Arkadiusz Milik 19 Striker FC Augsburg (on loan from Bayer Leverkusen) Poland
2013 has been…
Improving steadily. Whilst a trio of familiar names have developed into truly world-class performers at Dortmund, Messrs Błaszczykowski, Lewandowski and Piszczek have been the exception rather than the norm and the lack of top class youngsters emerging from Poland has been an issue since the days of Zbigniew Boniek. An absolute standout for Gornik Zabrze in the Ekstraklasa, Arkadiusz Milik is, arguably, the most exciting talent to emerge in Poland for decades.
Proficient as a main or second striker, or as an attacking midfielder, Milik has goals in him and Bayer Leverkusen wasted no time in snapping up the teenager around publishing time of The 100 last year.
Initially drafted straight into the first team squad at the BayArena, Milik was rewarded with game time in the latter stages of several Bundesliga matches during 2012-13, but rarely had time to make a significant impact. All the while he continued to intertwine club matches with international appearances for the Polish national team at under-19, 21 and senior level, continually looking threatening, a player desperate to impress.
First team starts at Leverkusen are a hard won commodity, and that is especially true at present, but five goals from four starts for the second team during early summer underlined the quality that Milik possesses. Rather than allow their youngster to stay with the reserves, Leverkusen set up a loan move for Milik to Augsburg during the German pre season. After battling with a few niggling injuries, the young attacker has gradually expanded his game time at the SGL Arena over the last few months, and scored his first Bundesliga goal, a vital late equaliser against Borussia Mönchengladbach, after arriving as a sub for Halil Altintop.
There is a very definite upward trend about Arkadiusz Milik right now, minutes on the pitch have increased and he has been starting games of late, which will delight his parent club. Just as significantly, he has been in magnificent form for the Polish under-21 side scoring nine in the last six, including back-to-back hat tricks in his last two matches.
We have been very carefully monitoring the performances of young Poles Milik and his compatriot Piotr Zielinski at Udinese over recent months with a view to seeing who might be in the frame to make The 100 for 2014. We like both players a great deal and there is no doubt that they will benefit from regular club football. At this moment in time, Milik looks the more likely to obtain a good run of games in the Bundesliga for Augsburg and his recent goals for the under-21’s indicate a player in good form. Zielinski may find things a little trickier to navigate in the coming months.
Further good news for Milik comes in the shape of Adam Nawałka’s promotion to take charge of the Polish national team; the former Górnik Zabrze coach knows Milik very well having signed and given the youngster his Ekstraklasa debut in 2011. With Poland missing out on Brasil 2014, all focus will be on qualifying for an expanded European Championships in 2016. As things stand, Milik couldn’t be in a much stronger position moving forward.
As we head towards the winter break in Germany, Augsburg sit in a relatively healthy mid table position, but it would be foolish to imagine that Markus Weinzierl’s team are already safe from the drop. The second half of the Bundesliga season will require a substantial points haul to avoid becoming dragged into a relegation battle, but the Fuggerstädter’s have set themselves up nicely. With Altintop and Raúl Bobadilla failing to worry the goalscoring charts, there is a good chance that the bright and bubbly Milik will see further action in the coming months.
A year that started slowly has gained momentum and there is a great deal for Poland and Arkadiusz Milik to be positive about as 2013 reaches an end. Hitting the net a few more times for Augsburg will be a necessity, but if this talented attacker can persuade Sami Hyypiä that he MUST be in the frame at a rapidly improving Leverkusen, the future will be very bright indeed.
"Though his move to Leverkusen hasn't yet panned-out as hoped, a year-long loan to Augsburg and his subsequent form for Poland's Under 21s has seen Arek show why he is so valued in his home country. With nine goals in eight appearances for the youth setup, and his former Górnik Zabrze boss Adam Nawałka now in charge of the national team, it wouldn't be surprising to see him play some part as Poland attempt to reach France 2016." - Ryan Hubbard, Ekstraklasa Review
C Getting better, the next objective is to become indispensable at Bayer Leverkusen