Robert Lewandowski: Is Bayern Munich striker on course to break Lionel Messi's record?
Robert Lewandowski has had a brilliant start to the season, scoring the quickest quadruple in Champions League history and more Bundesliga goals than five of its clubs.
The Bayern Munich striker took 14 minutes and 31 seconds to score four goals against Red Star Belgrade on Tuesday, taking his impressive tally for the season to 27 goals in 20 appearances.
The Poland international scored in 13 consecutive matches in all competitions for the German champions from August to October, failing to find the net only twice since the German Super Cup final defeat by his former club Borussia Dortmund on 3 August.
He is the top scorer in Europe's top five leagues, with his nearest competitor 10 goals behind.
He said after this week's quadruple he is "addicted to scoring goals" - and now the 31-year-old will have his eye on Lionel Messi's record for most goals in a single season.
Could Lewandowski break Messi's record?
It is not even December and Lewandowski is well on his way to beating his previous best in a single season - the 43 he managed for Bayern in 2016-17.
But his form this term means he may well have his sights set on Barcelona captain Messi's record tally of 73, set in 2011-12.
He has more goals at this stage than the five-times Ballon d'Or winner did that year - 27 compared to Messi's 25.
The Argentine went on to make 60 appearances as Barca won the Copa del Rey and the Club World Cup, despite falling short to Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid in La Liga and being knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea in the semi-final.
Bayern still have 22 league games to play, with potentially six matches remaining in the German Cup and another eight in the Champions League, should they reach the final of both competitions.
That would take Lewandowski's tally to 56 matches.
So, to equal Messi's record, he just needs the small matter of 46 goals in a potential 36 games - that's a rate of 1.28 goals per game. His current scoring rate? 1.35.
"He shoots on goal more than any other player in Europe," European football expert Guillem Balague told BBC Radio 5 Live's Football Daily Podcast.
"Obviously he will score with Bayern, especially when he is the main force, and his goal tally is unbelievable - but it still won't reach the record of 73 for Messi."
Here's how Lewandowski's record this season compares with Europe's other leading scorers:
|Club record in 2019-20 (all comps)|
|Player||Apps||Mins||Goals||Assists||Shots||On target||Conversion rate (%)|
What has changed this season? 'A new Lewandowski'
Defending champions Bayern are third in the Bundesliga after a mixed start to the season, which included the sacking of manager Niko Kovac.
But Lewandowski's performances have been remarkably consistent and German football journalist Raphael Honigstein says the Pole - whose attitude was questioned in previous seasons as reports linked him with a "dream" move to Real Madrid - has now "completely bought into the side".
"It is quite unbelievable, especially if you consider this is a Bayern Munich team that hasn't been playing well for most of the season," Honigstein said.
"Whoever you speak to at Bayern says this is a new Lewandowski. This is no longer a guy that sits on his own looking at his phone and maybe dreaming of a move to Real Madrid and putting pressure on the club to release him.
"He stays behind to train with some of the young strikers and helps them with their finishing. He helps players on the pitch, he no longer shakes his head when a cross doesn't come his way and he must be one of the very few strikers who have started scoring more goals by being less selfish, and it's a remarkable transformation.
"I do not think there is an argument against him being the best number nine in Europe right now. The closest he has as a real competitor is Harry Kane."
Those comments are echoed by Balague, who says the striker's new contract at Bayern has helped him to focus on his career in Germany.
"I'm sure it is to do with focus," Balague added. "For a long time he has pushed to try and get into Real Madrid. He even changed his agent.
"We spoke to him last season and he seems still very engaged in trying to improve. He is 31 now, he was 30 last year, and he was talking about still working hard and things he would like to react to better.
"He reacted badly to mistakes in the past, but they do not mean anything to him now, and they are just obstacles to beat."