Can’t stop, won’t stop – this season, only Republic of Ireland has managed to contain this man.
Yesterday, the rampage finally stopped. Krzysztof Piątek* did not score another goal and his team lost. He had a good excuse, though – Jerzy Brzęczek, Poland national football team manager has left the striker on the bench for the entire length of the match. That way, Genoa forward didn’t get a chance to shine against the nation he is impressing on a weekly basis.
1 July 2012. Another 17-years old lad is promoted to senior ranks of an anonymous club deep in Polish division four. For the last six years, that kid from Niemcza has been getting up at 5 AM just to get to Lechia Dzierżoniów’s ground and complete a training session before going to school. Going through youth ranks with his best mate, Jarosław Jach (today at Crystal Palace, loaned out to Rizespor), the forward doesn’t stay in a tiny club for too long: eight months later, Zagłębie Lubin’s youth ranks hire him as a promising prospect.
24 September 2014. Zagłębie Lubin goes to Rybnik to face the locals in the Polish Cup. The 3rd division-bound hosts are struggling to contain the visitors from 2nd division. A spectacular backheel goal from Slovak centre-back Boris Godal opens the scoreline and it only gets better from there. In the second half, winger Miłosz Przybecki crosses the ball from the right and Krzysztof Piątek leaps in the box to head in the fourth and final goal of the game. This is the first professional strike from the 19-years old.
14 August 2015. Freshly promoted to Ekstraklasa, Zagłębie are hosting the league’s runner-up, Lech Poznań. Among the visitors: Marcin Kamiński (now Düsseldorf), Dawid Kownacki (now Sampdoria) and 2013/14 Ekstraklasa top goalscorer, Marcin Robak. The hosts are not afraid: they take the lead inside just 7 minutes. Piątek, substituted in early for an injured teammate, is the second man on the scoresheet after tapping in a freakish rebound inside Lech’s penalty area, just 11 minutes after entering the fray. Zagłębie plays better and wins 2-1.
A dream statement against one of the best teams in Poland – Piątek versus Lech.
28 August 2016. Piątek is gambling. At 21, not exactly proven in Ekstraklasa, he wants a vastly improved contract or a way out from Lubin. Meanwhile, Cracovia seem to be interested as they’re lacking a textbook number 9. Eventually, a £630.000 transfer is agreed between the clubs and the forward makes what can only be seen as a sideways move. Little does he know that he will score 32 league goals in 63 matches, double his total tally from Zagłębie and help the club from Kraków to sustain themselves in the top flight.
1 May 2017. Things aren’t too dicey for Cracovia. After finiding themselves in a relegation round, the team in red and white stripes needs at least eight points in seven matches to not sink into division one. On a trip to his former home in Lubin, Piątek scores after a fantastic team move – and refuses to celebrate against previous club. Cracovia eventually draw despite having a 2-0 lead, but they start picking up points and stay up anyway. A year later, weeks before his journey abroad, Piątek will score a brace against Zagłębie…
8 June 2018. Genoa snap up Piątek on a four-year deal, spending £4 million in the process despite never scouting a single live match of their new man. It’s a hasty piece of business and for a good reason: chairman Enrico Preziosi still remembers the unfinished, 2010 deal for Robert Lewandowski, who ended up in Dortmund instead of Liguria. No one else is that excited, though: the Pole’s transfer fee makes he merely 73rd most expensive Serie A summer arrival – and even his own club makes four pricier signings.
The rest is history. In his first 7 league starts on Italian soil, Piątek bags nine goals, handily beating early Rossoblu records of such local legends as Diego Milito (5 goals and 2 assists in 2008), Rodrigo Palacio (5 goals and 3 assists in 2011) and Marco Borriello (5 goals in 2007). What’s even more impressive – six of those goals are scored with bottom-corner finishes from rather difficult positions. Deadly right leg, dangerous long shots, great aerial ability – this is the profile of a forward destined for a memorable career.
For Piątek, things rarely looked promising. At Zagłębie, he struggled to secure a starting spot, notoriously losing it to experienced Michal Papadopulos. When his club signed another forward, Martin Nešpor, the youngster found himself a new club. Two years later, his Genoa start also looked problematic, to say the least. After all, the manager Ivan Jurić has just secured the services of Serie A-proven Gianluca Lapadula, young Juventus striker Andrea Favilli and an Ivorian talent from Cittadella, Christian Kouamé.
Currently, the Pole is leaving them all in the dust. A good, composed finish after beating a defender against Swansea and four more, added in front of Lecce in a 4-0 Italian Cup rout didn’t give Jurić a choice. Especially since Piątek’s most dangerous squad rivals started to drop like flies. After providing two assists against Sassuolo, Favilli picked up a hamstring injury and had a four-match break before returning to match fitness against Parma. Lapadula, still struggling with a muscle injury, had even less luck and is yet to feature for his new team.
Damaged tibia isn’t the only problem Lapadula will have this season…
The two Italians must be wondering how they are going to break into the first eleven. With “Bomber” upfront and Kouamé being his loyal understudy in a 3-5-2 setup, Genoa started the season much better than the last year. The forward from Niemcza, apart from surpassing his predecessors at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, also eclipsed Andriy Shevchenko’s 1999/2000 season opening that saw the Ukrainian winning Serie A’s Golden Boot. His first national team call-up was just a logical consequence of all those exploits.
“We’ve lost, so I’m not satisfied. I enjoyed my goal but it didn’t help us. I’m still trying to improve. I should’ve shielded the ball better in the first half. It got better after the break, but I still struggled to create a chance for myself.” – said the man in question after heading in his first international goal in a 2-3 defeat against Portugal – “In the first half, he was dropping deeper to help with the defending; in the second, I was doing that while he played the furthest forward.” – that’s how Piątek described his cooperation with Robert Lewandowski.
The paths of those two could very well cross for the third time. Amidst the biggest slump of Lewy’s career and the heaviest Bayern struggles in years, funds could be already prepared to reinforce the ageing German champions. Since both Robert and his natural substitute, Sandro Wagner are in their thirties, offloading one of those and paying £35 – £40 million for 23-years old Piątek would make a lot of sense – assuming, of course, the Pole would maintain good form throughout the season.
There is a competition, though. Following Luis Suarez’s sudden dip of goalscoring form, Barcelona have already started planning their life after the Uruguayan, with Nicolas Pépé (Lille) and Piątek being main options. Chelsea are yet another possibility. The Blues are losing patience with Álvaro Morata and their other big-name forward, 32-years old Olivier Giroud, isn’t exactly prolific either. Other, less attractive destinations for the Pole include: Juventus, Tottenham or… Lewandowski’s old home, Borussia Dortmund.
“You can’t just respond to everything with finger guns!”
Meanwhile, the praises keep coming through: “It’s always him and he keeps scoring and scoring, going right into Griffone’s history books” – wrote La Gazzetta dello Sport after the Pole found the net in fifth consecutive match, against Chievo. “Preziosi’s phone won’t stop ringing” – added Tuttosport, complimenting the intuition of Genoa’s chairman. Indeed – at the current rate, Stephan El Shaarawy record, £14 million departure to AC Milan simply has to be toppled.
And what man of the hour has to say about all this? “I had a great start to the season but I’m not getting overly excited about it. My career has only started. Serie A is faster than Polish league but I was prepared for it”. Future transfer? “Five years ago, I was booting FIFA on XBox and playing against Lucas Leiva at Anfield. Now I’m playing against him live in Rome. For now, I’m just trying to enjoy it”.
* “Piątek” means “Friday”.