Robert Lewandowski has revealed he was keen to join Manchester United earlier in his career when he received a phone call direct from legendary Old Trafford Sir Alex Ferguson, only for Borussia Dortmund and Jurgen Klopp to block a potential move.
Lewandowski had started rising through the Polish lower leagues from the age of 16, landing with top flight Lech Poznan in 2008 and scored 41 times in 82 appearances across all competitions.
That paved the way for a move to Germany and Borussia Dortmund, with the young striker a regular in Klopp’s side that won the 2010/11 Bundesliga title.
Although Lewandowski wasn’t a prolific goalscorer at that stage of his career like he has since become, it appears that Fergie and United quickly saw his enormous potential.
It was during Dortmund’s pre-season and he was 22 at the time, which places it around July 2011, when United were in need of a fresh injection up front and would sign Robin van Persie to spearhead their next Premier League title charge the following year.
“I remember the moment exactly,” Lewandowski has now recalled in an interview with Sport Bild.
“We had a friendly with Dortmund in preparation, I think against Bochum. I was subbed at half-time. I looked at my mobile phone in the dressing room. There was a text message with the sender +44. Ferguson had tried to call me and then sent me a message. He wanted to talk to me.
“I was still in the dressing room, I took a shower and called him back, in a quiet corner. My English wasn’t as good as it is today. He has a strong Scottish accent. I was so focused on understanding what he meant! Alex Ferguson tried to be considerate, spoke slowly.
“I was 22-years-old, it was a special moment. I spoke to Aki Watzke and Jurgen Klopp in the camp. I wanted to go to Man United! But they said: ‘No chance, Robert. We need you. You have to stay’.”
Stay was exactly what he did do, with Lewandowski going onto score 30 goals in all competitions the next season for the first time in his career as Dortmund retained their title. A year later, he fired the club to the Champions League final, before a free transfer to Bayern Munich in 2014. In Bavaria, he seemed to get better with age and netted an astonishing 344 times in 375 games.
Now, the veteran star is at Barcelona and has shown no signs of slowing down, despite playing in a new country for the first time in 12 years – 27 goals in 34 games tells its own story.
But when Fergie called all those years ago, it wasn’t actually the first time that an English club had made an attempt to buy Lewandowski. A volcanic ash cloud grounding flights in Europe was partly responsible for scuppering Blackburn’s chance to sign him direct from Poznan before Dortmund.
A price tag of up to €4m was also an issue for the former Premier League champions, who were relegated in 2012 and haven’t returned to the top flight since. A couple of months after Blackburn had been denied their meeting with Lewandowski, Dortmund signed him for €4.5m.
“I think about it every time I see him play,” former Rovers manager Sam Allardyce remarked three years later. “I think they wanted €3m or €4m, but we were particularly strapped financially at the time at Blackburn. I watched him play, but I didn’t get the chance to meet him. I think his agent said he couldn’t come over because of the ash cloud.
“There were a lot of people looking at him at that time as well, but we had the edge over everyone else because of the attraction of the Premier League. He could have used us as a stepping stone but it didn’t happen.”
On this edition of The Promised Land, part of the 90min podcast network, Scott Saunders & Rob Blanchette react to Man Utd’s defeat to Newcastle and Erik ten Hag’s tactics, preview Wednesday’s game with Brentford at Old Trafford and whether Leicester playmaker James Maddison would be a sensible transfer target.
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