I wanted to be the same player like that, but to be Robert Lewandowski. I could take some aspects from one or two of the players and be like my idol. I remember when I met Henry, I was like 'wow, I met my childhood idol'. Now he wants my jersey and I think, 'amazing'.

"I believe that dreams come true."

'I never met a coach who said I could be a top player'

Robert Lewandowski
Lewandowski started his senior career at Znicz Pruszkow before moving to Lech Poznan

In 2005, as a youth player, Lewandowski was released by Legia Warsaw. Devastated by the rejection, he moved to third-tier Znicz Pruszkow and promptly finished top scorer for successive seasons as his new side won back-to-back promotions in 2007 and 2008.

"Being released by Legia Warsaw was one of the worst situations in my life. I was injured for three months and I was coming back to training, not 100% fit, and needed time. I did not know what was going to happen after that season and if my contract was going to be renewed.

"Nobody told me what was happening - I went to the secretary and he gave me my player's card and told me I was a free agent. That was very difficult, I was 17 and my mother was waiting for me after training as I did not have a driving licence. From the look on my face, she knew straight away what had happened.

"She asked me, 'what now?' And we had to think about the next step. Should I give up on football? That did not really cross my mind because [Warsaw] might have made a mistake. My mum said we should go to another club, recover, get back on the pitch and return to form.

"After two weeks, I signed a new contract.

"The doctor had made a mistake. I needed time, maybe two months and then I'd be healthy and get back to form. The doctor said 'he won't be ready'. I was young and when you say something like that to a young player without experience - and without my father who had died one and a half years before... I was alone with my mother and sister, so I had to be a man.

"That was the motivation for me. Nobody can say to you, 'you cannot' because I had that a lot of times in my life. It is rubbish. I know what I should do - keep working hard and showing a lot of people they made a mistake about me.

"I never met a coach who told me, 'look, you will be a top player'. I scored a lot of goals but I did not have from a coach who said, 'if you do this and this better, you will play at at high level'.

"Only two old players at the club I was training with said 'if you don't play at one of the best clubs in Europe, we are coming back to kick your arse'."

'Training under Klopp was hard work'

Robert Lewandowski and Jurgen Klopp
Lewandowski won two league titles and the German Cup at Dortmund

Lewandowski joined Borussia Dortmund from Lech Poznan for around £4m in 2010, playing four seasons with the club and winning two Bundesliga titles as well as the German Cup. In total, he scored 103 goals in 187 games.

"The first two years at Borussia Dortmund, my finishing was not like it is now. After every single training session I stayed on the pitch and practised with my left foot, my right foot and being systematic and repeating the movements was very important.

"It did not matter what I did with the team, I knew I had to stay after training to do things for myself. Sometimes I did it without a goalkeeper, who might have been tired or not have time for me, because I would stay on for two extra hours.

"I remember the first six months at Dortmund, the training was very hard under Jurgen Klopp. I was very young and wanted to show everyone I could do it 110% in every training session.

"After two or three months, I was very tired and could not show all my skills. It was too much for me and I needed three months lighter training to get back to form.

"When I think about it now, I learned a lot. After the first few months my body was ready to work harder. Around November I scored a lot of goals and my team-mates said 'Robert is back', and I knew then I could show all my skills."

Five goals in nine minutes - 'I was angry I didn't start'

Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski joined Dortmund's Bundesliga rivals Bayern Munich in 2014. In September 2015, Bayern were trailing 1-0 to Wolfsburg in the league and Lewandowski appeared as a half-time substitute to turn the match around in spectacular fashion by scoring five goals in just nine minutes.

"I was injured from the Champions League game previously and angry I did not play from the start. I was on the bench, but the five goals in nine minutes will stay with me all my life. I never thought I could do that.

"My family and friends were at the game and I took the ball home afterwards and we talked about the game - and I didn't remember what I did. Two, three months later at Christmas, I was able to understand what I did. At the time I had to focus on the next game, and we were on fire. I had to stay focused."

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