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Sunday, June 16, 2024

Can Harry Kane break Robert Lewandowski’s Bundesliga scoring record?

With 22 goals from 16 Bundesliga games this season, Harry Kane’s tally for Bayern Munich is identical to Robert Lewandowski’s at the same stage of his record-breaking 2020-21 campaign.

The former Bayern Munich striker finished that season with 41 goals in the league and while Kane has dismissed speculation about him bettering his predecessor’s record tally as none of his concern, saying: “I just want to play, everything else is for the media and supporters to talk about,” — the numbers suggest he has a good chance of surpassing the Poland international.

This is why.

First, Bayern are very good this season. Not simply just better than public misgivings about some of their performances under Thomas Tuchel would suggest, but also better (thus far) than the Bayern sides which featured the previous benchmark-setters Gerd Muller (40 goals in 1971-72) and Lewandowski.


Kane celebrates scoring… again (MICHAELA REHLE/AFP via Getty Images)

Those teams averaged 2.97 (1971-72) and 2.91 (2020-21) goals per game in the Bundesliga. Tuchel’s men have been far more prolific than this in 2023-24 so far — averaging 3.25 goals per game in the league.

On top of this, Kane’s share of those goals (42 per cent) is slightly higher than Muller’s (40 per cent) and Lewandowski’s (41 per cent).

So if Bayern keep scoring at the same rate, they will finish the season with 111 league goals and if Kane maintains his percentage share he will finish with 47 of them — easily breaking the record.

“Football isn’t maths,” as the former Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, himself a world-class striker, once observed. At the halfway stage in each of the two previous two seasons, Bayern were on course to break their Bundesliga record of 101 goals set in 1971-72, before their form twice collapsed in dramatic fashion after the winter break, resulting in head coach Julian Nagelsmann losing his job last spring. A similar fate could theoretically befall the team once more this year and Kane could fall short of the mark.

But there’s also every chance that the opposite will happen. Performances could get sharper. Because Tuchel’s side, he would be first to admit, haven’t reached their ceiling up until now. In an insightful interview with ESPN’s Archie Rhind-Tutt last week, the Bayern head coach said “the team need to get going” if Kane were to break Lewandowski’s record.

As winger Serge Gnabry returns from injury and Jamal Musiala increasingly rediscovers his magical touch in front of goal, Bayern’s attacking edge could yet become a lot more cutting, still.

Most goals scored in a Bundesliga season

Player

  

Club

  

Season

  

Goals

  

Robert Lewandowski

Bayern Munich

2020-21

41

Gerd Muller

Bayern Munich

1971-72

40

Gerd Muller

Bayern Munich

1969-70

38

Gerd Muller

Bayern Munich

1972-73

36

Robert Lewandowski

Bayern Munich

2021-22

35

Dieter Muller

Cologne

1976-77

34

Robert Lewandowski

Bayern Munich

2019-20

34

Lothar Emmerich

Borussia Dortmund

1965-66

31

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Borussia Dortmund

2016-17

31

“Luck,” in the shape of Kane, 30, staying fit, will be just as important, Tuchel added — perhaps more so. Lewandowski’s feat was especially impressive since the then 32-year-old missed five games that season; one as a precaution, four with injury. Muller, by contrast, started every league game in 1971-72, just as Kane has done up to now.

Similar statistics in front of goal aside, it’s remarkable how Kane’s role in Munich differs from that of Lewandowski. In 2020-21, Bayern’s dominance in the league allowed the Poland captain to dedicate himself obsessively to breaking Muller’s record, with the whole team explicitly supporting him in that endeavour.


Lewandowski after scoring in May 2021 (MATTHIAS SCHRADER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Lewandowski only contributed seven assists, whereas Kane is already on five with half the season left. (Lewandowski’s unwillingness to drop deeper to join in attacks was one of the reasons Nagelsmann suggested the club should sell him in the summer of 2022.)

Kane, Tuchel has said, is unlike a typical centre-forward “who comes away from a 2-2 draw happy if they have scored two goals”. The 50-year-old described the striker as “unselfish and a total team player” focused on winning. “He does everything (for that); he doesn’t just play for the goals. But the goals come to him.”

Indeed they do. Perhaps he’s closer to Bayern’s greatest-ever striker in that regard. Muller, too, was humble and skilful enough to assist better-positioned team-mates whenever possible. In the 1971-72 season, he provided 17 assists (on top of his 40 goals).

Reaching that number might be beyond Kane — but eclipsing Lewandowski’s 41 goals shouldn’t be. In fact, it would be more of a surprise if he didn’t do it.

(Top photo: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)



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