Marcel Schmelzer wasn't having one of his best games in a Dortmund shirt that evening, and when the ill-attempted cross turned into a shot on a pinball-like trajectory through the Real Madrid box, the initial reaction was that of a deep sigh. Dortmund may have been a goal ahead of the Spanish champions but the game was still very much alive, and the atmosphere was far from comfortable.
But then the ball flew past Sergio Ramos and then through the legs of Luka Modric. Before the Madrid defense had time to adjust itself, Robert Lewandowski had the ball at his feet.
Pepe—the cumbersome Brazilian defender—was on him in an instant, hacking and slashing in a manner for which he'd only became too infamous, but it was to no use. The Polish striker had pulled the ball back and twirled on the spot, in a move more accustomed to a balding Frenchman, and swung the ball past the defender and his colleague Diego Lopez in goal.
Lewandowski had scored his third goal of the night, and Madrid were defeated.
Dortmund deserved the win that night. Just like they deserved their spot in the final a month later. But they were fortunate to have Robert Lewandowski on hand to score such an exquisite goal and three more like it, to which the Spanish opponents simply couldn't respond. Dortmund needed their Polish striker that night, just like they still need him this season.
Denying Lewandowski his move to Bayern Munich was initially seen as a brash move by Jurgen Klopp and Co. Considered no more than an act of defiance against an inevitable process of Bayern Munich once again getting their man, corners of the media questioned the point in allowing a talented striker to leave for free.
But then Kevin de Bruyne returned to Chelsea and Heung-Min Son chose Leverkusen over the Champions League finalists.
All of a sudden, the club looked out of ideas. Dortmund simply couldn't release Lewandowski because they had no one to replace him.
And how could they? For all the trouble the striker has caused recently, Lewandowski has been simply phenomenal for the club this season. Even with all the money in the world, nobody can promise what the Polish striker is expected to continue after the summer.
With 24 goals in the Bundesliga this season, Lewandowski finished just one goal short of matching Stefan Kiessling's record despite starting five fewer games than the Leverkusen goalscorer. To put both players' record into context, the third-highest tally was that of Alexander Meier with only 16 goals.
Perhaps more importantly for Dortmund was the sheer percentage of their goals that were scored by their star striker. With 24 to his name, in a league campaign in which the club scored 81, the striker bolsters just short of 30 percent of the total amount of goals scored by the team. When we consider that Lionel Messi contributes around 33 percent of Barcelona's goals, it truly shows you how reliant Dortmund are on this fantastic striker.
Yet it wouldn't be fair to analyse Lewandowski or Dortmund's season without running over their European campaign—a tournament the Polish striker had no problem dominating either.
In fact, in the continental competition, the striker's contribution to the team actually rose to 42 percent. As we can see from the above table from WhoScored.com, that puts him in the bracket of one of the most dependable players in the competition.
When we add in his two assists during the tournament, we can deduce that for every two goals that Dortmund scored on their way to the final, Lewandowski either scored or assisted one of them.
In an unforgettable season for Borussia Dortmund's fans, Robert Lewandowski will possibly, and quite regrettably, be remembered for his later affiliation with Bayern Munich and the anguish he's caused during a time when the yellow of Dortmund should have been dancing to their prosperity.
Perhaps he will one day sign for Bayern Munich, or perhaps they'll grow tired of this ordeal and simply move on to another player to solve their problems. Yet one thing is for sure: Dortmund still have a very good striker on their books for one more season, and they most definitely need him.
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