It inevitably would have been a tale of two strikers when England meet Poland at Wembley on Wednesday night.
Comparisons between Harry Kane and Robert Lewandowski are, after all, only natural. Both are outstanding at what they do, modern masters of the art of goalscoring and both have the jaw-dropping numbers to back it up.
With that in mind, it’s pretty fortunate for England that Lewandowski has pulled out of the World Cup qualifier with a knee injury as they look to take command of their group.
Robert Lewandowski was due to face England for Poland on Wednesday before injury struck
He would have come up against England’s Harry Kane, who scored against Albania on Sunday
But even though they won’t go toe-to-toe this week, it could well be the case that the Bayern Munich man offers Kane a glimpse into his own future.
Lewandowski is 32 and scaling ever greater heights for his club, collecting medals for fun and doing his bit to completely obliterate the myth that footballers are over the hill at 30.
His astonishing return of 55 goals in 47 matches last season helped steer Bayern to a stunning Treble of Bundesliga, German Cup and Champions League.
At the moment, he has sights fixed on beating Gerd Muller’s record of 40 Bundesliga goals in a single season, a best that has stood for almost 50 years.
Lewandowski needs to score six more goals in Bayern’s final eight matches and will pray this injury setback isn’t too serious.
Lewandowski continues to scale the heights in terms of scoring and trophy wins at Bayern
The 32-year-old striker seems to get even better with age, scoring heaps of goals each season
But Lewandowski’s success came after he made the decision to leave Borussia Dortmund
But his stratospheric rise wouldn’t have been possible without the difficult decision Lewandowski made in 2014 to leave Borussia Dortmund and join their bitter rivals Bayern.
And as England captain Kane, 27, agonises over his own personal ambitions to win the highest honours in the game and the scope of Tottenham’s current potential to do just that, Lewandowski could be the perfect case study.
It’s no secret that Spurs appear to be heading backwards with Jose Mourinho in charge. They could yet win the Carabao Cup this season to end a 13-year trophy drought but there are already serious questions being asked about the manager’s future.
If Kane, who turns 28 in the summer, goes another season without a piece of silverware you have to wonder how much longer he will stay at Spurs when plenty of clubs with greater trophy-winning potential would be interested in him.
Indeed, a mere Carabao Cup on the CV of this exceptional striker by this stage of his career is exceedingly underwhelming, regardless of the Golden Boots and other personal accolades.
Kane hasn’t won any silverware with Tottenham and is attracting interest from other clubs
The striker’s chances of silverware seem to be receding with Jose Mourinho in charge at Spurs
Bundesliga 2010-11, 2011-12
German Cup 2011-12
Bundesliga 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17, 2017-18, 2018-19, 2019-20
German Cup 2015-16, 2018-19, 2019-20
Champions League 2019-20
UEFA Super Cup 2020
FIFA Club World Cup 2020
FIFA The Best World Player of the Year 2020
Goals for Tottenham – 215 in 327 matches
Overall club goals including loan spells – 231 in 392 matches
Goals for England – 33 in 52 matches
League Cup runner-up 2014-15
Champions League runner-up 2018-19
Nations League third place 2018-19
Premier League Golden Boot 2015-16, 2016-17
World Cup Golden Boot 2018
This generational English talent should be winning Premier League titles and conquering Europe but the years are slipping by and as much as his loyalty to Spurs is admirable, change is needed to win everything his heart desires.
As ITV pundit Roy Keane, someone who knows a thing or two about winning trophies, said on Sunday: ‘If you’re a top player you want to win trophies. It’s a big few months coming up for Tottenham, the League Cup final (against Man City), can they get in the top four? Huge question marks.
‘Will that influence him? He’s obviously under contract [until 2024], Tottenham will have a lot to say about it.
‘But if you’re in his shoes and it comes to the summer, I think the guy has to move on to really win the big prizes. He’s not going to do it at Tottenham.’
It isn’t a straight comparison in this regard with Lewandowski because he was part of Jurgen Klopp’s Dortmund side that won back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 2011 and 2012, reaching the Champions League final the year after that.
But since joining Bayern, the Pole has won six league titles, three German Cups and the Champions League last season. He was named FIFA’s best player in the world last year and deservedly so.
Dreams have been truly fulfilled and all by the age of 32.
Kane ducks in to head England’s opening goal in Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Albania in Tirana
That was England goal No 33 for Kane who is well on track to break Wayne Rooney’s record
Lewandowski made the move aged 26 when you’d expect him to be entering the traditional ‘prime’ of a player’s career. But his goal returns have continued on an upward curve even in his thirties and show no sign of plateauing.
Prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, when he was Kane’s age now (27), Lewandowski had scored 103 times in 187 games for Dortmund, 25 in 49 for Bayern, 41 in 82 for Lech Poznan and 33 in 73 for Poland.
Since then, he has netted an astonishing 263 in 276 for Bayern and an equally eye-catching 32 in 45 for his country.
The most prolific seasons of his club career have all come after turning 27 with all competition tallies of 42, 43, 41, 40 and 55 since 2015. He has 42 and counting in the present campaign.
Lewandowski powers home Poland’s second goal in their 3-0 qualifying win over Andorra
Poland’s attack will certainly be blunted by news that Lewandowski will miss out at Wembley
Kane’s Tottenham return of 215 in 327 games, plus the 33 in 52 he has scored for England, have him on course to break club, country and Premier League records.
But you’d expect such an expert goalscorer to smash even those figures if he led the line for Manchester City, Real Madrid or Barcelona, teams more geared up to attack than Mourinho’s often over-cautious Spurs.
Goals are one aspect of this but trophies and legacy are just as important. Kane could look at the feats achieved by Lewandowski after the age of 27 and feel confidence he could do similar.
Kane has always been on his guarded whenever the subject of his Spurs future is raised. It was the same prior to Sunday’s 2-0 win in Albania.
‘I think that’s a hard question to answer right now,’ he said before the stock reply about being focused exclusively on England’s games and a strong finish to the season with Spurs. ‘And then we’ll see where we go from there.’
Lewandowski was named FIFA’s The Best Player of the Year after an exceptional year in 2020
The Polish striker has added six Bundesliga titles at Bayern to the two he won with Dortmund
Kane wouldn’t want to upset anyone associated with the club that proudly boasts he’s one of their own. But he knows that tough, career-defining decision is one he can’t put off for too much longer as he enters his pomp.
He was glowing in his praise of Lewandowski when asked about the Poland striker last week. He compared him to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in terms of maintaining the highest standards post-30.
‘I’m 27 and still feel I’ve plenty more years to go and learn and improve. When I look at players like [Lewandowski] it only gives me more motivation to do it as well. I certainly feel I can.’
No doubt there were plenty at Dortmund who told Lewandowski the grass wasn’t necessarily greener at their Bavarian rivals. After all, Klopp’s team were a title-winning force at the time and performing well in Europe.
But, as the subsequent years have told us, his career was elevated to a whole new dimension of scoring and success as a result of making that leap.
Could Kane now follow the same path?