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How Blackburn Rovers almost bought Robert Lewandowski

Sky Sports News ' Alan Myers and Keith James recall how a volcano eruption prevented one of world football's most prolific strikers arriving at Ewood Park nine years ago; This article was first published in October 2019

Robert Lewandowski
Image: Lewandowski has scored 18 goals in 13 games at the start of this season

How different it might have been.

In 2010, Blackburn were hovering in the middle reaches of the Premier League table, with manager Sam Allardyce keen for his side to convert more of the chances being created by the likes of Morten Gamst Pedersen and David Dunn.

Goals were proving hard to come by for Rovers at the time, during the 2009/10 campaign their forwards Jason Roberts, Franco Di Santo, Nikola Kalinic, David Hoilett mustered just eight between them in the top-flight.

Lewandowski has scored 209 goals in 255 games since joining Bayern Munich
Image: Lewandowski has scored 209 goals in 255 games since joining Bayern Munich

Attacking midfielder Dunn was their top scorer with nine goals out of Rovers' 41 in the Premier League that season.

In stepped the club's Head of Recruitment, Martyn Glover.

Glover had been made aware of a forward who had netted 21 times in 34 games for Polish side Lech Poznan that season; he had a plan which may have created a striking legend to rival the one created by Alan Shearer.

"We'd seen a lot of Robert Lewandowski and we knew we were dealing with a top-class striker," remembers Glover, who is now Head of Recruitment at Southampton.

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"We had a deal in mind and went along with Sam (Allardyce) to see him playing for Lech Poznan.

Robert Lewandowski
Image: Lewandowski netted twice in Bayern's 7-2 victory against Tottenham in the Champions League group stage

"Discussions with the club president went as planned, to we sat down with Robert after the game and had an outline proposal in place for him to join Rovers.

"After that, whatever could have gone wrong, went wrong. He was due to fly to the UK but all flights were cancelled due to that volcanic ash cloud.

"The chairman (John Williams) was worried that Poland wasn't famous for producing prolific goal scorers and there were questions raised around the fee, which was around £3m, rising to £4m," explained Glover, one of the Premier league's most respected talent spotters.

"Worse still, the player had a pal who played at Borussia Dortmund who obviously got in his ear and before we could do anything, he'd signed for Dortmund for around the same fee."

"He's certainly close to the top of any list of the ones that got away!"

'Maybe if I'd went there, Blackburn would have been my first choice'

Sky Sports News reporter Alan Myers gives his take on the failed move...

There have been many excuses from managers over the years on how and why they missed out on their top transfer target, but none can be as bizarre as an ash cloud from Iceland.

 during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Everton at St. James Park on December 13, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.
Image: Sam Allardyce tried to bring Robert Lewandowski to Ewood Park when he was Blackburn manager in 2010

The ash cloud in question was a result of an eruption of Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland and grounded most of Northern Europe's flights, one of which was due to take Lewandowski to Blackburn to discuss terms ahead of a move to Ewood Park.

Lewandowski had been scoring goals freely for his Polish first-division side and was attracting interest from a few clubs in England, including current Blackburn Manager and then West Brom boss Tony Mowbray.

Thanks to Glover's network of scouts, Big Sam was at the front of the queue.

Eyjafjallajokull volcano, the eruption which prevented Robert Lewandowski signing for Blackburn
Image: Eyjafjallajokull volcano, the eruption which prevented Robert Lewandowski signing for Blackburn

But speaking in 2017, Lewandowski said: "I could not fly to Blackburn because of the volcano but I wanted to go there just to see what the club is like because I didn't know back then where I was going because if I travelled there, I would then know which is the best club for me.

"Maybe if I went there and saw the club, the stadium and everything, it would have become my first choice".

Lewandowski went on to score 103 goals in 187 appearances for Dortmund and has 209 in 255 matches for Bayern Munich to date.

Imagine what a 30-goal-a-season striker could have done for Blackburn's Premier League prospects nearly a decade ago.

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