In the first ever guestpost here on Rightbankwarsaw I pass the reins over to Stephen Pollard who gives his three Polish players to watch in 2014.
Łukasz Teodorczyk (Lech Poznań)
When Latvian goal-machine Artjioms Rudnevs left western Poland for Germany at the start of last season, there was a lot of uneasiness among the Lech faithful regarding his replacement. To a large extent, their worries were justified in the 2012/2013 season, with Bartosz Ślusarski and former Polonia Warsaw striker Teodorczyk failing to fire the six time Polish title winners to a seventh triumph – with Lech ultimately losing out to Legia.
This campaign has been different. Although overall it has been a frustrating and injury filled one for Lech, the 22 year-old front man has been a light in the relative darkness. Going into the winter break Teo has already reached double figures in the league as he leads the line for a relatively young and inexperienced Lech side.
Teodorczyk has always been a talented player. As a youngster playing for Polonia, he was top scorer in the Młoda Ekstraklasa and impressed greatly in the Ekstraklasa during the autumn of the 2012-3 season as Polonia went into the winter break in third place. His form earned him a move to Lech, and whilst Teo looked out of sorts in the spring, this season he has been at the top of his game.
Now listed on Transfermarkt,de as being worth over £1 million, a continuation in his form will inevitably lead to him being picked up by an overseas club. Once abroad Teo will dream of achieving success similar to that of his Lech predecessor Robert Lewandowski. Hopefully he will not go the way of another Lech export Aleksander Tonev, who currently sits on the bench at Aston Villa.
Udinese’s Piotr Zieliński has had a rather different rise to stardom than the aforementioned Teodorcyzk, The 19 year-old Zielinski avoided the Ekstraklasa route entirely when he was picked up in the summer of 2011 by Italian club Udinese while impressing as a youth player for Zagłębie Lubin – a club he joined in 2007.
Zieliński may stand at just 5 foot nine inches in height, but appears taller. The natural successor to the frozen out Ludovic Obraniak in the Poland number 10 shirt, his awareness of space at such a young age is very impressive. He’s able to turn a player on a six pence, instinctively aware of where an opponent is at any given time.
He spent a year at Udinese in the youth/reserve set up before being promoted to the first team last season. He made his debut for the club from north-eastern Italy as a 91st minute substitute replacing the enigma that is Antonio Di Natale against Cagliari on November 2nd 2012. He has since gone on to appear for Udinese’s first team a further fourteen times.
With an obviously bright future ahead of him, it is no surprise that he already has 5 full international caps, netting a total of three times in his five outings. His debut goal, which also turned out to be a match-winner, came in a 3-2 friendly win over Denmark. His other two goals came in a 5-1 win in World cup qualifying against lowly San Marino, a game in which he bagged the opener and added the fourth for the Białe Orly.
Zieliński undoubtedly has the potential to make the number 10 role for the Polish national team his own over the coming years. Indeed, he looks a natural in the position with his passing ability and superb control of the ball in tight situations. If Adam Nawalka can build a team around Zieliński and Lewandowski, things may begin to look up for Poland.
Mateusz Zachara (Górnik Zabrze)
We move back to the Ekstraklasa for the final member of our trio. This player is bang in form Górnik Zabrze striker Mateusz Zachara. 23 year old Zachara is the talk of the Polish football community this season.
He has scored ten times in the league, a total which has rocketed Gornik Zabrze into the top two after finishing outside the European spots last season. He’s a player who every Ekstraklasa club dreams of having in their front line. He has impressive movement in the box and instinctively knows where the ball will fall in the penalty area. This is something that cannot be taught and Zachara has it in abundance.
Don’t think though, that Zachara is a Polish Javier Hernandez, who is only effective in front of goal – Zachara has pitched in with six assists to add to his ten goals in twenty one Ekstraklasa appearances.
Zachara’s form has brought the attention of foreign scouts, including that of Dutch table toppers Vitesse Arnhem and Eredivisie strugglers NEC Nijmegen. Zachara’s contract runs out in the summer so Górnik are left with a familiar dilemma – make a profit on the player now and lose him for the run in, or let him go in the summer, giving them the possibility to claim an Ekstraklasa title.
Regardless, Ekstraklasa fans will continue to enjoy Zachara while he is still in the league and with Lewandowski, Bayer Leverkusen’s Arkadiusz Milik and Teodorcyzk 25 or under, the future of the Polish national strike force cannot get much brighter.
Thanks ever so much to Stephen for writing this post. You can follow him on Twitter here