Mariusz Stepinski 21 Striker Nantes Poland
Tall, dark, handsome, powerful and adept striker that is starting to gain serious traction as young player of note in European football.
A youth team player for Piast Błaszki and Pogoń-Ekolog Zduńska Wola, Stępiński was already well known in youth footballing circles across Poland when he made his debut for Widzew Łódź as a last minute substitute at Lech Poznan in late 2011. Aged just sixteen, the young striker was selected regularly by coach Radosław Mroczkowski over the next two years and by the 2012-13 season he had become almost indispensable to his team. A first goal against Gornik Zabrze in September 2012 was welcome, but an impressive solo performance to help demolish Polonia Warsaw – at that point pushing for the Ekstraklasa title – in the Spring of 2013 was noted by many scouts present at the Stadion Widzewa.
With his reputation growing by the week, Stępiński agreed a three year contract with Nürnberg in June, 2013. However the move proved to be far from perfect. Well away from first team action, the Sieradz-born teenager struggled with his new life in Germany and was returned to Poland the following summer on loan to Wisła Kraków.
Despite a return to more familiar surroundings, Stępiński failed to offer much, even though he was given every opportunity by coach Franciszek Smuda. With their young striker out of form, low on confidence and unable to make a significant impact in a lesser league, Nürnberg decided to cut their losses and in 2015 sold Stępiński to Ruch Chorzow at a significant loss on their original investment.
2016 has been…
A step forward. Under the guidance of former national coach Waldemar Fornalik, who knew him from Łódź as a youth player, Stępiński blossomed at Ruch. Scoring the winner against Korona Kielce in the first Ekstraklasa match of the season – within minutes of arriving as a second half sub – Stępiński rapidly regained his goalscoring mojo. Ending the season with fifteen goals from thirty starts the one-time golden teenager had finally arrived and was fulfilling his undoubted potential at last.
As an out an out centre-forward capable of scoring with head and both feet Stępiński was back on the radars of many clubs again. Perhaps mindful of his difficult time in Germany, Bundesliga clubs largely held off this time. Instead, René Girard’s Nantes pulled off something of a coup in capturing the young Pole, who was an unused squad player at Euro 2016, in a £1.7m move during the summer.
After a reasonable start to the season things have unravelled very quickly for Nantes in Ligue 1. At time of writing coach Girard has just been relieved of his duties and you can only see a continued struggle ahead for Les Canaris. Goals are going to be hard to come by for the Pays de la Loire club from here on in and neither Emiliano Sala or Yacine Bammou, as the senior strikers at the cub, have given an indication that they will be able to fire their employers to safety. Stępiński, on the other hand, has found his feet reasonably well and while the move has been a step up in terms of requirement, he has applied himself relatively well. Two goals and three assists from ten starts is nothing to crow about but there are signs that he is learning.
2017 is going to be an interesting year for Mariusz Stępiński. A very promising young goalscorer who is being readied to follow on from Messrs Lewandowski and Milik for Poland has a good opportunity to stand out. We’d wager that next summer will bring another move, but to which level depends on the next few months.
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