- Bayern Munich face Tigres in Thursday’s FIFA Club World Cup final
- Robert Lewandowski and Andre-Pierre Gignac were semi-final heroes
- Stats, quotes and golazos feature as we profile the two strikers
Can FC Bayern München emulate the 2009/10 Barcelona and complete one of the greatest achievement’s in football history? Can Tigres UANL cause the biggest shock in FIFA Club World Cup™ final history?
We’ll find out on Thursday, but one thing we know for certain is that both teams are indebted to 30-something, foreign goal machines. On the eve of the showdown, we spotlight Robert Lewandowski and Andre-Pierre Gignac.
“I think if we win this Club World Cup it would complete one of the biggest historical achievements in all of football. Not just for Bayern or for Germany, but it would be one of the biggest historical achievements from all over the world.”
“Andre-Pierre Gignac is fundamental for Tigres. He dictates the pace of the game. Technically he dazzles me. He leads the team. [He knows] when to speed up and slow down play. He’s decisive. It’s not easy to stop him scoring penalties.”
They almost didn’t make it
“His legs were so thin. I kept telling him that unless he ate more bacon sandwiches and put some weight on he may never make it, but the years passed and his legs remained like sticks.”
Those were the words of Krzysztof Sikorski, the coach of the youth team Lewandowski played for from the ages of eight to 16. It was perhaps the reason the forward started out in only the Polish fifth flight and, even though he was subsequently added to Legia Warsaw’s youth ranks, he was released without ever making the first-team squad for being too skinny (he’s certainly ripped up that notion).
Lewandowski was told to give up football but he “just loved watching Thierry Henry and was determined to be like him”. So, he worked his way up from the Polish third tier to the second to the first, where he established himself as its standout performer and inspired Lech Poznan to their first Ekstraklasa crown in 17 years.
Oh, and he’s no longer skinny!
“I was told that if I couldn’t make it at a club that was heading for the [fourth division] and whose financial problems meant they couldn’t buy any players, then I had no future in football.”
Gignac was released from small-time, hometown club Martigues as a 16-year-old and urged to invest in his academic education. But he desperately clinged to his footballing one and, two years later, made a dream professional debut for Lorient in Ligue 2, rising from the bench and quickly scoring the winner.
It didn’t help establish him at the club and he duly found himself on loan at Pau in the French third tier. After a forgettable first season at Toulouse, however, his second term saw him finish as Ligue 1’s 24-goal leading marksman, comfortably clear of closest challengers Karim Benzema and Guillaume Hoarau.
Tigres’ all-time top scorers
Bayern’s all-time top scorers
Gignac has now scored 13 consecutive penalties for Tigres. Curiously, the last three penalties he missed came in the Augusts of 2017, ’18 and ’19.
Robert Lewandowski had successfully converted 17 successive spot-kicks until his last attempt was saved by Hertha Berlin’s Rune Jarstein. The Norwegian became only the second goalkeeper to save a penalty from the Pole in the Bundesliga after Manuel Neuer, who denied the then-Borussia Dortmund player in 2013.
We meet again
Gignac was part of the Marseille squad – one coached by France 1998 and Russia 2018 winner Didier Deschamps and featuring the likes of Cesar Azpilicueta, Mathieu Valbuena and the Ayew brothers – that faced Bayern Munich in the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League quarter-finals. He came off the bench in the first leg, while Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Thomas Muller helped the Bavarians to a 4-0 aggregate victory.
Gignac did score a bullet header past Neuer as France beat Germany 2-0 in a 2015 friendly.
Lewandowski’s father played in the Polish second flight but had greater success as a judoka, becoming a national champion. The Bayern No9’s mother was a volleyball player, while his sister plays the same sport. Lewandowski’s wife Anna is a karateka who won multiple medals at the Karate World Championship.
Gignac Is cousins with Panathinaikos winger Yohan Mollo and former Marseille defender Jacques Abardonado.
Did you know?
Lewandowski is one of only two footballers to win the 86-times-awarded Polish Sports Personality of the Year. 1982 recipient Zbigniew Boniek had been the only one, but the Bayern Munich striker triumphed in 2015 and 2020.
Gignac became, when being summoned for UEFA EURO 2016, the first player based outside of Europe to be called up by France. He made six appearances in the tournament, hitting the post in the last minute of normal time in the final.