It was just another day at the office for Robert Lewandowski. He bagged the opener in a 2-0 victory at Union Berlin but his performance was hardly memorable.

The striker had fewer touches (33) than any other Bayern Munich starter on Sunday and managed only two attempts at goal, getting on the scoresheet from the spot with one of them.

Yet, his strike held plenty of significance.

In converting the penalty that Leon Goretzka won, Lewandowski notched up his 40th goal of the season in club football, marking the fifth consecutive time he’s reached that milestone.

The only other players to celebrate that accomplishment in the 21st century?

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.

For over a decade their duopoly has ruled the world of football, fending off confrontations from pretenders along the way.

The likes of Neymar, Gareth Bale, Mohamed Salah, Luis Suarez and even Radamel Falcao have, at various junctures, threatened to force their way into that exclusive bracket but none were able to sustain a challenge.

That’s precisely why Lewandowski’s accomplishment carries so much weight. The Poland international is arguably the finest striker in the modern era and has consistently proved his quality season after season since his emergence.

His numbers in the last five years though have catapulted him into a new stratosphere, heights that only Messi and Ronaldo have scaled among the current crop of superstars.

It’s not just about the goals either. At 31, Lewandowski is only a year younger than Messi. It takes great dedication to maintain such a standard of fitness, avoid serious injury and remain sharp for every outing.

That level of commitment and mental strength can’t be understated.

What’s remarkable is that Lewandowski appears to be in the form of his life when he should really be slowing down.

For the first time in his career, he’s averaging more than a goal a game, reaching his tally of 40 for the campaign in only 34 appearances. He’s on course for his best-ever season.

It’s that sort of logic-defying output that makes him worthy of being in the company of Ronaldo and Messi.

The argument can always be made that Lewandowski has played as an out-and-out striker throughout his career, hanging on the shoulder of the last defender or lurking within the 18-yard box ready to pounce while the multiple Ballon d’Or winners have often operated from wider or deeper roles.

There are a couple of issues with that school of thought.

First, anyone who’s watched Lewandowski closely for longer than a few minutes will recognise that he’s so much more than a goal poacher. His ability to hold-up the ball and link play together in the final third is integral to the way Bayern operate. He creates space and, in turn, chances for others more often than he’s given credit for.

Secondly, whether his role as the lone striker gives him an advantage in terms of goalscoring is up for debate.

He’s one of the few remaining pure number nines in the modern game while there are fewer still that can be considered ‘elite’.

That’s because the game has evolved to a point where systems are so fluid that forwards are allowed the freedom to roam, find space and evade markers.

With success and recognition also comes added attention from defenders and that’s something Harry Kane is battling with at Tottenham. In the last couple of seasons, he’s dropped deeper and deeper to try to affect the game.

Ronaldo still plays as a wide forward, whether he’s positioned on the left flank on paper or as part of a front two.

Meanwhile, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has found his role on the left at Arsenal to be liberating, clearly posing a greater threat in that position as compared to playing as a centre forward and coping with the restrictions and responsibilities that come with leading the line.

The traditional number nine is a dying breed and Lewandowski’s numbers in that position are truly astounding.

Realistically, he’ll never be remembered as someone who was on par with Ronaldo and Messi. The notion that anyone from this era will is absurd.

But let’s not allow the aura of those two legends to blind us from seeing and appreciating the spectacular achievements of those around them.

At this moment, and for a significant amount of time, Lewandowski is performing as well as anyone in the world.

In terms of goalscoring at least, he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Ronaldo and Messi. Look at the numbers, no one can deny him that.

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