NEW JERSEY — Robert Lewandowski conquered just about everything during his eight years in Germany at Bayern Munich, but now he’s ready for a new challenge. The 33-year-old striker joined Spanish giants Barcelona for around €45 million this summer and is ready to help the Catalan side get back to the top of the European game.

Lewandowski was officially presented as a player in Miami, played his first minutes for his new club in preseason matches on U.S. soil and is preparing for a big welcome at Camp Nou on Friday, ahead of the first game of the LaLiga season against Rayo Vallecano on Aug. 13.

The Poland international carries a fearsome goal-scoring reputation and has 509 goals in 676 club matches, has twice won the Golden Boot for Europe’s leading goal scorer and finished as runner-up for the 2021 Ballon d’Or, while he beat Bayern legend Gerd Muller’s 49-year record of most goals scored in a Bundesliga season, tallying 43 in 34 matches in 2020-21.

However, his exit from Bayern (for whom he scored 344 goals in 375 appearances) came under a cloud as he publicly clashed with the club over his desire to move on. Still leaving with a legendary status, Lewandowski admits his departure was one surrounded by politics and wants to remind Bayern fans of the love he had for the club for so many years. But now he tells ESPN’s Cristina Alexander, speaking exclusively in his first interview since moving to , that he is ready for the next chapter in his career.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity.

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ESPN: How have you felt at these first few days?

Lewandowski: Well, I have to say that I’m very happy to be here, to be a part of Barcelona… It has been 10 or 12 days, out here in the U.S., so everything has been extremely fast and quick, but, with my experience, it is a little bit easier to adapt to the team, and every day I try to adapt and be a part of the team.

ESPN: How has Xavi helped you adapt?

Lewandowski: Yeah, he helped me a lot. The conversation between me and him is really good. We don’t have a problem with communication. And even with my teammates, I see that they want to help me; they want to support me a lot. For me, that is very important because I see that they are open and ready to help me.

ESPN: Why LaLiga?

Lewandowski: I was always dreaming to play in LaLiga. I know that my time in Bayern Munich was amazing, and I will be always thankful for the guys, for the club, what they did for me, because I won everything with Bayern Munich, and after 12 years playing in Bundesliga playing in Germany, I knew that it was time to try something new. A new challenge.

I cannot say bad words about my teammates, or the club — even though there was kind of politics before — but the time, what I did for the club in this eight years for Bayern Munich was amazing. I’m growing up every single season, and I know that to decide to move somewhere else will be more difficult every year. Even now it was very difficult to decide to go to Barcelona because I know what I did, the comfort zone I had in Bayern Munich already, but for me, I was always open to something new.

I heard that Barcelona wanted to sign me, and that was a sign that maybe now is the perfect timing to go to Barcelona, go to LaLiga. I know that I can still play for a few years on the top high level and that’s why I decided to go to Barcelona. I’m very happy to be part of this team.

ESPN: What do you expect up front with so many signings that we’ve seen this summer coming to Barcelona?

Lewandowski: We have a very strong team and are ready to think about titles. I’m always the guy who is thinking about winning the game, of course scoring the goals, and with the coach, Xavi, we can do this because I see what we’re doing during the training session and how we work hard now in preseason. So for me all the signings mean that we are in a good way and I’m very excited for the start of the season.

ESPN: You were talking about the goal scoring and what you want to do as well for Barcelona, and I mentioned that record, with Gerd Muller in the Bundesliga. How is going to take that goal scoring and bring it to LaLiga, bring it to Barcelona?

Lewandowski: We have played so many times in the Champions League against Spanish teams, so it’s not that new for me… In international football, if you are on the top, you have to be ready for every challenge, that doesn’t matter who you are playing against or how tough it will be. You have to show your best, and I’m experienced, I’m ready for this and I need this challenge to show how my game looks in LaLiga. Also there are more games in LaLiga [38] compared to Bundesliga [34], so maybe I will have even more chances to score goals.

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New Barcelona signing praises Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema but says he isn’t keen on being in direct competition with him.

ESPN: What do you expect from the rivalry not only with Real Madrid but personally between yourself and Karim Benzema?

Lewandowski: Benzema is an amazing player, he showed that in the last Champions League season; what he did during the games against PSG, Chelsea or Man City. He’s already, I don’t know how many years, 10 or even 12 years in LaLiga. He knows this league a lot. Even in the Champions League, he showed that he’s one of the best players, and I think that is very nice to see so many good strikers in LaLiga. For sure that will be more interesting for the fans.

For me, I didn’t want to compare with him because for me it will be something new, and I accept this, but for him he’s already here [in LaLiga] many years and he has shown already in the last year how good he is. For me, more important will be what we’re going to do with the team. How are we going to play? How can we go from win to win? This is my goal.

ESPN: We know that this is a team that has changed dramatically even in the last year, of course with the loss of Lionel Messi. How does that bring you into the picture leadership-wise? Does this give you an opportunity to be the new leader in the team?

Lewandowski: Of course, this is a big opportunity to be the person who can lead on the pitch with body language, to show the guys it doesn’t matter how many goals we have already scored, we can score even more. To always think positively, always play forward, to try to do something more to push and work even harder than before.

I see already in Barcelona that there are players who are thinking about how to do even more. Sometimes it is not exactly the words. What you say is important, but more important is how you show your body language. What you’re going to do, what you expect for yourself as well, and that’s why I’m ready to be here to show my performance. Also I know that my teammates are ready to follow, not only follow me but follow the way we’re going to be at the end of this season.

ESPN: How do you take that title from Real Madrid then in LaLiga?

Lewandowski: We try to do our best, for sure. We haven’t started the season yet, but maybe after one or two months — because the run here before World Cup [in November] is very short — maybe after this time we can talk more about the expectations for the end of the season. But for sure, Real Madrid are still going to be very strong; they’re going to play very well, and that is a huge challenge for us. We have to be ready and we have to be there if we want to compete with Real Madrid.

ESPN: Robert, I want to go back to what you mentioned, for Bayern Munich, and those last few months. So there was a little bit of, you know, political things going on before, before you left. Reports in Germany suggested that maybe you were a little bit uncomfortable with the fact that Bayern were looking to sign Erling Haaland; did that have anything to do with leaving, did that influence your decision?

Lewandowski: No, that was nothing to do with Erling. I am the guy who — even if something’s not good for me — truth is more important. I don’t want to speak about what happened exactly. But if the question is if the decision to move was because of him, no, I didn’t see the problem if he joined Bayern Munich.

But some kind of people doesn’t say to me the truth, say something different. And for me it was always important to be clear, to stay true, and maybe for a few people that was the problem. And in the end I know that something doesn’t work well with my person as well and I knew that, OK, I see and I feel that maybe it’s a good time to move out of Bayern Munich and join Barcelona.

I had a very good relationship with my teammates, with the staff, with the coach, and these are all things I’m going to miss because I spent a beautiful time there. And we were not only friends from the pitch but also something more. But in the end this chapter is over and I open a new chapter in my life and a new chapter in my career.

So I feel that I’m in the right position, right place. So everything that’s happened in the last maybe few weeks before I left Bayern Munich, that was also of course a lot of politics. The club tried to find an argument why they can sell me to another club because before it was difficult to explain maybe to the fans. And I had to accept that even though it was a lot of bulls—, a lot of s— said about me. Not true, but in the end I knew that the fans, even in this period, still support me a lot.



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