Bundesliga strikers target Lewandowski’s coveted ‘cannon’

Bayern's Sadio Mane celebrates after the German Bundesliga soccer match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayern Munich in Frankfurt, Germany, Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

BERLIN (AP) — Robert Lewandowski’s departure from the Bundesliga sure is good news for the rest of the league’s sharpshooters.

The coveted “cannon” — an artillery-shaped award given to the leading scorer in Germany’s top division each year — is back up for grabs.

Lewandowski had established a firm grip on the trophy by winning it for the last five years. The Poland star scored 35 league goals for Bayern Munich before opting for a switch to Barcelona in the offseason. He scored 41 goals the season before, breaking Gerd Müller’s old league record. Altogether, Lewandowski won the cannon seven times after finishing top scorer in 2014, when he was with Borussia Dortmund, and 2016.

Erling Haaland might have challenged for Lewandowski’s crown but the Norwegian is also gone – joining Manchester City to help Pep Guardiola’s team as it bids to finally win the Champions League.

But that leaves a host of players who could potentially shoot their way to the cannon this season – including Germany forward Timo Werner, who returned to Leipzig from Chelsea this week, and Anthony Modeste, signed by Borussia Dortmund as a replacement for the sidelined Sébastien Haller. Modeste scored 20 goals for Cologne last season. Dortmund plays at Freiburg on Friday.

Bayer Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick scored 24, finishing second in the charts behind Lewandowski. The Czech Republic forward might have been a target for other clubs, but he signed a new deal at Leverkusen to stay until 2027.

Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku scored 20 goals last season and is already off the mark this season, scoring his team’s only goal in the 1-1 draw at Stuttgart last weekend. He also extended his contract amid reported interest from other clubs.

“We’re proud and happy that we could keep one of the best players in the world at the moment in Leipzig,” technical director Christopher Vivell said.

United States forward Jordan Pefok scored on his Bundesliga debut for Union Berlin last weekend. He also scored on his German Cup debut. Pefok, who has one goal in nine appearances for the U.S., was the Swiss league’s top scorer with 22 last season and clearly fits Union’s style of play.

Simon Terodde was top-scorer in the second division four times. After helping Schalke to promotion with 30 goals last season, the 34-year-old Terodde will hope to continue his form in the top division.

Some other forwards worth watching: Saša Kalajdžić at Stuttgart, if he stays amid reported interest from Manchester United; Eintracht Frankfurt’s new signing Randal Kolo Muani, who scored on his debut against Bayern Munich; and Portugal forward André Silva at Leipzig, where he hasn’t yet settled since his transfer in 2021 from Frankfurt.

And what about Bayern, which hosts Wolfsburg on Sunday?

Sadio Mané joined from Liverpool to help make up for Lewandowski’s departure. But the Senegal forward is a different type of player and is not expected to match the Pole’s scoring prowess.

Still, Mané scored on his debut last weekend. Jamal Musiala got two goals and Joshua Kimmich, Benjamin Pavard and Serge Gnabry also scored as Bayern routed Eintracht Frankfurt 6-1 and showed no reliance on a certain former player.

Bayern also agreed to pay up to nearly $30 million to Rennes for French teenager Mathys Tel. The 17-year-old Tel didn’t score in nine appearances for Rennes, but Bayern is convinced he could be a future star.

Mané is more likely than Tel to challenge for the top-scorer cannon in the short term. The Senegal star scored 111 goals in 262 Premier League games, where he often played on the wing. Playing as a No. 9, he scored 19 goals in 29 games for Liverpool, an encouraging quota especially with the level of support he’ll get from Bayern’s attacking lineup.

Only one player managed to win the cannon in his first season in the Bundesliga — Bayern’s Italian forward Luca Toni with 24 goals in 2007-08.

Mané has a good chance of becoming the second. The league started with 33 goals across nine games last weekend with plenty of high-scoring rounds ahead.