Germany have always managed to have the upper hand over neighbours Poland. Poland have beaten Germany only once so far. It was on the 11th of October, 2014 – the same year Germany grabbed the World Cup in Brazil. Just short of 3 months since the final’s anniversary, the Germans suffered their first loss to their neighbours. Poland managed a 2-0 victory that night. The goal scoring was not opened by Poland’s star striker, Lewandowski, but it came from a lesser known source. It came from Leverkusen’s 21 year old striker – Arkadiusz Milik. Milik, currently on loan at Ajax is in fine form for the Dutch giants too and the opener was not his only goal in internationals. When you keep scoring goals on a weekly basis for Ajax, one of Europe’s biggest manufacturers and exporters of young talent, there is low probability that the name won’t be on almost every top scout’s handbook.
Who is Milik?
When you aren’t that well known and constantly under the shadows of a prolific striker who has a good part of his prime ahead of him (for those who didn’t get the reference, I’m talking about Lewandowski), it makes it a very hard job to find out about the path taken to success. But in Milik’s case, it wasn’t all that well hidden.
Talent Radar Accolades:
Placed 6th in the Talent Radar Forward Rankings 2016
Milik’s ascent into football was helped by one Slawek Mogilan. The coach oversaw Milik’s growth as a footballer in Rozwoj Katowice’s youth squad, where he quickly became the brightest individual among the ranks.
When he was 16, Milik was making all the right noises in the youth squad and was deservingly handed a debut in Rozwoj’s first team, who were then playing in Poland’s 3rd division. Word spread like fire. There were whispers which reached as far as England, of a young Pole, who would turn up at the right places at the right time like a ghost and get you the goals. With failed trials at clubs, Legia Warsaw began sniffing around as well. They offered him a hefty contract but Milik did not care about the money. He just wanted to play football and have fun. He was looking for a team where he could play regularly. And he wasn’t disappointed. Gornik Zabrze came calling and Milik gladly put pen to paper. Gornik’s sporting director was responsible for signing Milik, but it was the manager, Adam Nawalka who used Milik’s luxury from the word go.
His form attracted scouts. They came from far and near to watch the young pole. Nawalka’s success story with Milik wasn’t over when he left Gornik for the Poland national team in 2013. He made Milik a key member of the squadf and it took them only 1 year to reap rewards and become the darlings of the nation when they beat Germany.
Milik always looked for improvements and he always wanted to play for a team which would help him grow and give him regular opportunities. Bayer Leverkusen seemed like such a destination for the Pole. He made the move from Gornik to the factory club in 2013 for a fee around 3 Million Euros, but Leverkusen saw potential in the youngster. He was eventually loaned out to Augsburg, though struggled to break into the side, spending most of his time away from the starting eleven. But Leverkusen still knew Milik had it in him. They got Ajax to take the Pole on loan, but expectations were as low as bedrock. Having failed to make his mark in a mid-table side like Augsburg, supporters failed to see what the striker could offer title and Champions League chasing Ajax Amsterdam.
Despite initially facing a similar start to his Augsburg career, Milik steadily won over his critics and now is a regular name on the team sheet. His breakthrough with the Dutch club has understandably made supporters reminisce of some of the great strikers that have graced the Amsterdam Arena in more recent times, before moving on to World football stardom.
The youngster was named in our 100 Best Young Players to watch in 2015 feature, coming in at #4 in our list of forwards. And has also made an impression on our Talent Radar Team of the Week and Player Rankings feature.
Style of Play, Strengths and Weaknesses
Despite still a raw product and one with the onus of showing consistency over a prolonged period of playing time, he is one of the most prolific young strikers in the footballing scene right now. To begin with, as a striker, his finishing is as good as his national compatriot – Robert Lewandowski. At 21, for the lack of experience, he has shown calmness and composure when in front of goal.
Milik does like to have the ball at his feet and run with it. It’s a style of play Milik learnt from watching his role model, Cristiano Ronaldo play. Milik claims to have nightmares if he does not complete dribbles in games, though a hyperbole, it does give you an indication of his intended playing style.
While watching Milik play one can easily notice that the Pole loves to take shots at goal. He doesn’t care how far it is, if he gets space, he strikes it. Being very good at it, I don’t see why coaches would complain too at the number of shots he takes per game, even if the better choice could’ve been a pass. But that doesn’t mean Milik is selfish and keeps shooting away at will. He reads the game, and is very creative in finding spaces in the field to play in through balls to make goal scoring opportunities for his team mates.
Milik has made 5 assists this season. Pretty good for a striker, don’t you think? You can say he is a very creative striker, to draw comparison – someone like Wayne Rooney. Co-incidentally, Milik also contributes defensively when the side is digging deep in defense, just like Wayne Rooney. He isn’t afraid to put in a tackle and take a yellow card for the team if needed (4 yellow cards in 20 appearances in the Eredivise this season).
When the ball is played inside the 6 yard box, Ajax fans can be start the celebrations early. The reason being Milik’s sublime finishing skills which I had previously mentioned. Not only in the 6 yard box but when he receives a lay-off in the penalty box, he is sure to convert it 2 out of every 3 times. This makes him also an indirect threat from free kick situations.
Milik does have a few glaring negatives in his game which he will need to work on. To start with, Milik’s tactical awareness could improve majorly. He has lost the ball on many occasions and has let quite a few goal scoring opportunities go past him. Hold up play and ball control are also factors which are not quite Milik’s strong suites, but something which he can surely fix by working on it at the training grounds.
Earlier this season, Milik did score a wonderful goal with his right foot in the Europa League knock-outs vs Legia, but apart from that his right foot has been a worry. His dependency on his left foot makes him too predictable at times. The solution for it could be for him to be exceptional with his left foot like Robben or he works harder on that right foot and gets it going sooner rather than later.
With 15 goals in 29 appearances this season for Ajax, Milik has become a fan favourite and a crucial part of the Ajax squad. The Ajax board members were more than happy to invoke the permanent clause that they inserted while taking him on loan from Leverkusen. It was announced on April 1st that the Pole would stay at Ajax for the start of the 2015-16 season.
Milik contested in the first Ajax derby since 1983 (Ajax v JOS Watergraffsmeer in the KNVB Cup). He netted an incredible six times. “Scoring six goals is always a good thing, although it was against a lower-league team so I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on that. It was nice, though,” says Milik. Its clear that the pole is very humble and prefers to stay out of the limelight, but with comments like “I was a Manchester United fan” combined with continued prolific goal scoring form, it sure will be hard to avoid all the media attention.
When asked about all the media attention and reports of his move to England, Milik laughed and said, he doesn’t worry about transfers and only concentrates on his football. He wasn’t aware if they are real or not, but he does follow reports on his career online. But he was sure that he wasn’t ready to make a big switch and is ready to learn more at Ajax before jumping the gun once again.
Written by Alankrith Shankar
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