Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann has fired a warning to defences across Europe by claiming that Robert Lewandowski has a long time left at the top level.
Although Munich striker Lewandowski turned 33 in August, there is no indication age is catching up with the Poland international and Nagelsmann reckons he should be awarded the Ballon d'Or now he's at the peak of his goalscoring powers.
Lewandowski's record haul of 41 Bundesliga goals last season came at a rate of one every 60.07 minutes.
That was the fastest rate of scoring across a campaign, in terms of minutes per goal, for any player with 10 or more goals in a Bundesliga season since the league was founded in 1963.
After missing out on Ballon d'Or recognition last year, when the award was cancelled due to the pandemic's impact on the global game, there is little doubt that FIFA World Player Lewandowski is a serious contender this time.
Bayern did not match up to their 2019-20 treble-winning feats, but they carried off a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title and Lewandowski was their spearhead.
"He deserves the Ballon d'Or - and in my opinion he has to win the award, because he has played more consistently than anyone else over the past three years," Nagelsmann told Thursday's edition of the Abendzeitung paper.
And Nagelsmann predicted Lewandowski would continue to thrive at the highest level into his late thirties.
"If Robert Lewandowski's body stays like this, it is far from over," said Nagelsmann.
"He is extremely dynamic, has no injuries, he can train a lot: I definitely trust him to play at the top, top level for a few more years - also because he aligns everything in his life accordingly, to be in the best physical condition."
In Bayern's triumphant 2019-20 Champions League campaign, Lewandowski netted 15 times, scoring on average once every 59.13 minutes. This term, he has four goals already in that competition from just 169 minutes on the pitch.
Lewandowski has said it "would mean a lot" to scoop the individual honour, and after being shortlisted, his chief rival appears to be six-time winner Lionel Messi, who helped Argentina to Copa America glory.
Australian Associated Press