The Polish hit man beat out Paris St-Germain’s Lionel Messi and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah.
Lewandowski, 33, broke two Bundesliga records by scoring 41 goals for Bayern in its title-winning 2020-21 season and 43 in the calendar year of 2021. Both marks were held since 1972 by former Bayern great Gerd Muller.
“I never dream about breaking this record [of Gerd Muller’s]. To score 41 in 29 games — if you ask me that a few years ago if it is possible I would tell you it is impossible,” Lewandowski said in Zurich after bagging the award. “I also say to him thank you. He set so many records and to me it was always the next step to try and break it.”
By capturing the FIFA award, Lewandowski turned the tables on Argentina’s Messi who had bested him in November’s Ballon d’Or vote for the world’s best player. On both occasions, Messi’s claim to the title rested heavily on him helping Argentina win last summer’s Copa America.
Once again, as in the Ballon d’Or, Egypt’s Salah had to play second fiddle to the pair despite being possibly in the best form of any player in the world right now. Salah faced the same problem he had in the Ballon d’Or in that the international managers, captains of international teams, journalists and fans who took part in the FIFA vote took in performances from October 2020 to August 2021, a stretch in which neither Salah nor Liverpool nor Egypt were particularly impressive.
One big sign that Salah would not win the FIFA award: reports suggested that had he been told beforehand that he would win, he would have hopped on the first plane leaving Cameroon, where he is currently playing in the Africa Cup of Nations, for Switzerland for the awards presentation.
Adding insult to injury, Salah was not even selected to the Men’s World XI team.
But if Salah continues in the form he began with at the start of the 2021 season, scoring 26 times in 45 matches for club and country thus far, he stands a reasonable chance of being officially named the world’s best the next time around.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 January, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.