For whatever reason, Polish football can't get it's act together on the world stage, despite the talent and ability of many Polish players. Pawel Brozek is a fine example and a player that was once courted by Fulham. Michal Zachodny has a sad tale to tell.
Leo Beenhakker may be brave enough to walk around (as he did) and tell everyone willing to listen that we have some great talents in Poland. He said this so many times that many of us believed it may be true, but then he got sacked after some truly horrible games as the Polish national coach. Now Poland has new manager and all we can see is how talent is wasted – with the best example being Paweł Brożek, the Wisła Kraków striker.
Paweł story is also the same of his twin brother, Piotr. They are so similar looking that a few days ago, new Wisła manager, Robert Maaskant had problems with recognizing who is who and had to count on his assistant for which one is a left back and which one is a striker.
Their careers so far are almost the same, apart from few loan moves from Wisła Kraków. They have been with the club for eleven years now but it is Paweł whose career is much wealthier, especially in call ups to the national team but also appearances, goals and recognition from the managers and scouts of other clubs. The Brożek twins had a trial at West Ham together back in December 2004 but since then only Paweł has been offered to a better clubs.
If you don’t know who he is, let me introduce you to the talent of Paweł Brożek. He is great by Polish standards and between average and good for the better leagues. His only weakness is his left foot – covering the ball very well, heading is great, he does well in one on ones, moving nicely, looking to create chances rather than waiting for one in the box. Add his ability to score a goal with a great header, long shot or just passing it into the net, Paweł has great technique. He also has a cheeky nature. He won’t stay silent if a ref gets a decision wrong, or not in his favor and will seek revenge if a defender tackles too hard.
For all that Paweł really ‘is not that kind of player’, he just knows that he is head and shoulders above this league, better than any other Polish striker on their best day. Or should I say – he was better than any other player in the Polish league. Now, he is like dozens of others – a talent, once linked with good clubs in one of the best leagues but since then only reliving their career.
His problems started at the beginning of 2009, when Paweł landed awkwardly on his knee and was told he had suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury. That would be the biggest disaster for him as he was very valuable for the national team and being closely watched by Fulham scouts. Everybody was expecting him to undergo surgery and miss rest of the season, but this never happened. With no surgery, as the injury was not considered that serious , Paweł was back in action after a few weeks and was top scorer that season, winning the championship with Wisła.
The summer proved decisive – his move to Fulham was canceled by Wisła and the player himself didn’t want a move to Rubin Kazan for even bigger money. But it was an awful summer on the field for him. Wisła lost (again) on their way to Champions League in a horrible manner to Estonian champions, Levadia Tallinn. The rest of the season wasn’t that good for the player either – he scored only ten times in over thirty games for Wisła and clearly had some issues with the club after they stopped his move to the Premier League.
Where he is now? Well, if the last summer was awful, then how about this one? Wisła, under Henryk Kasperczak's management, tried to qualify for the Europa League but failed as Qarabagh held them on their way winning both games. Paweł played, but he was out of form – not creating, not finishing, and not giving 100% for the team. After the Europa League exit Wisła changed managers, first for a caretaker, Tomasz Kulawik, and after two weeks, there is a permanent one; Robert Maaskant. Both managers saw that Paweł has his mind somewhere else, wants to finally get out of Kraków and he only made to the bench in the last two games.
Scorer of 75 goals in 167 games for Wisła Kraków but not moving anywhere now. The club wants too much for him? His wage demands are too high? He loves his club so much? No – it’s simply too late for him, nobody wants him now.
This is a sad story about one of the brightest talents in Polish football for many years. Paweł had the skill to make it in a better league, but was, perhaps, naïve? Maybe he was scared of moving abroad? Or not so sure of his talent? One of these surely, as he turned down move to France saying it is too early for him, despite being 24 at the time.
Leo Beenhakker believed in him. Before Euro 2008, Beenhakker didn’t want to call him up saying he is not international class yet but during the qualification campaign for World Cup 2010 finally found a place for him. During the training sessions of the national team Beenhakker watched Paweł closely, trained with him personally, counted on him to be the leader, score the goals, and be the player he can be. Paweł Brożek, despite scoring against Czech Republic, never rose to the challenge offered by the Dutch manager.
Paweł never really rose to be the talent he showed us he can one day be. He is now 27 and already opinions may be heard that he has his best behind him. Brożek is staying in Kraków for another season and must work harder and make serious decisions – about his health and career. If he doesn’t do that, soon there might not even be a place for him on the Wisła bench.
If you would like to read more from Michal, please visit his website Polish Football Scout.