BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Breakfast, training, goals.
Presented to around 60,000 Barcelona fans at the Camp Nou stadium on Friday, Poland striker Robert Lewandowski was confident he still had the hunger and ability at 33 years old to help the Catalan club revive its fortunes.
“First, I’m gonna eat breakfast so I won't be hungry anymore and then I’m going for the training session,” Lewandowski said when asked what gets him up each day. “Of course, you know, it’s easier for me because I’m doing what I love. I have to say after so many years I still have this feeling, I still want to do even more ... So long as I wake up and I don’t feel the pain, (and) I feel this hunger, that means I can still play at the top level.”
Barcelona has entrusted its revival to the veteran Poland striker who, after eight highly successful seasons with Bayern Munich, chose to open a new chapter in his career by moving to Spain.
But he does so at a critical moment, when Lewandowski can maintain his status as one of the best scorers in the game or begin slipping into the twilight of his career.
Barcelona's success this season could hinge on which path he goes down.
Lewandowski turns 34 one week after Barcelona opens the season against Rayo Vallecano on Aug. 13.
“My age doesn’t matter," Lewandowski said. "My body doesn’t feel that I am 33 and almost 34 years because I know that I can still play a few years at the top level. I feel better even than when I was 29 years old.”
The unveiling at Barcelona’s stadium was the first chance for Spanish fans to see Lewandowski in person. He signed a four-year contract with the Catalan club two weeks ago after joining Barcelona on its preseason tour of the United States following his 50 million euro ($50 million) transfer from Bayern.
Around 60,000 fans were allocated free tickets to see Lewandowski wear his new No. 9 shirt on the hot and humid Camp Nou field.
The striker, who topped the Bundesliga scoring charts in seven seasons, arrives with Barcelona hoping desperately to rebound after only one trophy in its last three seasons — the Copa del Rey in 2021 — and nothing at all in its last campaign.
Barcelona has had to sell off a chunk of its television rights and part of its own production company to get the cash it needed to sign Lewandowski, defender Jules Koundé and winger Raphinha. So the pressure is on for Xavi Hernández’s side to respond with trophies.
Lewandowski said he is motivated by the challenge, which includes having to compete against Barcelona's fierce rival Real Madrid, the winner of both the Spanish league and Champions League last season.
If any team marked the course of Barcelona's fall from the elite of European soccer in recent years it was Lewandowski’s Bayern. The German powerhouse dealt Barcelona a humiliating 8-2 defeat in 2020 and beat it twice in the Champions League last season on a combined 6-0 score at the group stage.
Now Lewandowski hopes not only his goals, but also his knowledge of the game, will help Barcelona’s younger players such as teenagers Pedi González, Ansu Fati and Gavi Páez.
“I know we have a lot of young players with huge potential and they have a huge talent as well. But in the end, this mix between experience and the young players is also important,” Lewandowski said. “I can tell them and explain (things to them) because I saw a lot in my life in football.”
Lewandowski’s unveiling came exactly one year after Barcelona stunned its fans and the rest of the soccer world by saying that it was financially impossible for the debt-ridden club to sign Lionel Messi to a new contract, even when the soccer great was ready to take a pay cut. The club's all-time leading scorer walked away for free to Paris Saint-Germain.
That was the first of several difficult decisions club president Joan Laporta has had to make to try to save the club that is burdened with $1 billion of debt blamed on his predecessor.
Laporta called the arrival of Lewandowski a “historic day.”
“One year ago we had to sadly make an announcement that was not wanted due to the economic situation of the club,” Laporta said. “But a year has passed, and we can say that we are turning this situation around. We have come out of the hospital and are in better health.”