Mateusz Kalina of Eurosport Poland talks to Jacek Grembocki, former coach of Robert Lewandowski at Znicz Pruszków:
In the second half of the 2007/08 season, you led Lewandowski in Znicz Pruszków. It's been a while now. What one word would you use to describe "Lewy"?
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So now I will ask for an elaboration.
I am a coach who requires a lot from his players. It was no different with Robert. I have repeatedly pointed out to him during briefings, what he needs to improve, what element to focus on. The calmness with which he accepted my advices made me feel good. He honestly impressed me with that.
Robert Lewandowski - FC Bayern
Image credit: Getty Images
So the mental side matters. How was the pure football side?
Great potential for scoring goals. However, he had downtimes. There were times when I called my assistant Artur Kalinowski to prepare Robert's number for a change. Arthur often inhibited me, and "Lewy" perfectly saw the commotion on our bench. He connected the dots and came to life immediately, which later changed into goals. I would also like to add that it was a rare combination of endurance with a "speed" type.
I also have to ask for the cons. Was there anything you didn't like about Robert then?
Maybe not so much directly in it, but in the Znicz, he had a protective umbrella open. Sylwiusz Mucha-Orlinski, who has been the most important person in the club from Pruszków for years, treated him like a son. It was Lewandowski who went first for bonuses. I didn't really like it because there were older, definitely more experienced players in the team. The hierarchy was shaken and I had to react at times.
We know where Lewandowski is now. When did you notice that the team has a player with great potential?
Winter sparring with ŁKS in Pruszkow (30 January 2008, 2-0). Two months after I came to the club. Robert then came on from the bench, drove into the ground the very hard-playing defender Zarko Udarevic and scored.
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The level of talent for a club like Bayern?
Let's not kid ourselves. I will tell a story. Some time ago I was asked to do an interview for one of the books about Lewandowski. A few have already been written, never mind the title. We talked for over an hour and a half. None of my statements were used. Reason? My opinions did not fit the narrative, because everyone in the book said that they immediately recognized the talent of "Lewy". Meanwhile, by taking over the Znicz team, I was supposed to stay in the old second league (second tier in Poland). If then I thought I had players with potential for Bayern Munich, I would have to be mad.
Let me ask another question: what kind of player in your eyes was Lewandowski at the end of the 2007/08 season, when you have already known him better?
Robert developed systematically. It wasn't a sudden explosion. I saw the future Polish representative in him. It was easy for me to judge it, because I was one myself in the past (seven appearances) and I know how to get to this level. However, we should remember that our team did not have as many class players as now. Where he is now, exceeded my expectations.
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His departure from Legia Warszawa became a legend.
I can understand it. I talked about it with people who worked with Robert at that time in Legia. The matter is simple: at that time, at that stage of his career, there were equal or better players in the reserves of the Warsaw club. There was Adrian Paluchowski, Dariusz Zjawinski and Dawid Janczyk, who were of similar age, trained with the first team. When the election time came, they had to give up someone, and let's not forget that Robert was struggling with an injury then.
Later, Legia called for "Lewy".
I think in February 2008 I met the coach of Legia, my good friend from the times of playing together in Gornik Zabrze, Jan Urban and Mirosław Trzeciak, who was then responsible for transfers there. Urban wanted him very much and I suggested Robert to join Legia after the season. Trzeciak was against. He pointed out that "Lewy" did not know how to play with his back to the goal, which was true at the time.
How many clubs wanted to buy Lewandowski from Znicz?
I guess I won't be wrong that around May 2008, the whole Ekstraklasa wanted Robert. Legia and Gornik Zabrze pressed the most. Cracovia showed a lot of interest, and finally Lech Poznan joined the game. A great fan of Robert talent was Andrzej Czyzniewski, who was working for Lech. The coach of Lech Franciszek Smuda (later the coach of Polish national team) was against him. From what he told me, there was voted 3:2 in a closed voting and eventually "Lewy" went to Poznan.
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One of Lewandowski's many good choices.
Exactly. He had it all perfectly organized in his head. Every step. In addition, he was extremely hardworking. He was also very lucky. He was avoided by serious injuries. One of the biggest pillars of Lewandowski's career, in my opinion, is Mucha-Orlinski. He gave him a chance, he took care of him in Pruszkow. On his way, "Lewy" also met only those coaches who developed him. I would like to emphasize this because it is rarely mentioned. Only in Znicz they were: Andrzej Blacha, Leszek Ojrzynski, Artur Kalinowski, Marek Milankiewicz, who worked with him individually.
Jacek Grembocki as well...
Perhaps. I hope that I also contributed a small part to his football development. It is a great honour for me to be able to work with a player who is currently among the top players in the world.
Jacek Grembocki is a seven-time representative of Poland, mainly associated with performances in Lechia Gdanski (Polish Cup and Polish Super Cup) and Gornik Zabrze (Polish championship twice and Polish Super Cup). As a trainer, he led, among others Znicz Pruszkow and Polonia Warsaw. The team from the capital was also one of the assistants Waldemar Fornalik, who later became coach of the Polish national team.
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