Once upon a time, South America was the main source of foreign talent for Serie A. However, with Argentine and Brazilian teams realising that big European clubs have always been crazy about their young talents, the prices have increased dramatically in recent years.
The unwillingness of Italian clubs to take the chance and overspend for unproven youngsters with hot tempers and no experience in Europe is completely understandable, as among the new Kaka and Ronaldo there are hundreds of Gabigols. Combine this with the pure economical disadvantage of Italy, compared to the Premier League and the big clubs from other top European leagues, and the Italians’ shift of focus towards Eastern Europe looks completely logical.
Over the last few seasons we have seen many Croatians, Serbians, Slovenians, Slovakians and Albanians plying their trade in Italy’s top flight, but currently Poland seems to be the hottest destination with 15 Serie A representatives. The Polish talent is spread among 11 clubs, with Sampdoria having the strongest presence in their squad with three players.
At 26 years of age and with 31 league appearances last term, Bartosz Bereszyński is already a key member of Marco Giampaolo’s backline, not only because of his juggernaut-like physique, but also his skills on the ball, which were evident in his assist to Fabio Quagliarella’s magical goal against Napoli on Sunday.
Karol Linetty might be only 23, but he has amassed an impressive 64 appearances for Samp in the last two seasons and is another key figure in the side, while the once labeled as ‘the new Robert Lewandowski’, 21-year-old Dawid Kownacki can still be considered a bright prospect for the future.
Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik and Piotr Zielinski have also thrived under Maurizio Sarri and with both players still being only 24, it seems that they will be playing a fundamental role under Carlo Ancelotti as well. Unfortunately for Milik, his injuries have somewhat slowed his development, but the quality of the former Ajax forward has never been in doubt. As for Zielinski, the midfielder’s potential and room for improvement are really frightening, especially considering how good he is at the moment.
Another standout name is Juventus’ Wojciech Szczesny, who managed to outgrow the mediocrity he was stuck in at Arsenal and became one of Europe’s top goalkeepers at Roma. The 28-year-old is currently Number One choice for Poland and Juve, which shows how highly-rated his calmness and intelligence really are.
However, Mattia Perin’s arrival in the summer is a clear sign that the ex-Roma goalkeeper needs to improve his consistency and concentration if he expects to keep his place between the sticks in Turin.
Udinese’s new centre forward Lukasz Teodorczyk is also an interesting addition to the Polish Serie A roster, as the 27-year-old banged in 45 goals in two seasons for Anderlecht before joining the Zebrette.
Krzysztof Piatek is another Poleand it seems that the new Genoa centre-forward is adapting sensationally fast to life in Italy. The 23-year-old already enjoyed the dream debut for the Grifone, as he thumped in four goals against Lecce in the Coppa Italia. He also scored three more in his first two Serie A games, which made Coach Davide Ballardini “scared to talk how good he is, as he looks like the complete package.”
Chievo also possess a pair of young Polish talents, as the 23-year-old duo of Pawel Jaroszynski and Mariusz Stepinski have shown enough promise to leave their mark in Italy. Stepinski looks the more promising of the two, as he scored five league goals last term and has already netted one this season, despite Chievo’s dreadful start of the campaign.
Other Polish Serie A representatives include Fiorentina’s talented 21-year-old goalkeeper Bartlomiej Dragowski, Empoli’s 23-year-old midfielder Michal Marcjanik and Frosinone’s Bartosz Salamon, Bologna’s shot stopper Lukasz Skorupski and SPAL’s veteran defender Thiago Cionek.
From all Polish players in Serie A only Cionek, at 32, is on the wrong side of his 30s. This means that the average age of the 15 Poles in the league is 24.5, which is well below the league average that is around 27 years of age. This clearly indicates that Italian clubs are mainly bringing in young Polish players, some of whom have earned their place amongst the league’s best.
With teams from Poland happy to get more attention and more money for their players by selling to a top league and Italians happy to buy young talents at cut-price, there are no signs of interrupting the Italian-Polish relationship when it comes to transfers.
The situation in recent years shows that just like South Americans were fundamental for Serie A’s global image in the past, Polish players currently have huge impact in Italian transfer dealings.
Comparing the great Brazilians and Argentinians of the past with the current crop of Poles in Serie A would be hugely inappropriate. However, it can be concluded that Poland has partially taken South America’s functions from the 80s and the emerging talent from the Ekstraklasa currently plays a key role in Serie A’s ongoing attempt to climb back on top of European football.