Robert Lewandowski has revealed he was keen to join Manchester United earlier in his career when he received a phone call direct from legendary Old Trafford Sir Alex Ferguson, only for Borussia Dortmund and Jurgen Klopp to block a potential move.
Lewandowski began rising through the Polish lower leagues from the age of 16, landing at top-flight Lech Poznań in 2008 and scoring 41 times in 82 appearances in all competitions.
That paved the way for a move to Germany and Borussia Dortmund, with the young forward a regular in Klopp’s 2010/11 Bundesliga title-winning side.
Although Lewandowski wasn’t the prolific goalscorer he has since become at that stage of his career, it seems Fergie and United were quick to see his huge potential.
It was during Dortmund’s pre-season and he was 22 at the time, making it July 2011 when United needed a fresh injection up front and signed Robin van Persie to spearhead their next title battle the following year Premier League. .
“I remember that moment exactly,” Lewandowski now recalls in an interview with Sport Bild.
“In preparation we had a friendly match with Dortmund, I think against Bochum. I was on the mat at halftime. I checked my phone in the dressing room. There was an SMS with the sender +44. Ferguson tried to call me and then text me. He wanted to talk to me.
“I was still in the dressing room, showered and called him back to the quiet corner. My English was not as good as today. He has a strong Scottish accent. I was concentrating so hard to understand what he meant! Alex Ferguson tried to be considerate and spoke slowly.
“I was 22 years old, it was a special moment. I spoke to Aki Watzko and Jurgen Klopp in the camp. I wanted to go to Man United! But they said, ‘No chance, Robert. We need you. You have to stay.”
Stay was exactly what he did, Lewandowski scored 30 goals in all competitions for the first time in his career the following season as Dortmund retained their title. He fired the club to the Champions League final a year later, before moving to Bayern Munich on a free transfer in 2014. In Bavaria, he seemed to get better with age, scoring an amazing 344 goals in 375 games.
Now the veteran star is at Barcelona and shows no signs of slowing down despite playing in a new country for the first time in 12 years – 27 goals in 34 games tells its own story.
But when Fergie called all those years ago, it wasn’t actually the first time an English club had tried to buy Lewandowski. A cloud of volcanic ash grounding flights in Europe was partly responsible for scuppering Blackburn’s chances of signing him directly from Poznań ahead of Dortmund.
A price tag of up to €4 million was also a problem for the former Premier League champions, who were relegated in 2012 and have not returned to the top flight since. A few months after Blackburn were denied a meeting with Lewandowski, Dortmund signed him for €4.5 million.
“I think about it every time I see him play,” remarked former Rovers manager Sam Allardyce three years later. “I think they wanted €3m or €4m but we were particularly tight financially at Blackburn at the time. I watched him play but I didn’t get the chance to meet him. I think his agent said he couldn’t come .” because of the ash cloud.
“A lot of people were looking at him at the time too, but we were ahead of everyone else because of the appeal of the Premier League. He could have used us as a stepping stone but it didn’t happen.”