Polish internationals have traveled in droves onto Italian soil over these past handful of years, observing Serie A as the ideal platform to launch their respective careers and make a name for themselves in football. Lech Poznań academy graduates Karol Linetty, Bartosz Bereszyński and Dawid Kownacki of Sampdoria have recently joined Arkadiusz Milik, Piotr Zieliński and Wojciech Szczęsny on this ‘calcio’ journey, testing new waters and basking in all of Italy’s beauty.
The road has been paved for many of their fellow Polish countrymen to follow suit and revel in the same success, and so far, Genoa’s Krzysztof Piątek is doing just that.
Arriving on Ligurian ground in early June, the young Pole’s move to the Rossoblu flew well under the radar at €4 million euro in the build-up to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Despite failing to make it onto Adam Nawalłka’s Poland roster after occupying a spot on the provisional squad, early days here in the 2018-19 Serie A campaign have shown Piątek is taking to Italian ‘calcio’ like a duck to water.
Last month, the former Zagłębie Lubin forward bagged a ‘poker’ on his Genoa debut in en-route to a 4-0 demolition of Lecce in the Coppa Italia third-round tie.
Inside the first two minutes, Piątek opened his account in Italy with a header, followed by dribbling around the keeper to double his total. The second two tallies also arrived via headers, a testament to his confidence and technique to get on the end of those aerial balls and finish with conviction.
Word spread like wildfire of the Pole’s domestic cup exploits, but most of it was taken with a grain of salt considering the level of opposition. At the very least, it opened the eyes of many across the continent to pull up his profile and take notice of a real bargain coup by owner Enrico Preziosi and manager Davide Ballardini.
Piątek wasn’t a large investment for Genoa by any means at nearly one-fifth the proceeds from the sale of Pietro Pellegri to Monaco, nor was he expected to breakout in this manner. But it is quite clearly early on that Ballardini entrusts his new gem with quite a bit of responsibility despite employing several options to fill his role.
Piatek’s been ushered immediately into the starting XI by Ballardini these first two league matches, playing up top as one of two strikers in the 3-4-1-2 alongside youngster Christian Kouamé – and with Goran Pandev shouldering the playmaking assignments behind them.
In the opening two matches versus Empoli and Sassuolo, we have received a decent dose to gauge what type of striker Piątek can be making the transition from the Ekstraklasa with Cracovia to the Italian game where space and time are not always a regular commodity. His 32 goals in 63 league appearances in Poland over the last two seasons are mightily impressive any way you slice it, but adapting to a differing style of football in new territory could be problematic for any newcomer.
By no means is Piątek an explosively quick number nine that will leave his marker in the dust, but rather a striker relying mostly on movement and positioning to get enough of the ball to make his presence felt in dangerous areas. What we are witnessing early on is an opportunist striker utilizing his goal sense and understanding of the penalty area to score.
So far, the 23-year old has struck the back of the net three times, once with his left and twice with his right. All three could be considered textbook tallies of a poacher; controlling a swung in ball from a wide area and finishing with poise, or being rewarded for a hunger to get to a half-chance created from nothing.
Regardless, Piątek’s assertiveness in the final third and desire to play a role in the outcome for Genoa with limited touches should be applauded, and along with the hot start out of the gate, are the reasons why Ballardini prefers his now prized Pole to lead the frontline over the likes of Juventus loanee Andrea Favilli and gritty journeyman Gianluca Lapadula.
Similarly to Dawid Kownacki, Piątek has been prematurely dubbed by some as ‘the new Robert Lewandowski’, expectations unfairly bestowed upon younger talents who share the same country of origin and a few qualities. While Piątek has high hopes and aspirations to follow in the footsteps of the Bayern Munich star, keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground – and head high brimming with self-belief – should be his primary focus at this point.
As the rest of the Serie A outfits, and those with more pedigree, scheme to lockdown Genoa’s emerging young star, Piątek will have to adjust to the heightened pressures that come with an early eruption and prove that he has staying power in the top flight of football.
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