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The Best FIFA Men's Player: why Lewandowski is obvious choice

Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski is expected to be named The Best FIFA Men's Player ahead of fellow finalists Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

The Best FIFA Men's Player: why Lewandowski is obvious choice
AFP via Getty Images

In a 2020 that has turned out in a way no one could have anticipated, the enduring brilliance of Bayern Munich and Poland striker Robert Lewandowski has been almost comforting.

While social distancing, wearing masks and limitations to our lives have become the norm, seeing some things remain the same has helped to lift the tension.

Lewandowski the favourite to beat Messi and Ronaldo to The Best FIFA Men's Player award

Lewandowski has been one such example of continued excellence and on Thursday he goes up against Barcelona great Lionel Messi and Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in the battle to be crowned The Best FIFA Men's Player for 2020.

Despite the quality of his rivals, Lewandowski really should be considered the worthy winner of the award – particularly given the absence of the prestigious Ballon d'Or being awarded this year denied him the opportunity to scoop that prize. 

Across the period between 20 July 2019 and 7 October 2020 that the award is judged on, no player has been as consistently world class as the 32-year-old.

Lewandowski scored 60 goals for Bayern Munich in just 52 appearances between those dates – 20 more than any other player to play in the 'top five' European leagues. 

His goalscoring consistency cannot be questioned, with a frightening average of a goal every 76 minutes at club level across the 15 months considered by FIFA for this award – an average better than any player to have scored 30-plus goals in this timespan.

Lewandowski: more goals, better conversion rate and lower mins-per-goal ratio than Ronaldo and Messi

Looking at all three finalists between the judged months of July 2019 and October 2020, Lewandowski is the clear standout.

The Pole has the best goal tally (64), shot conversion rate (25 per cent) and minutes per goal ratio (79) across club and country appearances and has outperformed his xG total by six goals. 

But not only has he been the most clinical finisher in front of goal, he has done so with exceptional frequency.

Pole racked up 55 goals for Bayern Munich in 2019-20

Lewandowski ended 2019-20 with 55 club goals at Bayern, the best tally by a player within the 'top five' European leagues since Luis Suarez's tally of 59 goals for Barcelona in 2015-16. 

Thirty-four of those goals last season were scored in the Bundesliga, where he became the joint-fourth highest goalscorer within a single campaign in the competition, behind only Gerd Müller's efforts in 1969-70, 1971-72 and 1972-73. 

It was the most goals scored by a player in a single Bundesliga season since Dieter Muller's tally of 34 in 1976-77 for Cologne.

Bayern star now has five Bundesliga top-scorer trophies

Altogether, Lewandowski has now won five Kicker Torjagerkanone awards for finishing as top goalscorer in a Bundesliga season. 

The only player to have won more is Gerd Müller (seven), and although Bayern's current star will not be able to reach the legendary Müller's tally with another win this season, he is on course to become the first player to ever win it in four successive Bundesliga campaigns.

He is regarded as the best number nine in world football right now, with the 2019-20 campaign his best yet. 

Lewandowski on course to surpass 2019-20 goal stats

Lewandowski netted 34 goals last term at a shot conversion rate of 24.6 per cent.

Worryingly for Bayern's opponents, the Polish striker looks like breaking those records again this season – his current minutes per goals ratio and shot conversion ratio far exceeds what we have seen from him so far in his career.

Looking at 2019-20 data, specifically non-penalty xG and non-penalty goal tallies of every player to play 1,000 minutes or more within the 'top five' European leagues, it is clear to see how elite Lewandowski is.

Only Haaland, Mbappé had better goals-per-game figures last season

Lewandowski scored at a rate of 0.94 goals per 90 minutes last season in the Bundesliga, a rate that only Erling Haaland (1.1) and Kylian Mbappé (1.07) bettered – however, both youngsters played much less frequently.

Lewandowski also top scores in Champions League, DFB-Pokal

It was not only in the Bundesliga that Lewandowski impressed last season, as the striker also led the scoring charts in the Champions League.

With 15 goals in 10 appearances for the winners of the competition, his tally has only been bettered by one player and in two seasons in the Champions League – FIFA awards rival Ronaldo in 2013-14 (17 goals) and 2015-16 (16 goals).

Before blanking in the final, Lewandowski had scored in nine consecutive Champions League matches. Only Ronaldo has scored in more successive appearances in the history of the European Cup/Champions League, with 11 in a row between June 2017 and April 2018.

Along with his top scorer awards in the Bundesliga and Champions League during 2019-20, the Bayern striker replicated his club's treble-winning campaign in finishing as the top goalscorer in last season's DFB-Pokal with six goals – he is the only player in history to achieve this specific feat.

Back in October, Lewandowski won his first ever UEFA Men's Player of the Year award at a canter. With four of the previous winners of the FIFA award having won the UEFA award in the same year, it should be a forgone conclusion that the Bayern striker picks up the accolade on Thursday.


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