Krzysztof Piątek has started like a house on fire in Genoa. As I write this piece he’s got an unbelievable 13 goals in 8 competitive games in Italy, 13 GOALS IN 8 COMPETITIVE GAMES, it’s so good it needs to be repeated again and again and again. People all over Poland are splashing water on their faces and pinching themselves to check if it’s actually true. After all this is a player who’s 23 years old and hasn’t played outside of Poland’s much maligned domestic league until this point and someone whose transfer fee – 4.5 million Euros is literally nothing in the over-bloated transfer market of 2018 fuelled by ridiculous TV contracts and UEFA money flooding into the pockets of the largest clubs. If La Gazzetta dello Sport is to be believed Genoa have placed a 60 million Euro price tag on Piątek’s head and Napoli, Juventus and Bayern Munich are waiting in line to splash the cash for the red-hot striker. But what does Piątek’s transfer tell us about Poland and the way we should view football in this country?
Firstly, it should make us question the dominant narrative in Poland that the Ekstraklasa is a terrible league. Polish commentators love to pour hot water on any positivity about the league in this country, if the Ekstraklasa was a person it’d have been burned at the stake long ago. Yes, its clubs are under-performing in European competitions, yes financially clubs in this country are not run as well as they should be but there are a growing number of players who are doing well in top 5 leagues. More precisely in Serie A, where a whole host of Polish players, almost all of them who have also came through the Ekstraklasa, are performing impressively. Can a league which has produced Karol Linetty, Dawid Kownacki, Krzysztof Piątek and Arkadiusz Milik actually be that bad?
Secondly, Piątek’s transfer shows that there is massive value in the Polish market for clubs from top 5 leagues. Certainly some players from the Polish league have not succeeded when they have attempted to break through in the West. The clearest example of this is Bartosz Kapustka who has totally failed to live up to the hype after his move to Leicester City in 2016. However for a club like Leicester City the amount spent on Kapustka only adds up to the yearly salary of their highest paid player Jamie Vardy, so spending 4-5 million Pounds on a decent prospect for Premiership clubs is hardly any risk at all. Piątek going for 4.5 million Euros (a tenth of the price of Gylfi Sigurdsson) should see a flood of scouts attempt to penetrate the Polish market.
Thirdly, Ekstraklasa clubs need to arm themselves in preparation for the scouts who will be arriving on these shores in the aftermath of Piątek mania. Polish clubs have been noticeably poor at monetising the sales of their best assets. When Arkadiusz Milik was sold by Górnik Zabrze in August 2012 the Silesian club only received 2.6 million Euros for him, in 2016 Milik went for 35 million Euros to Napoli. In Poland there was huge excitement in the summer of 2017 when Dawid Kownacki, Tomasz Kędziora and Jan Bednarek were sold by Lech Poznań for a combined total of 11.5 million Euros. Again these kind of fees are pocket change for even medium sized clubs in the top 5 leagues. Polish clubs need to be prepared to hold on for larger offers for their best players.
Piątek’s level will inevitably drop at some point but hopefully the European buzz around the player will teach Polish clubs to manage their assets properly. Personally I’d like them to wait a little longer than they normally do before they sell. Then the Ekstraklasa will get the benefit of these players for longer and Polish clubs will be able to sell for larger sums. Let’s hope Polish clubs have been taking notes.