Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski has found himself on the bench for a Bundesliga match for the first time in more than two years.
The prolific hitman was left out by head coach Hansi Flick for the trip to face Hoffenheim, with young Dutch forward Joshua Zirkzee preferred in his place to lead an attacking line that also consists of Leroy Sane, Thomas Muller and Serge Gnabry.
A clash against Augsburg at home on September 25, 2018 was the last time he did not feature in the starting XI when fit from the outset for a league match.
Lewandowski has been enjoying the greatest form of his life and played a major role in Bayern’s success on both the domestic and European front last season, scoring 55 goals in 47 outings as the Allianz Arena side swept all before them.
The 32-year-old Poland international had also made a strong start to the current campaign, notching a goal and two assists in the Bundesliga clash against Schalke, which they won 8-0, while also grabbing an assist in Thursday’s European Super Cup triumph over Sevilla.
That clash against the Spanish side stretched all the way to extra-time, and with the striker having played every minute of those two hours in Budapest, he has been omitted from the starting XI to face the Hoff.
“We didn't really celebrate, we were all too exhausted from the 120 minutes,” he told Bild in the aftermath of their midweek win.
“On Saturday we're flying back to Hoffenheim, we don't have a day off. Actually, five days of ice baths would be nice now.”
It has opened a rare window of opportunity for 19-year-old Zirkzee to start, with the teenager posting just the fourth Bundesliga start of his career. When he has featured previously from the outset, he has scored two goals and created another.
Lewandowski, meanwhile, is widely considered to have been a leading candidate to win the 2020 Ballon d’Or had it not been cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nevertheless, the former Borussia Dortmund scorer has been shortlisted for the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year along with Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne and FCB club-mate Manuel Neuer.
It is the first time in 10 years that Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi and Juventus ace Cristiano Ronaldo have not been on the list.