He’s Poland’s talisman, arguably their greatest ever footballer and is gearing up to star at his first World Cup.
But behind Robert Lewandowski’s remarkable success story for both club and country is a heartbreaking tale.
The Bayern Munich striker (pictured), who is his nation’s all-time leading scorer with 55 goals, will have one regret when he steps onto the Otkrytiye Arena pitch in Moscow on Saturday.
A year before Robert, 29, made his professional debut, his hero and sports-obsessed father passed away, missing the opportunity to see his son play professionally.
Krzysztof Lewandowski was well recognised for his sporting achievements in his homeland.
Aside from being a judo champion in the 1970s, Krzysztof played second division football for Hutnik Warszawa.
And sport was very much the main focus for the Lewandowski family, with mother Iwona a former pro volleyball player too.
With such a heritage, it seemed inevitable that Robert would follow in his parents’ footsteps.
He caught the football bug at a young age, so Krzysztof happily accompanied his boy to Partyzant Leszno training sessions, spotting young Robert’s talent with a ball early on.
By the age of nine, Lewandowski was training with local team Varsovia Warszawa, honing the skills that would serve him well in the future.
Playing on hard, sandy, grassless pitches, the close control he’s now known for began to develop in the poor footballing conditions he was first introduced to.
And if the quality of the turf was lacking, the changing rooms weren’t much better either.
Unheated old barracks with broken windows while playing during the cold, winter months didn’t deter Robert’s drive and determination to make it to the top.
Within seven years, he signed for Delta Warsaw – a fifth tier Polish side known to be a direct supplier of players to one of the country’s biggest teams, Legia Warsaw.
It was then that a 16-year-old “Lewy”, as he was known to his teammates, started to realise his potential.
Legia’s scouts were impressed. His attitude and appetite for the game resulted in rapid progress.
He scored goals for fun, stood out from the crowd and whispers were reverberating around the club that Legia were interested in signing him up.
However, Robert’s world came crashing down at a critical time when football was starting to become his chosen career path.
In 2005, his dad Krzysztof underwent a potentially life-saving operation, bu the long-time cancer sufferer died just a few days after when he suffered a stroke.
Lewandowski told Bild: “His death was the toughest time for me.” -THE SUN