The Polish Ian Rush

18 August 1988, Ian Rush re-joins Liverpool from Juventus for £2.7m, three days later in the Polish capital of Warsaw, Robert Lewandowski was born to Krzyszof and Iwona Lewandwoski, his father a judo champion, his mother a volleyball player.

There are twenty-seven years between Rush and Lewandowski, they’re from totally different eras and backgrounds, yet I’ve come to notice an uncanny resemblance in their styles of play and careers.

Over the last few seasons Bundesliga crowds have seen Lewandowski develop into one of European football’s most accomplished centre-forwards – he’s always reminded me of someone but I’d never been able to put my finger on it.

Then, as number three went in against Real Madrid, it hit me. The Polish Ian Rush. For the type of striker Robert Lewandowski is, I honestly can’t think of a greater compliment.

Their movement and positional sense, their anticipation, that poacher’s instinct and natural finishing ability, there is even a physical resemblance – lean, mean goal-scoring machines.

Lewandowski’s stunning performance against Real Madrid bore all those qualities and one other that I’ve always associated with Ian Rush. Despite scoring 384 career-goals, the Welshman was a team player rather than an individual – performing his particular role in the side better than almost anyone else of that generation.

One such example was a day when Rush himself scored four (video below). Just like Dortmund against Real Madrid, Liverpool’s 5-nil win at Goodison Park against Everton in November 1982 was a fantastic team performance. Rush was as devastatingly effective as Lewandowski, scoring three goals from inside the box, the other from just outside.

That was the Welshman’s third season at Anfield, he was approaching his prime but there had been doubters in the very early stages of his Liverpool career. Signed for £300,000, a record fee for a teenager in 1980, Rush failed to score in his first season, making just nine appearances.

Similar questions were asked of Lewandowski in the early stages of his Dortmund career – signed for €4.8m from Lech Poznan, he made more substitute appearances than starts in his first season, scoring only 8 league goals in 33 matches.

It has even been suggested that he might have not made the grade at the Westfalenstadion were it not for an injury to first-choice striker, Lucas Barrios at the start of the 2011/12 campaign. The Polish international ended that season with 30 goals in 47 games and has improved on that in 2012/13.

That sort of form means that at 24 he is now very much a wanted man – just as Ian Rush was in 1986, when at the same age he agreed to sign for Juventus, completing the transfer twelve months later. Rush scored 14 goals in the 1987/88 season and has always rejected the suggestion he was a ‘failure’ in Turin, saying he returned to Merseyside a better all-round player.

Rush has also said that he didn’t realise what he was missing until he had left Liverpool – should, as expected, Robert Lewandowski leave Dortmund this summer, you have to wonder whether he might end up saying something similar one day.


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