Lewandowski leaves Dortmund a hero on weekend of long goodbyes
It was a weekend of long goodbyes in the Bundesliga last weekend, some emotional, others – here’s looking at you, Aaron Hunt – not quite so.
The most significant, of course, was that of Robert Lewandowski bidding farewell to the Gelbe Wand of the Südtribüne in Dortmund. What a contrast with the departure of Mario Götze a year earlier. While Götze, a Dortmund youth academy product who brought his parent club millions, was reviled as a money-grabbing opportunist, Lewandowski – who leaves on a free, remember – was hailed as a conquering hero poised to set off on even greater adventures. “What happened in the stadium today was simply unbelieveable,” said the overwhelmed Pole, who had tears welling in his eyes as he bowed to the crowd. “It was madness!”
Not that the Pole didn’t deserve the accolades. “He came to us as a super striker. He leaves as a world-class striker,” stated Jürgen Klopp, succinctly and appropriately enough. The full potential of the man who had just finished the Ekstraklasa top scorer in Lech Poznan’s title win was not immediately clear when Lewandowski arrived in 2010. He initially failed to dislodge Lucas Barrios, and was used more or (frequently) less effectively as a support striker. However, when the Paraguayan opted to move to China – did I hear someone shout ‘Money-grabbing opportunist!’? – Lewandowski proved better still than his predecessor.
His goals, but also his excellent link-up play and dogged ‘first line of defence’ harrying in Klopp’s pressing game have been central to Dortmund’s success and their development as genuine challengers to Bayern. Given how much of a loss he’ll be to Dortmund, and consequently a boon to Bayern, how quickly will Pep Guardiola’s men win next season’s Bundesliga?
A goal, preferably the matchwinner, would have been the fairytale end for Lewandowski. Instead, that destiny was reserved for Aaron Hunt, who was presented with a huge bunch of flowers for his final home game with Werder Bremen after 13 years at the club. Why flowers? It’s as baffling as people’s sudden penchant for tomato juice on an aeroplane. That is another debate, though. More importantly, Hunt’s 45th and 46th goals for Bremen, in his 214th game for them, gave them victory over Hertha Berlin, but also those very stats show why his departure could have been more bitterly mourned.
Perhaps unreasonably, Hunt was tipped to take on the mantle left by Mesut Özil’s departure, but never really did so, leaving a sense of underachievement that at 27 is now not likely to ever be wholly forgotten. Despite having spent nearly half his life in Bremen colours, Hunt eschewed adding the ‘emotional’ adjective to his farewell. “I’m not the kind of guy to cry,” he said manfully.
Marc-André ter Stegen clearly is though. He joined Borussia Mönchengladbach when his grandfather Erich enrolled him as a 4-year-old, and waving ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to the Borussia Park crowd ahead of the weekend’s win over Mainz was too much for him. Or perhaps it was the thought of what he would do with the framed pair of his own gloves he had been given. Perhaps flowers would have been better. There will no doubt be a sense of pride, but also a few tears shed at the thought of what might have been by ‘Gladbach fans when Ter Stegen becomes one of the game’s great ‘keepers at his next destination, Barcelona.
Armin Veh got the whole works. Standing ovations, glowing tributes, the almost inevitable flowers, presents and even a feather from Attila, the Eintracht eagle. He could perhaps put it in his cap after gallantly restoring the reputation so gloriously built at Stuttgart and so ingloriously sullied at Wolfsburg and Hamburg. Europa League qualification last season was the pinnacle of his three-year reign, which has seen Eintracht establish themselves back in the Bundesliga. While the Frankfurt club seek a successor, kicker are reporting Veh will ignore Virgil’s advice and accept the gifts the Greek Football Federation are reportedly bearing in his general direction. After seeing one German tactician, Otto Rehhagel, enjoy outrageous success with their national team, no doubt the Greek FA are hoping appointing Veh will prove similarly fruitful.