20 Striker Ajax (on loan from Bayer Leverkusen) Poland
2014 has been...
Before October’s clash between Poland and Germany in the qualifying groups for Euro 2016, the Polish side had never ever managed to secure a victory over their German rivals. A dogged, hard-working, disciplined and slightly fortuitous performance from Adam Nawałka’s side changed that as they ran out 2-0 winners on their way to their current spot at the top team in Group D.
Arkadiusz Milik scored the opener and in a single moment helped shake off some of the expectation that has surrounded him since his much heralded move to Bayer Leverkusen. Where he had seemed bogged down in constant comparisons between himself and Robert Lewandowski, another Polish export to the German top flight, Milik is starting to play his own way, is taking chances that he may have snatched at just six months ago and is giving a faltering career a good kick up the arse.
Having scored just two goals in 24 Bundesliga appearances for Bayer Leverkusen and Augsburg in the last two seasons, Milik’s much hyped move of 2012 appeared to be headed in the wrong direction when he was shipped out to Ajax on what we could only see as a move designed around damage limitation.
When Arkadiusz moved to Germany from Gornik Zabrze, Leverkusen were keen to play up their signing and sent out sporting director Rudi Voller, a decent number nine in his day, to give it something of the ‘big one’: “Arkadiusz Milik is considered to be possibly the biggest rising star in Poland at the moment. He has already made it to the Poland squad at the age of 18.”
Given that Lewandowski had just finished the 2011/12 season by firing Dortmund to the league title, it stands to no sense of reason at all that direct comparisons were made between Milik and the leading man for his country. Arkadiusz was staring down the massively unrealistic expectations of hitting the ground running and emulating his international colleague before he’d properly settled into his new club.
Unfortunately, he didn’t get a chance to settle. Stefan Kießling and Andre Schurrle were far too busy scoring 36 league goals between them in 2012/13 and that limited Milik to just 53 minutes of Bundesliga action in total. He didn’t a consistent run of games or any real chance to get used to his new team-mates in competitive action.
Leverkusen drafted Heung-Min Son and Eren Derdiyok in during the summer of 2013 to replace Schurrle and allowed their Polish sensation to join Augsburg for the season. Things didn’t improve for Milik even though he featured 18 times during the league season and did manage to score in just his second game with the club. He finished the season with just two league goals and his parent club appeared to have lost patience with him. They confirmed in May that he was being sent to Ajax for the 2014/15 season.
As we’ve already mentioned, it looked like a blatant attempt by the German side to recover some of their lost investment with a move to a new league and new surroundings.
However the move to Amsterdam has gone much better than anyone could have expected, even if there were a few initial hiccups along the way. Where we had figured all hope may have been lost, Arkadiusz has pulled it back from the brink after a truly special night in September.
Six goals (6) (SIX) in a single cup match on 24th September, three more for Poland since that all-important finish against Germany and another six for Ajax in all competitions in the last month or so has turned things right around for Milik. Everything is clicking just right for the front-man and he looks like a different player from the one that trudged around the pitch in Germany.
Confident in both feet, decent in the air and with enough grace in his touch to trap a ball, there is a lot to treasure in Milik. It’s clear to us now that patience is key to his development mixed in with an extended run of games. All six of his league goals this season in the Eredivise have come when starting the match.
The 20 year-old has a tall, strong frame and enough pace to keep up in a foot race. We’d liken him to Polish-born Miroslav Klose but drawing comparisons to the highest scorer in the history of the World Cup is just as unfair as those that labelled him as the next Lewandowski when he touched down in Germany.
We like Milik and feel confident that the player we have watched in the last seven weeks is much more of an indication of how he’ll turn out compared to the two tough seasons he had in Germany. The only worry is what happens next. Ajax have got first option on the player but with goals not appearing to be too much trouble at the moment, Bayer might be tempted to give him another spin in the Bundesliga once his loan finishes this May.
Another 18 months in the Eredivisie and then a second assault on one of the top tiers would be our considered opinion; but we’ve been wrong before.
“Robert Lewandowski may be Poland's darling, but at last Arkadiusz Milik is starting to step out of his shadow. After a while in the German wilderness, his move to Ajax has given him a chance to prove himself, and he has done so for both club and country. The new Lewandowski? Potentially he could even be the new Lubański!” – Ryan Hubbard
"Milik scored six of Ajax's nine goals against KNVB Cup in the Dutch Cup in September" - OptaJoe
C On the last seven weeks it’s an A all day long; but the rest has been a battle. Keep going.
For the best range of Nike Roshe Run, zip over to JD