Lewandowski is not normal – Muller in awe as Bayern star closes in on Bundesliga record

By Sports Desk May 08, 2021

Thomas Muller joked Robert Lewandowski is "not normal" after the Bayern Munich star scored a hat-trick to close in on a Bundesliga record.

Bayern were crowned Bundesliga champions on Saturday before kicking a ball thanks to Borussia Dortmund's dramatic win over RB Leipzig.

Hansi Flick's side proceeded to put on a worthy celebration against Borussia Monchengladbach, hammering them 6-0 at Allianz Arena to mark their ninth straight title in sensational style.

Lewandowski was integral, scoring a hat-trick to take his tally of league goals to the campaign for 39, moving him to within one of Gerd Muller's all-time Bundesliga single-season record of 40 set in 1971-72.

With two games remaining – against Freiburg and Augsburg respectively – it seems almost certain that Lewandowski will etch his name into the record books, and current team-mate Muller remains in awe at his prowess.

"We do have to say, that we as a team try our hardest for him. But how he is able to score those goals is not normal as well," he joked.

Muller has now won 10 Bundesliga titles, though conceded it has not always been a smooth ride this season. Indeed, his fellow long-time team-mates Jerome Boateng, Javi Martinez and David Alaba, along with head coach Flick, are all leaving at the end of the campaign.

"I do have to say that the game was more championship-like than the actual championship," Muller said.

"It was a great game today. We were there from the first until the last minute. Thanks to all the emotions and the euphoria, we knew that we had won the championship before the actual match.

"If you look at the big picture, then it was very hard for us over the past two weeks to be honest. Through all the talks I had with the others, the elimination in the Champions League really hurt us.

"We felt like we could do something in the Champions League this season. But we were able to overcome that in the recent two weeks. We were able to properly take a deep breath.

"There is not a lot of romance in this business, but we tried to have as much romance at the end of the season today as we could.

"Jerome will leave, David will leave, Javi will leave and the coach will leave. I know that Hansi hasn't been here for so long, but the other three were my team-mates for nearly ten years now, so they were always there when we won the championship for nine times in a row."

When it comes to Lewandowski, however, Muller added: "Well that is not about romance. I don't know how many hat-tricks and braces this guy had. It is more like mathematics!"

It proved to be a bittersweet moment for Flick, who is entering the final two games of a short but hugely successful tenure in which Bayern have won seven trophies.

"It's outstanding what the team has achieved," he said. "You could see that we were ready. That's the mentality of this team. The game today was worthy of champions.

"The whole club creates this atmosphere that you can be successful. Bayern has always been my club, I was a big fan when I was young, Gerd Muller was my big idol, Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"I have now experienced two fantastic years here. To experience this togetherness on a daily basis is outstanding. These two years have been very valuable for me."

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  • Transfer deadline day: Five standout deals as clubs went shopping for game-changers Transfer deadline day: Five standout deals as clubs went shopping for game-changers

    Chelsea completed an extraordinary spending spree by landing World Cup star Enzo Fernandez from Benfica, the biggest deal of transfer deadline day.

    It was Premier League clubs that featured front and centre as big-name players found new homes on Tuesday, with Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City kept busy.

    Deals struck on this day can be born of desperation; however, if the right player becomes available, those that jump at the opportunity to reinforce might be thankful they took that choice come May.

    Here Stats Perform assesses five deals that went through and could prove hugely significant come the season's end.

    Enzo Fernandez: Benfica to Chelsea, £106.8million

    A World Cup wonder for Argentina, Fernandez's stock soared over four weeks in Qatar, to the point he became linked to the wealthiest clubs in Europe.

    It was Chelsea owner Todd Boehly who lasted the distance in the race for his signature, adding Fernandez to the previous window deals for Mykhaylo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Andrey Santos, David Datro Fofana, Joao Felix, Noni Madueke and Malo Gusto.

    Fernandez has only played half a season in Europe after moving to Benfica from River Plate, so there is an element of risk in Chelsea's investment, regardless of his national team performances alongside Lionel Messi and co.

    He has played five Champions League group games, and the 22-year-old has looked the part, with his arrival handing Graham Potter another expensive plaything. This means there can be no excuses now for the head coach as he looks to turn the Blues into a winning machine.

    Marcel Sabitzer: Bayern Munich to Manchester United (loan)

    Bayern Munich decided they could afford to part company with Sabitzer, with the former RB Leipzig midfielder jetting out to secure a move to Manchester United, swapping one European giant for another.

    It was reported Erik ten Hag fancied Ryan Gravenberch, his former Ajax player, but Bayern were said to have resisted that interest and instead allowed United to take Austria international Sabitzer.

    He emerged as a surprising spare part for Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann, with Sabitzer having featured in 23 games for the Bundesliga leaders this season, albeit starting only 11 times.

    Ten Hag will certainly like the fact Sabitzer has a duel success rate of 58.77 per cent – the highest of his career – this season.

    He is not a like-for-like replacement for the injured Christian Eriksen, but Sabitzer brings his own qualities, will want to prove a point, and should not let United down over the coming four months.

    Jorginho: Chelsea to Arsenal, £12million

    Arsenal wanted Moises Caicedo and were prepared to pay a king's ransom for the Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder. They settled for Jorginho, a Euro 2020 champion with Italy and Champions League winner with Chelsea, paying a small fraction of the fee they would have had to spend on Caicedo.

    A deal worth around £12million looks sensible business, and Jorginho makes the jump from 10th-placed Chelsea to the table-topping Gunners, seeking the first domestic league title of his career.

    He played 25 games this season for the Blues, scoring three penalties but not managing any goals other than those spot-kicks, nor any assists.

    Some Arsenal fans have grumbled over the signing, but Jorginho brings defensive qualities and experience of winning, which for Arsenal in recent years has been in short supply.

    Joao Cancelo: Manchester City to Bayern Munich (loan with option to buy)

    Bayern brought in goalkeeper Yann Sommer earlier in the window after Manuel Neuer suffered a season-ending broken leg. That was a deal that many saw coming, but the move for Cancelo came out of the sky blue, reportedly after a disagreement with Pep Guardiola saw City happy to offload the full-back.

    It went through on Tuesday, opening up the possibility of Cancelo being a Premier League and Bundesliga winner in the same season.

    He looks set to feature at right-back for Bayern, with Alphonso Davies featuring on the left. It means Bayern will have a pair of attacking full-backs that will put the fear up opponents.

    With Bayern in a slump, drawing their past three Bundesliga games, it felt important for there to be a new face coming in. Cancelo, until very recently a favourite of Guardiola, is used to winning things with City so should fit in well at Sabener Strasse.

    Pedro Porro: Sporting CP to Tottenham (loan with obligation to buy)

    Three and a half years since he joined Manchester City, Porro should finally make his debut in English football after being recruited to fill the right-back role for Antonio Conte at Spurs.

    This has the makings of a masterstroke signing, with Spain international Porro having caught Spurs' eye in the Champions League group stage earlier this season. He previously played for Real Valladolid while farmed out on loan from City, for whom he never played a competitive senior game.

    He represents an upgrade on Matt Doherty, who was released to join Atletico Madrid, and may have the edge on Emerson Royal, with Conte bringing in a player with serious defensive and attacking qualities.

    Among defenders with 10 or more appearances and at least 10 tackles, Porro's 78.95 per cent tackle success rate ranks as the sixth-best in the Portuguese Primeira Liga this season.

    Meanwhile, only one defender, Benfica's Alejandro Grimaldo, has created more chances than Porro's 34 from 14 games, which have brought him six assists.

    Porro ranks second among defenders in the Portuguese top flight for the most crosses played too, with 108 to Grimaldo's 116. Significantly, though, Porro has played 526 minutes fewer than Grimaldo, illustrating how effective the Spurs new boy has been when on the pitch.

  • Is Chelsea new-boy Enzo Fernandez worth over £100million? Is Chelsea new-boy Enzo Fernandez worth over £100million?

    Football can feel like a Formula One race at times, with things moving so rapidly that if you blink for a second, you could miss something.

    For example, few would have been able to predict six months ago that in January 2023, a player called Enzo Fernandez would be joining Chelsea for a British-record transfer fee of £106.8million (€121m).

    Not even many Benfica fans knew much about the midfielder when he arrived from River Plate for a reported fee of €12m in July.

    Fernandez had been making a name for himself in his home country, with a loan spell at Defensa y Justicia under former Chelsea and Argentina striker Hernan Crespo convincing River Plate to give him a chance, which he took.

    After 52 appearances for Los Millonarios, interest from Europe saw Fernandez linked with some big names, and it was Benfica who took the plunge.

    The Lisbon club will be pleased they did after making a profit of well over €100m after just half a season, with the midfielder not only impressing in the Primeira Liga and Champions League, but also starring for Argentina as they lifted the World Cup in Qatar last month, with Fernandez claiming the FIFA Best Young Player of the Tournament award.

    Is he really worth all that money, though?

    Chelsea clearly think so, and in Fernandez they have bought a player who will feel like a dream come true for head coach Graham Potter.

    In his time at Brighton and Hove Albion, Potter delighted in building midfields that could dominate the ball, that could keep hold of possession while also making incisive passes to turn the opposition around.

    Despite being one of the smaller clubs in the Premier League, Potter's Brighton averaged 54.3 per cent possession in league games in 2021-22 (only Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea had more), while averaging 496 passes per game, and 59 passes into the final third per game (sixth in the league for both metrics).

    Only Man City, Arsenal and, funnily enough, Brighton have a higher possession average than Chelsea since Potter took charge at Stamford Bridge in September, while only City have attempted more passes than the Blues, which will be where Fernandez comes in.

    The man who only turned 22 earlier on January 17 is a passing machine, having completed 1,431 in total in just 17 Primeira Liga games, over 200 more than the player with the next most in the Portuguese top-flight.

    It is not simply quantity over quality either, as Fernandez has also made 248 passes into the final third, at least 51 more than any other player.

    Not only do they lead the league in terms of the table, but Benfica are also league leaders in averages for possession (66.0 per cent), passes per game (623) and passes ending in the final third per game (70.6). Their style enables Fernandez, but in turn, his ability allows them to execute it, which must have Potter salivating. 

    Fernandez showed similar form in the Champions League as Benfica surprisingly won a group that included Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, before going on to star in the World Cup as well.

    Several big clubs had already taken a shine to him, but the astonishing figure shelled out for him by Chelsea was no doubt rubber-stamped after his performances in Qatar, with Fernandez leading all players in the epic final between Argentina and France for touches (118), successful passes (77) and tackles (10). His 10 tackles were the most of any player in a World Cup final since Gennaro Gattuso in 2006 (15).

    But is he better than what Chelsea already have?

    In the Blues' midfield this season, Mateo Kovacic leads the way in terms of number of passes per 90 in Premier League games (69.0), ahead of Jorginho (61.7), with no other player to have played more than five games averaging even 50.

    Fernandez has been averaging 84.18 successful passes per game in Portugal, though consideration must be given to the difference in strength between the Premier League and Primeira Liga. In fact, it is the second-most of any midfielder in any of Europe's top 10 leagues this season, behind only Manchester City's Rodri (84.58), and ahead of Paris Saint-Germain's Marco Verratti (78.06) and Real Madrid's Toni Kroos (74.53).

    There is also the Argentine's creativity to take into account, with Chelsea struggling to score goals this season having only managed 22 in 20 league games so far.

    In league games, of those to have played more than twice, Conor Gallagher is averaging the most chances created from open play of Potter's midfield options at 1.59 per game, followed by Carney Chukwuemeka (1.38) and Mason Mount (1.24). Fernandez has averaged 1.62 per game.

    When you consider that Potter already had Kovacic, Mount, Gallagher, N'Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Denis Zakaria, Lewis Hall and Chukwuemeka to choose from, with Jorginho having departed for Arsenal on deadline day, you might think spending nine figures on another midfielder to be somewhat indulgent.

    With the early promise and potential trajectory of Fernandez though, Chelsea have quite probably taken the next step in a long-term rebuild. Jorginho and Kante are both 31 years old and out of contract at the end of the season, and investing in the future rather than the past makes sense for a team that always wants to be challenging for the biggest trophies.

    With great spending comes great expectations though, and the pressure will be immense on Fernandez to not just shine on the big stage, but to do so immediately.

    Chelsea's newest addition could justifiably insist he has done just that with every challenge thrown at him in a short space of time, including the biggest challenge of winning the World Cup.

    Enzo will no doubt back himself to prove he can live up to the price tag and be the Ferrari that Graham Potter needs.

  • Chelsea sign World Cup star Fernandez for Premier League record fee Chelsea sign World Cup star Fernandez for Premier League record fee

    Enzo Fernandez has finally signed for Chelsea, becoming the Premier League's record signing after the Blues met his £106.8million (€121m) release clause at Benfica.

    Fernandez, who was named Young Player of the Tournament after helping Argentina win the 2022 World Cup, was strongly linked with Chelsea earlier in the transfer window before talks broke down.

    However, the big-spending Blues went back in for him with the end of the window drawing closer, signing Fernandez to a long-term contract – rumoured to run until 2032 – with confirmation arriving an hour and a half after the transfer window closed.

    Chelsea submitted the relevant paperwork in time and Benfica were first to announce details of the deal on their official website on Wednesday.

    His arrival takes Chelsea's spending to a reported £288.5m (€328.5m) in January alone, with the midfielder becoming their eighth signing of the window.

    Fernandez only joined Benfica from River Plate last year but has played a starring role for them since making that move, helping the Portuguese giants top their Champions League group.

    He had looked likely to remain in Lisbon at least until the end of the season, but Chelsea revisited the deal with head coach Graham Potter reportedly keen for midfield reinforcements.

    The fee surpasses the previous Premier League transfer record, set by Jack Grealish's £100m switch from Aston Villa to Manchester City in 2021.

    Fernandez could make his Chelsea debut against Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Friday, as the Blues look to climb the table after a poor run of form saw them drop to 10th position. 

    A dogged competitor with an eye for the magnificent, Fernandez featured in all seven of Argentina's games in Qatar, starting five of them after he came off the bench to net a superb goal against Mexico in the group stage.

    Fernandez's ability on the ball, as well as his tenacity, will add a new facet to Potter's midfield options.

    Only 11 players carried the ball further than Fernandez (1,239.7 metres) at the World Cup, while just 10 were involved in more shot-ending sequences than his 27.

    Fernandez boasted a duel success rate of 58.8 per cent, winning 40 of his 68 engagements at the tournament.

    He made just 17 league appearances during his short stint with Benfica, though he also featured in five group games in the Champions League.

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