Robert Lewandowski's Performance in UCL Solidifies Striker as World Class

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 24, 2013

MALAGA, SPAIN - APRIL 03:  Robert Lewandowski of Borussia Dortmund runs with the ball during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final first leg match between Malaga CF and Borussia Dortmund at La Rosaleda Stadium on April 3, 2013 in Malaga, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Perhaps the happiest man on the planet right now is Robert Lewandowski's agent.

The 24-year-old striker scored all four of Borussia Dortmund's goals in the German club's 4-1 demolition of Real Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League semifinal matchup.

If you wondered whether or not Lewandowski was a world-class striker, you got your answer Wednesday night. He was irresistible the entire match. At the rate he was going, Lewandowski could have had the ball in his own 18-yard box and you would have thought he was a threat to score.

The phrase 'world class' is often thrown around and given to players blithely. At the end of the day, it's nothing more than a discussion topic and has no bearing on how a player's career unfolds. Still, you want the phrase to hold some sort of meaning, and it's cheapened when used too often.

In terms of Lewandowski, even his most ardent critics must be convinced as to his immense quality.

Jose Mourinho is regarded as a master tactician, and even he was surprised at how well Lewandowski performed and how little his club could do to stop him (h/t BBC):

Lewandowski established himself as a strong finisher at Lech Poznan, scoring 32 league goals in two seasons. That form got him noticed, but nothing close to the attention that was come to in a few years.

Many have made light of the fact Sam Allardyce came close to signing him for Blackburn Rovers back in 2010 (h/t Darren Cave):

The striker eventually moved to Germany. In his first season at Borussia Dortmund, he only managed to find the net eight times in his 33 Bundesliga appearances. Last season was when Lewandowski really got noticed, scoring 22 goals in 34 league games. He's followed that up with 23 in 27 matches this season.

His performance against Madrid illustrated the rapid improvement he's made over the last few seasons. It was a complete showing that made you realize exactly why Bayern Munich want to bring him on despite already having Mario Mandzukic and Mario Gomez (h/t Mark Doyle of via Yahoo! Sports).

Lewandowski's positioning and intelligence were superb, as evidenced by his first and second goals.

For the first goal, he managed to create enough space between himself and Pepe, getting on the end of Mario Gotze's fabulous cross.

For the second, Lewandowski timed his run perfectly to create an easy chance for the score. Madrid's defenders all called for offside, but the replays showed the striker had been assuredly on.

The third goal was the best of the night. The ball fell to Lewandowski after a failed effort from Marcel Schmelzer. That part was lucky. The next part, not so much. Lewandowski quickly shifted the ball to his left foot, away from the oncoming defenders. His shot into the top of the goal was unstoppable.

Dortmund handled Madrid quite easily, and had it not been for Mats Hummels' mistake, this tie would be all but over. That dominance was due in large part to Lewandowski. Jurgen Klopp needs to do everything in his power to try and keep the striker at the Westfalenstadion for as long as he can.