The most revealing scene in Bayern Munich’s Amazon documentary did not occur on the training pitch or in the dressing room.
It took place in an office at the club’s headquarters and featured sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic, CEO Oliver Kahn and technical director Marco Neppe discussing Robert Lewandowski’s contract.
“We want to extend it,” Salihamidzic says in ‘FC Bayern – Behind the Legend’. “But now it’s about the length of the deal, because we have the rule that we only give one-year contracts to players over 31.
“So, in this case, it’s not so easy.”
That is as true now as it was last when the documentary was released last November.
With just over a year left on his current contract, Lewandowski is no closer to signing a renewal.
Spanish outlet Sport even reported last month that the striker had agreed to join Barcelona this summer, with the Blaugrana said to have promised to give him a four-year deal, and pay Bayern up to €60 million (£50m/$66m) for his services.
However, without even getting into whether the Catalans are really in a position to put together such a package, GOAL understands that Lewandowski has not yet made any decision on his future.
Indeed, his agent, Pini Zahavi, has not even opened talks with Bayern about an extension. Of course, that in itself is a cause for concern among many Bayern supporters.
— Robert Lewandowski (@lewy_official) February 9, 2022
Club legend Lothar Matthaus is furious that the situation remains unresolved just over a year before Lewandowski’s current contract expires, believing that Bayern are botching this whole operation.
“If you haven’t contacted Lewandowski’s side up to now, I find that disrespectful,” Matthaus told Sport Bild. “That would have been unthinkable under Uli Hoeness or Kalle Rummenigge.
“Bayern can count themselves lucky that Robert Lewandowski has such a great character and is a complete professional.
“I am surprised that nothing is progressing. You shouldn’t put everything in the drawer and then just wait and see.”
Certainly, the longer the situation drags on, the more likely it is that no agreement will be reached.
Paulo Dybala’s imminent Juventus exit is a perfect case in point. Of course, the Bianconeri were right to re-consider re-signing the Argentine attacker, who has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency in recent years, but in the end could not come to an agreement.
However, it would be far more surprising if Bayern were to decide that they would be better off without the most reliable goalscorer in world football over the past three years.
Indeed, Steffen Effenberg recently wrote in T-Online, “If Bayern don’t try to extend Lewandowski’s contract, it will be the worst decision in the club’s history.”
Robert Lewandowski has scored 40+ goals for the SEVENTH season in a row 🤯 pic.twitter.com/yiGqb7vvgf
— GOAL (@goal) March 8, 2022
However, the Bavarians continue to insist that while there is no rush to renew, they remain determined to hold on to Lewandowski.
Club president Herbert Hainer has even said that he would like to see the Poland international end his career at the Allianz Arena, which is why it is now believed that Bayern are willing to break their over-31s contract rule to keep Lewandowski beyond 2023.
Remember, Thomas Muller and Manuel Neuer are in the exact same position, meaning it would be far easier for the Bavarians to justify changing their policy for three hugely popular players rather than making an exception just for one.
Kahn, for his part, has also said that he is “relaxed” about the Lewandowski situation, claiming that the club will not be put under pressure by external forces.
Still, it is not a good sign that when Salihamidzic recently said Bayern were doing all they could to keep Lewandowski and ruled out the centre-forward leaving this summer, the player replied, “It’s the first I’m hearing about it.”
It suggests some agitation on the Pole’s part in relation to Bayern’s approach to these negotiations – or lack thereof.
The impasse certainly has not affected his form, though.
Robert Lewandowski flying through the snow 🤩pic.twitter.com/tzFGklAodn
— GOAL (@goal) November 26, 2021
He has scored 45 times in just 38 appearances in all competitions this season, as well as firing Poland to the World Cup.His long overdue Ballon d’Or may finally arrive later this year.
His value, then, would be difficult to overstate at this point in time, but it is not difficult to understand why Bayern might be reluctant to put themselves in financial peril just to hold on to Lewandowski.
Like many other clubs, the Bavarians have been hit hard by the financial crisis caused by Covid-19.
Bayern generated €643.9m (£542m/$711m) in revenue during the most recent financial year – which was only slightly more than they made in 2016-17, underlining that while stadiums have finally reopened, bank balances will take some time to recover from the pandemic.
And yet, while revenue has fallen since 2020, salaries continue to climb.
The 33-year-old Lewandowski already earns €25m (£21m/$28m) per annum at the Allianz Arena, so a pay rise may be beyond Bayern.
“We have to see that our quality in the team and the economic component fit together,” Salihamidzic stated. “It is a difficult phase financially, but we are trying to go our own way.”
Whether that means moving forward without Lewandowski remains to be seen but, right now, replacing Lewandowski looks nigh on impossible.
Erling Haaland would be the obvious candidate, but the Borussia Dortmund striker looks bound for Manchester City.
Erling Haaland is the striker Pep Guardiola craves 😍
Following in his father’s footsteps 🐾
— GOAL News (@GoalNews) March 13, 2022
The speculation, then, over Lewandowski’s future is only set to continue, much to the frustration of Markus Babbel.
“This howling around is annoying,” the former Bayern defender told Sky Sports Germany. “It is said that appreciation is not enough for him. I don’t want to hear that anymore.
“No player has received as much appreciation as Lewandowski has at Bayern in the last 20 years.
“Thomas Muller, for example, doesn’t make such a circus out of [his contractual status]. Lewandowski earns €25m and wants more. No other Bayern player earns that much.
“There were times when he wanted to leave permanently, but Bayern stood by him because they think a lot of him.
“So, there should be a bit of gratitude – not just demands.”
It is worth noting, though, that Lewandowski has not publicly expressed a desire to leave, or directly criticised his current employers.
Privately, of course, he could well be pondering a move ,but even if he is, he could well conclude that he would be best served by staying put.
After all, from a financial perspective, Barca are not the only big club unlikely to be in a position to sign him this summer.
Robert Lewandowski is still undecided on his future, despite reports he has agreed to join Barcelona 👀 pic.twitter.com/3HjLgBbMos
— GOAL (@goal) March 28, 2022
Then, there is the fact that many members of Europe’s elite have other priorities.
As already mentioned, City lead the chase for Haaland, Juventus have already snapped up Dusan Vlahovic, while Real Madrid are intent on signing Kylian Mbappe.
The latter move could, of course, create a vacancy in the Paris Saint-Germain front line and Zahavi has close ties with the club’s hierarchy, but we understand that the Ligue 1 leaders are presently pursuing other transfer targets.
Manchester United, of course, will be looking for at least one forward this summer, with Edinson Cavani heading for the exit door at Old Trafford.
It also remains unclear if Cristiano Ronaldo will stay, but while United have the resources to make it happen, they are now reluctant to sign another ageing forward, even one who remains as prolific as Lewandowski.
It is also highly doubtful that Lewandowski would consider moving to Manchester if Ralf Rangnick’s struggling side fails to qualify for next season’s Champions League, as now looks likely.
In that context, then, it still seems far more likely that Lewandowski will continue at Bayern, particularly if the club decides to offer him more than a one-year extension.
In Bavaria, Lewandowski is, at the very least, almost guaranteed to continue scoring goals, and continue challenging for major honours.
As former Brazil captain Cafu recently said, “He plays in a great team and he plays well in this team – so why should he leave?”